The Left4Dead series. The Payday series. And now Evolve. All four-player squad multiplayer-only games. But where the first two series’ allow any role to be adopted by any participant, and then pit you against AI characters, Evolve makes the singular enemy a player, and locks everyone else into roles. I tried it during the closed beta before its February 10th release, and I never thought I would say this, but here it is: Turtle Rock Studios shouldn’t have strayed from the success of their past.
The danger of being locked into a role
There are four human classes in Evolve:
- Assault Class—your basic damage dealer. Machine guns and mines.
- Support Class—inflicts less damage than assault, but can prevent others from taking damage with shielding
- Medic Class—heals and revives teammates with a healing gun (think Team Fortress 2) and uses a sniper rifle that does almost no discernible damage
- Trapper Class—stops the monster from escaping. Utilizes harpoons and a “mobile arena” to limit the area of engagement.
Can you imagine playing a game where you act as Rambo’s medic or logistics, instead of Rambo? Or a game where you patch up John McClane and high-five him as he goes out the door to kill terrorists? Apparently Turtle Rock Studios can. And this is where they get it wrong.
The strength of games like Left4Dead and Payday is that even though everyone has a job or certain perks, at the end of the day everyone gets to shoot lots of things with awesome weapons. Not only is this more appealing to most gamers, who would normally not choose a Medic or Support role but sometimes are forced to due to server loads and a majority of players favoring Assault—when you level the playing field and allow all players to deal the same amount of damage, you allow competition among the team. Kills mean more because everyone has the same shot. The end of an Evolve game is that the Assault class kills the giant creature while he is assisted by the team.
I also have beef with the “Mobile Arena.” You’ve seen this in games before. Every time you play a third-person action title and a field appears that you can’t breach until you’ve killed the last bad guy, you’ve been in a “mobile arena.” The problem with a mobile arena is that it’s inherently lazy game design. If you want to limit a player’s mobility until he kills all the bad guys, put doors on the exits of the area. Simple, easy and logical design. But a forcefield that magically appears when convenient and disappears when everyone is dead? It’s shitty design, and Evolve allows you to deploy it to prevent the giant creature from escaping.
Of course, you might wonder why a giant creature would be running from humans…
The giant creature is ridiculously underpowered
The point of Evolve is to, well, evolve. When playing as the creature, you start at Stage One, and even though you look tough, you’re softer than butter in the sunshine. Your only option is to run, escape, and eat smaller animals, until you reach Stage Two. At which point—KEEP RUNNING. You aren’t done, and if you’re not dead by now and managed to eat enough smaller creatures (keep in mind this is probably ten to fifteen minutes into the match), you’ll reach Stage Three. At this point, you might be strong enough to take on the hunters, but if the team is well coordinated, you’re probably still screwed.
This is not how I imagined being the largest predator in the area. I’m not playing as a massive spike covered brute so some fragile human an eighth my size can come along and punk me. But time and time again (every match I played in, actually) the humans killed the creature without taking a single loss to their four-man squad. Ever.
It got to the point where people bitched and moaned in the chat if they were chosen as the creature. That’s not how this should be. People should be fighting over who gets to be the creature next. What a ridiculous balance issue to have this late in development.
If there’s a formidable monster here, it’s the requirements. The best advice I got was in the voice chat, and it was a common refrain—SET EVERYTHING TO LOW. My rig is no chump by any means—it’s got about 18 months of service and was top of the line at purchase, but I almost bought ice bags to pack around the poor beast. Be forewarned: this is a game that is unplayable at the minimum requirements. You will want a rig at the recommended level, and again, that’s if you want all the settings to be on LOW.
The final talley
Gameplay – You’ll spend most of your time either running as the creature, or seeking as the humans, before finally putting the creature out of its misery. 10 out of 45
Controls – Gets the job done. Fully customizable keyboard layouts, no latency issues on the mouse, and it worked fine with a controller as well, though keyboard and mouse is definitely recommended. 25 out of 25
Graphics – The graphics are awesome! Now go buy a computer from the future so you can actually enjoy them. I will say the creature designs are awesome. 10 out of 15
Sound – The default music setting is WAY too high. Other than that, the sound is crisp and clean. Guns sound like they should and the ambient jungle sounds are spot on. 10 out of 10
Story – If there’s story here, I didn’t find it. Basically the story as I could reckon it was, “We come from space to hunt on this planet.” 1 out of 5
Total Score – 56%. This game could be the first major AAA disappointment of the year. Most of the players I encountered on voice chat did not seem very enthusiastic about buying it. The game has major balance issues (i.e. BUFF THE CREATURE IMMEDIATELY) that kill any possible fun that could be had here. The lack of story (who are these people, anyway?) forces the focus onto the gameplay, which is lackluster. Did I mention it runs poorly?
Masculinity score – While there is inherent masculinity in hunting, the creature is so weak that any manliness is largely negated. 2 out of 10
Turtle Rock wears its obvious inspiration on its sleeve here, and that inspiration is Giants: Citizen Kabuto. Why anyone would want to emulate a game that sold incredibly poorly and ALSO ran poorly is beyond me, though. Hopefully this misstep is learned from, and teaches Turtle Rock Studios to give the people what they want, even if what they want is more of the same.