When it comes to video games, “high-concept” and “big-budget” are almost mutually exclusive. Shooters are shooters, Role Playing Games (RPGs) go their usual route, and everyone else kind of just follows the winning formula. Sure, there are small exceptions — blockbusters trying to differentiate themselves without drawing too far from the pack — but in the end, big-budget games must be certain things. They don’t have the license to do what indie games can do – they have too much responsibility. People don’t buy what they don’t like, and people like what they know.
So with all that said, I take great pleasure in announcing the existence of a gaming misfit. The existence of a developer and a game that are trying like hell to do something new. Turtle Rock Studios is that developer and Evolve is that game. Equal parts shooter and monster-melee game, Evolve is kicking down the doors of the First Person Shooter (FPS) stronghold, and looking to take up a permanent residence.
The core game-play is a unique blend of Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty (C.O.D.), and Godzilla. The player takes control of a character on one of two combating sides: the hunters or the monster. The aims are simple: the monster wants to destroy something and the hunters have to stop that from happening. Every multi-player match includes a 4 vs. 1, Hunters vs. Monster battle.
From the side of the hunters, players have the option of playing as one of four classes: Assault, Medic, Support, or Trapper.
The assault is your damage dealer, a highly armored soldier with a lightning gun. The other classes can deal damage as well, but they’re not the knockdown drag-out style combatant the assault class is.
It’s the medic’s job to heal the party as well as inflict long range damage.
The support class works at buffing and shielding the party when needed.
The trapper keeps the monster tracked and contained.
The four hunters must work in absolute unity in order to track down and kill the monster. In any form, the monster is a bigger, stronger and faster fighter than any one of the hunters. Hunters cannot win by the actions of one single great player, it takes a team effort to achieve victory.
On the monster’s side, there are three non-DLC beasts to choose from: Kraken, Goliath and Wraith. Once general game play starts, the hulking monster must remain hidden from the hunters until it grows strong enough to kill them. The monster evolves by killing smaller beasts throughout the map and draining their strength. As they grow more powerful, all three monsters gain distinct powers and fighting abilities to use against the hunters. The monsters run down as follows:
Essentially Godzilla, Goliath is a giant rock-lizard who uses overwhelming strength, fire-breath, and durability.
Kraken is the giant tentacle monster straight out of your nightmares. A mix between a squid and Cthulhu, Kraken uses electricity to fry any would-be opponent.
The hit-and-run assassin of the trio, Wraith uses confusion and deception to split the hunters apart and take them out on by one.
All in all, the 4 vs. 1 combat can be a hell of a lot of fun. The game play feels new and exciting, but at the same time everything is incredibly well-polished. Turtle Rock Studios did a fantastic job in building this game and I applaud their effort in trying to create something new.
Unfortunately, this game has its fair share of problems. First and foremost, players should be aware that apart from multi-player and a brief series of tutorial levels, there is no single-player mode. Evolve has no campaign mode of any sort. This is so disappointing because the characters and world built in the game are so rich and entertaining. They truly do deserve a back story.
There is also the fact that the teamwork is so important. If you’re playing with a group of friends, or are lucky enough to find a solid team, this game can be an absolutely fantastic time. But at the same time, if you have even one poor or inexperienced player one the hunter squad, you’ll most likely lose. It can be incredibly frustrating at times.
So yes, while Evolve can be an incredibly fun and exciting video game, Turtle Rock Studios still has a good bit of work to do. A multi-player game like this lives and dies with the attention span of its audience. And where Evolve is now, I’m not sure that audience is sustainable.