Evolve Review

Lee Bradley

In the run-up to Evolve’s launch, discussion surrounding Turtle Rock’s 4v1 competitive/co-operative shooter largely focused on whether players would still be interested a month after release. Will there be enough variation to keep players involved? Will it be too repetitive? Will it be balanced? Those were the questions. After a few days trudging around Evolve’s maps I’m decently placed to attempt some answers.

Evolve is staggeringly ambitious. When those of us who write about games say that kind of thing, it’s usually in relation to size and scope. GTA V - that was an ambitious game. Skyrim was pretty ambitious too. But Evolve is ambitious in a different way. Pitting a team of four Hunters from a range of hugely different classes up against a single monster from a selection of three or four, on a smattering of maps across a handful of modes; all while allowing bots to fill any gaps left by human players… it leads to so many variables it’s dizzying.

Oh, hello there!

Thrown into Evolve’s swirling melting pot are so many ingredients that each time it gets poured out it’s difficult to predict how it will taste. Far too often it’s just sour. 

Hunt is the flagship mode. The person (or bot) playing the role of the monster is dumped into a large map seconds ahead of a team of Hunters. As the monster scampers, jumps and climbs around the environment, it must kill and consume wildlife in order to build up a meter and evolve. At stage one the monster has very little hope of surviving a co-ordinated Hunter attack, at stage two the odds are - theoretically - more even, and at stage three the monster can eat Hunters for breakfast. It’s possible to bring a stage three monster down, but unlikely for all but the most skilled Hunter teams.

Within this there are three monsters to unlock: the melee specialised Goliath, the stealthy Wraith and the ranged combat expert Kraken, each of which allow for vastly different playstyles.

It’s the Hunters’ job to track down the monster and kick its ass before it’s too late. To help the Hunters in this task, teams are made up of four different classes; Assault, Trapper, Medic and Support. Play for long enough and you’ll unlock three different characters within those four classes, each with different spins on the same core abilities. And by focusing on those abilities during the hunt, playing to each character’s strengths, the monster can be vanquished.

The rest of the modes are less consequential. Rescue is weak, tasking Hunters with saving a set number of vulnerable NPC survivors while the monsters have to kill them. I'm not sure I’ve ever played a game of Rescue where the monster won. Nest is better, with Hunters tracking down and destroying eggs and Monsters trying to stop them (Monsters also have the added ability to hatch an egg into a level one Goliath minion). Last up is Defend, which sees waves of minions and a level three monster attempting to take down a Hunter defended power station.

Release the Kraken!

Evacuation is where most players will gravitate. It’s a campaign of sorts, comprised of five matches taken from the game’s full set of modes and voted on by players. With each victory the Monster or Hunters will unlock a map specific bonus (defence turrets, dangerous eel-infested waters etc), aiding them in their goal during the next match. Because of all the variables, Evacuation plays out differently each time and it’s where Evolve will likely get the most mileage. It’s a great addition, tying all of the game’s elements together.

So what about those questions? Is there enough variation to keep players involved? Well, possibly. While the modes and maps are limited, the character combinations available to Hunter teams and the different ways you can play as each of the three monsters keeps things relatively fresh. The flow of each match remains largely the same, but the way in which matches play out is not. There’s loads of variation in there, within Evolve’s relatively meagre core modes. This goes some way to answering the second question: Is Evolve too repetitive? In some ways yes, but the factors I’ve already mentioned above alleviate this somewhat. Speaking from personal experience, after about 20 hours of Evolve, repetition isn’t an issue yet.

What about balance? It’s quite difficult to tell, but I’m willing to give Evolve the benefit of the doubt. The game is made in such a way that every character’s role is vital. If there’s one weak link, or one player makes a dumb decision, then it can all be over rather quickly, with the defeated party feeling hard done by. This can lead to a feeling of imbalance, but it’s probably unfounded. Evolve is a difficult game with a relatively narrow margin for error, regardless of the side you’re playing on. That’s just how it is. Turtle Rock should be applauded for chucking so many elements into the mix and making it appear fair to everyone.

A much more difficult question to answer is whether Evolve is consistently fun. At it’s best the game is a brilliantly tense game of cat and mouse, with the relative quiet of hunts exploding in thrilling, chaotic battles. But at its worst, it’s a chore, with long periods of downtime followed by horribly one-sided fights. Most other multiplayer games offer some kind of gratification, even if your team is being trounced. There’s always a chance that you can nab a kill, or earn your team some points. With Evolve there is only success or failure and no in-between.

There’s other problems too. Playing as a Monster feels kind of light and inconsequential. You’re a huge, fearsome beast, but there’s no weight or feedback for the carnage you’re causing. The controller should be rumbling your hands off and there should be some impact to your hits, but it’s all a bit airy. The same can be said of the weapons in the game. Shooting lacks connection. You’re just farting bullets into a big target. Thankfully, if you’re playing right, shooting plays only a small role in the game so it’s not the end of the world, but still.

The Wraith is sorta Giger inspired.

Far more serious are the technical problems. The current build on Xbox One has a weird problem where the shadows cast by objects in the background are layered over the foreground, I’ve been chucked out of lobbies a few times for no reason and there’s a smattering of audio glitches. The frame rate also tumbles during big fights. Progress wipes are also an issue if you play on the same tag across different consoles. As it stands, Evolve has some rough edges.

Yet, you know there’s something great at the core of all of this. Evolve can be straight-up thrilling, with some of the most rewarding team gameplay I’ve ever experienced on console. Yet the conditions needed to ensure that this happens with regularity are far too rare. Matchmaking with randoms (at this stage of the game’s lifespan) isn’t much fun and it’s an empty experience with bots. If you’ve got a handful of friends who are willing to get stuck into the game and learn the intricacies of all the characters, then Evolve is an easy recommendation. If not you’re probably better off admiring Turtle Rock’s truly ambitious work from afar.


The audio design on the maps is brilliant. Locations are full of life and it contributes to the tension of the hunt. The dialogue is repetitive and the voice acting is distinctly average.

While Evolve is a largely attractive game, many of the locations are muddy and indistinct. Weather effects are impressive.

At it’s best, Evolve is unlike anything else; tension-filled, thrilling and rewarding. At it’s worst, Evolve is a chore. You need a dedicated team to get the most out of it.

Evolve has three core game modes, which isn’t a lot. However, each match you play has its own flow and there’s a decent amount of characters and monsters to unlock. Still: lacking.

Evolve has no creative achievements but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most of the notable things you can do in the game will be rewarded. It’s not very exciting, but it gets the job done.

Evolve is brilliant in the right circumstances and with the right people, but it’s hard to unreservedly recommend to everyone. Those with dedicated teams will get the most out of the game while those in matchmaking will find mixed results. Still, Turtle Rock deserves recognition for attempting - and almost nailing - such an ambitious project.

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