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Evolve Review - Lord of the Hunt

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Evolve. The word itself means development, or improvement over time. In a few ways Evolve lives up to the definition. The premise is simple: Play as a team of four canny hunters. That, or you can play as a monster with an overactive metabolism. Evolve caters to two distinct ways of play. The first is as a cohesive team, second as as a lone wolf. As far as balancing acts go, this one is risky as a tight-rope walk across two mountains. The surprise, though, is that Evolve gets to the other side most of the time. That's no mean feat, no matter how hard it falls at times.

Like going solo? There's a place for you here.

As I stated earlier you can play either as a team of hunters or a monster. Making a consistent experience is tough when your player structure has inherent imbalance. The risks are many: The monster could become overpowered in the beginning. Hunters could have an unstoppable combination from the start with the right equipment. Once your monster hits stage 3, damage stats could favour you above your enemies. I could go on forever. What's the solution? Turtle Rock have found ways to turn the tables on each side at any given point. The outcome of each game is almost impossible to predict. That's the beauty of Evolve. So much depends on player skill and game knowledge.

A good monster will use its massive jump distance and level elevation. A strong team takes advantage of skills that every player is strongest in. When using Markov, the assault unit, you're dependent on others. Val, the medic will heal teammates while Hank will rain down hell on your monster. Your trapper ensures that the monster never runs away and gets found in short time.  Evolve is not a game that will hold your hand. When you lose, you lose at any point.

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Find friends and prosper

In one match, I played in a team of all human players against a Stage 3 Kraken. The player in charge of the flying terror never fed on wildlife for armour. As a result, despite getting lucky by hiding well, he died a quick death.  When playing another match as a monster, though, I reached stage 3. The difference was that I managed to kill all the hunters coming for me. It was a clean sweep. This was in part due to maxing out the fire breathing skill, and also feeding to keep armour up. The hunters didn't help themselves by trying to storm me in close quarters.

Ideally, you're going to play better with friends whom you can communicate with via voice. This is even more important when facing more skilled opponents. Obviously, playing the Kraken or other monster doesn't necessitate this. If you're not in the mood to play with friends or other players online, you 're welcome to practise solo against bots. These bots for the most part are competent - and they'll help you upskill yourself when not going up against real players.

You can Shear the air with a knife

There's a sense of tension when playing Evolve that holds up throughout every match. As a Monster you're on the lookout for good hiding spots so you can feed and evolve from stage 1. As the hunters you're on the lookout for environmental threats and for the monster. There are plenty of situations that demand environmental awareness. You'll always avoiding being a tasty treat for something carnivorous, or watching jetpack energy. As a monster at stage 1, you're likely to get killed by wildlife if not careful too.

The graphics and sound of Evolve just add to the game. While you're not entirely in the dark, navigating the dense jungles and industrial areas can be a nerve-wracking experience. Sounds of the monster echo all over, and as hunters you're keeping a sharp eye out at all times. When you hear a roar or scream, you'll question whether your enemies are nearby, or are walking into an ambush. Sometimes those sounds come from wildlife, and that makes things all the more interesting.

This is where Evolve shines, at least 15 hours into the game. If there is one thing that Turtle Rock got right here, it was to give players the need to survive. You'll feel this in every match, no exception.

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Story, what story?

As with all games, there are snags. The first aspect of Evolve I found dissatisfying was lore. Hunters will talk to each other during matches about past experiences. If there were any environmental references related to these, you'll ignore them. Evolve is too busy keeping you busy for story elements to stand out. This is minor.

Waiting to fight can be a problem

The next aspect that I need to address is the 'hurry up and wait' nature of the game. While playing a hunter you're prone to quiet moments before tracking down your monster. Turtle Rock could have alleviated this by increasing wildlife activity in each map. Fauna on Shear tends to sit in an uncomfortable space between over-aggressive and passive. Turtle Rock likely made the game this way to give players variety and uncertainty. I feel that this aspect of the game needs some adjusting, though. This is further exacerbated by Daisy, your trapjaw (a lizard-dog-hybrid) teammate who frequently gets stuck when seeking out your monster foe.

Combat mechanics feel competent and effective. The mix of third person action and beat em' up for the monster are brilliant. First person action on the side of the hunters lacks impact. When you're playing as a hunter, it's hard to see what kind of damage you are doing. The only way is to look at the monster's health bar, which drains as fast as a heavy laden horse and cart. There is something missing here, something making Evolve's combat fall just short of greatness.

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Oh, and that DLC thing

One final thing. 2K Games and Turtle Rock have come under fire for reserving game content for DLC. A total of $132, or just over R1500 worth of DLC comes with the game's release. Asking players to pay more when the game sells for R800 will be  a hard sell. As the game stands though, I don't see any problems with what comes with the core game. Evolve is a solid game, and one that I'll be playing for a long time to come. Time will tell if it lasts, and I would be naive to predict on that one. You wouldn't be making a bad choice in buying Evolve, if you ask me.

Conclusion

After many hours into Evolve, and honestly - colour me impressed. I can find games on my 3G connection and still play well enough without waiting too long. As a bonus, there is an offline mode with decent A.I. to go up against. Combat is fluid, if slightly lacking when playing as a hunter. What's more, if you're willing to wait - there'll be free DLC maps to play later apart from the paid kind. Personally, I think you could do worse, even with the hefty price tag of R800. If you're a PC player, the blow won't be so bad.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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