S&S Review: Evolve

Title: Evolve
Format: PS4, Xbox One(reviewed), PC
Release Date: February 10, 2014
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M

Turtle Rock has finally released their follow up title to their cult hit, Left 4 Dead, but does it reach high the expectations set by Left 4 Dead?

Story and Presentation:
The game takes place in Shear, a planet colonized by a handful of humans and inhabited by murderous vegetation, exotic wildlife, and a trio of formidable and enormous monsters.  While it’s spoilt by occasional texture pop-in and the odd bit of latency that occurs from time to time, it’s mostly a deeply impressive game in terms of visuals, with huge maps that offer plenty of opportunity for combat, trapping and traversal, and some lovely verdant jungle scenery.  The game takes full advantage of the new hardware, but seeing as how you'll be playing the same maps over and over again, the scenery will grow repetitive.  It uses Crytek's CryEngine 3, and if you've seen Crysis 3 on a decent gaming PC, then you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect, though on a much more massive scale.  And if the characters might appear to be the usual Dudebro clichés, but they’re more thoughtfully designed than you might think, with brilliant visual touches, and a surprisingly humorous script. The little things each class says before and during each match are funny, and it gives the characters a bit of personality. Sure, you’ll have heard every phrase within the first ten hours or so, but that doesn't mean it won't be entertaining.  All in all, the visuals are solid, with some fantastic sound design to back it up.
Core Gameplay and Multiplayer:
At its most core level, this four-vs-one co-op shooter acts as a hunting simulator. Either you and three friends or AI bots form a hit squad looking to kill the other player's monster. Whether you enjoy playing as the hunters or the monsters, you'll eventually find a side where you'll flourish. When you play as a Hunter its your job to track, trap and ultimately settle your differences with the monster through a combination of strategies and combinations that your group will have to utilize if you want to take down the monster. As the monster, you must first simply eat any local wildlife in sight; the ultimate goal to evolve into your most powerful, 'level three' form, which will make you extremely powerful to the opposition. There are three initial monsters you can play as, the Goliath, Kraken and Wraith. Each one of them controls differently, and after numerous matches, you're more likely going to gravitate towards a particular monster. The Wraith, for example, was the monster I had the most fun with, given the ability to teleport and go invisible. Both the Kraken and Wraith must first be unlocked by reaching level one on all the Goliath's skill trees - buffed up by say, throwing boulders 20 times or doing 20,000 points of damage with its leap attack. It's an unwanted grind in an otherwise sensible progression system, and something you'll have to endure to unlock all available 12 Hunters, as well. 
While later characters are generally better - Griffin the second tier Trapper can fire torpedoes directly at the monster, whereas starting character Maggie has to plant them on the ground - it takes a hefty amount of time to grind through the unlocks, which is a necessary evil to extending the game's life.  On their own, each Hunter stands little chance against a fully evolved beast. It's only when you combine their complimentary abilities that you really start doing some real damage to the monster. Communication is critical in Evolve, and if you're playing with randoms, there's a chance that you won't enjoy a certain match. Playing with friends is optimal, where each one of you has a mic and want to work as a cohesive unit.

Final Thoughts:
Evolve has a lot of cool systems in place for you to have a good time, unfortunately, most of them are situational.  If you have a good team with you, grinding for additional hunters and monsters seem like less of a hassle.  With that said however, when you have a good team, this game is a blast to play.  

S&S Rating: 8/10


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