Competitive multiplayer has become somewhat stilted as so many other publishers want to chase the numbers garnered from games like Call of Duty or Battlefield – the other popular online games are MOBAs. While not entirely a mix of both, Evolve can feel like a melding of both worlds with one team of four playing as hunters and one other player who controls the monster with abilities. It’s an interesting implementation and even after a couple dozen hours and over a week, it’s still hard to tell if Evolve will explode in popularity or fizzle out like many other multiplayer only games.
Content is one of the aspects that make it become hugely popular or be a barrier to ever get a footing. In the entire game, before buying any downloadable content, there are three characters for each of the four classes as well as three monsters. However, locking all but one of each behind a grindy progression system keeps the depth from occurring for some time. This means for those that play the game will have to play the game for at least a dozen hours to get everything the game has to offer.
While this decision allows players to get used to each character, the forced grind stops unlocking from even being that much fun. Unlocking a new character requires you to get three stars with each of the four abilities. If one of your abilities reaches the next star, you can’t start making progress to the next star of that ability until all the other abilities have reached the same star. It creates an unnecessary wall that hinders players from just getting all characters to understand who best suits their playstyle.
Despite the decision, the gameplay itself is spectacular. The hunters need to stick together and the monster must have a few strategies before starting the match. As the team of hunters, cooperation is a necessity, not a suggested choice. If you try to get into the map to look for the monster by yourself, the monster will either make short work of you or even one of the wildlife on the map might take you out. Should you be killed, it will take a couple of minutes before you drop back in in which the monster could quite easily take out your team.
The four hunter classes are: Assault, Medic, Trapper, and Support. Each one has a number of abilities. Once you unlock other characters, they all have different abilities adding more complexity to who you and your team choose. There is a long window of learning who is the best for you and your team; However, if you play with strangers, this may not be as impactful as I could with friends.
Once you get into the map as a team of hunters, you must chase down the monster before it evolves to stage 2 and then stage 3 where he becomes incredibly powerful and difficult to take out. Working as a team is key and knowing exactly what your class is supposed to do. If you play with someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, chances are you probably won’t win the match. This may be detrimental to most players’ experience. From playing Evolve online though, players seem to be getting to grips that teams must stick together and clicking in the right stick that puts a waypoint on the screen of all the ways to help show them the way or if you spotted the monster.
Until the monster hits stage 3, the hunters are on the front foot, if the monster makes it to stage 3 then the tables actually turn. There are a number of modes and even though hunt is the main one advertised, there are a number of modes that change things up just enough to keep you invested. As the objectives are different too, strategies need to change.
Although strategies may not sound like something needed for a shooter, strategy is really important in order to succeed. It also leaves things up in the air about the biggest concern: the game’s longevity. After over a week of playing Evolve, I still feel like I know next to nothing. I see how other players play and except for a small number of people I’ve encountered, they seem like they know nothing. Evolve seems to have a learning process, one that requires time to understand its intricacies. There isn’t a simple rock, paper, scissors mechanic going on here. Some things work well against certain things while others don’t. Throw in 12 hunters and potentially four monsters that are all unique in their abilities and how you utilise them and you’ve got the potential of a huge life for this game.
Whether that will happen though is still up in the air. The approach that 2K have gone with downloadable content may be detrimental to this possibility. Couple that with the grind process and Evolve may be the game’s killing blow before it even has a chance to get going. I can only hope that isn’t the case as what you get when you play Evolve is pure tense, competitive, and thrilling gameplay every time you pick up the controller.