Evolve Wot I Think-In-Progress, Part 2: Puny Humans

Editor’s note – we only received review code for Evolve [official site] yesterday. Rather than now wait a week or so to run a review, I’m posting a very short series of my thoughts as I think ’em, in the hope of providing more timely information to those who want it. Here’s part 1 ICYMI.

I’m into the swing of things now, having tried out all the classes in PvP matches with randoms, and unlocked a couple of new characters. Before I get into that stuff though, let me tackle the singleplayer mode, such as it is, in case anyone online-phobic has been curious about that side of things.

There’s no special campaign here (and nor was one ever promised). It’s a carbon copy of multiplayer, only with the other four players – be they human Hunter or monstrous Monster – puppeteered by AI. Now, please bear in mind that I am not the most frequent attendee of multiplayer deathparties, so this next comment is aimed more at the similarly solo-inclined rather than it is at Johnny or Jemima Clanpants. The AI is not bad. It’s been giving me a reasonable challenge, but doesn’t seem cheaty. It doesn’t come anywhere near achieving some of the insta-stomps I’ve suffered at the hands of semi-experienced Evolve players, but an act of barrel-based piscine cruelty it most certainly is not. Pleasingly, the whole unlock/levelling business carries between single and multiplayer, so if for some reason you wanted to grind away at opening up new monsters or classes without the TRAUMA and SHAME of getting your bottom spanked by other players, that’s there.

A proper singleplayer game this does not make, however. Without the shaky adrenaline thrill of besting other humans, and the joy or outrage of dramatic upsets, the grindy progression system has an even tighter strangehold on Evolve than it already did. Singleplayer thus feels too hollow to be anything other than a training mode. That was clearly the intention though, so I’m not chewing Evolve out for that, just advising that multi-o-phobes shouldn’t buy it thinking there’s singleplayer. It’s not even Quake III in that regard – there’s no escalation.

On the other hand, multi-o-phobes should be aware that the rules of engagement are identical online, their identities are minimally exposed, and as I mentioned yesterday, everyone has a ton of hit points so you’re not going to suffer either significant shame or misery-inducing repeat insta-deaths. As multiplayer playgrounds go, this is an accessible one. There’s plenty to learn in order to become good at the game, but very little if you just want to wade in and do some damage. It’s OK! It’s safe! But it does feel a bit small. That’s something I’ll come back to in the next (and probably final) part of this.

OK, humans. I don’t enjoy playing them as much as I do playing as the monster, but that’s probably because I’m an uncooperative sod at the best of times. There’s no scope whatsoever for lone wolfing here. Even a few seconds away from your squad can be deadly, either because the Monster can pick you off without great effort or because some of the local wildlife is almost as deadly. Many of the AI-controlled creatures look pretty similar too, which is possibly a consequence of the gloomy presentation, but the result is that you’ll often get surprised by something with more teeth than a Street-Porter family reunion while you’re running about the place. Without someone to double the damage or chuck over a heal, you’re pretty screwed. Stick close, pay attention, ideally talk.

Collaboration is fairly involved compared to your average team shooter – it’s certainly not just a case of follow/heal. The trapper has to throw up energy domes which keep the monster temporarily contained, the medic’s chucking tranquilisers to slow it down as well as keeping an eye on who’s injured, assault needs to learn the timings of his powers well, and everyone’s got to be prepared to deliberately snare the beast’s attention in order that it doesn’t relentlessly focus on just one player. My nagging suspicion is that some teams are going to rapidly become so good at working together that the poor lonely monster’s going to have a super-tough time, but we’ll see how it shakes out over time.

For my part, Hunters don’t do a great deal for me even though they have an impressively wide range of distinct abilities, because being a part of a puzzle isn’t personally satisfying. Other team games, such as Battlefield and TF2, at least allow for moments of individual heroism, but this is very much about everyone working together, doing particular stuff at particular times, in the manner of a WoW raid or a MOBA. I can see the appeal, and that this means kills in Evolve can never be cheap, but I’m all about the selfishness Hulk Smash. I also don’t find that the characters have a great deal of personality – they don’t say much outside of cutscenes, and as I mentioned yesterday the cutscenes are tiresomely posturing. There’s no element of Oh! Oh! I want to be that guy or woman in the way there was with Team Fortress 2, but then little else has managed to hit those heights (or had the resources to).

OK, that’s it for now. The probably-final part of this is a few days off, so that I can get a clearer sense of what Evolve’s going to be like once it’s bedded in somewhat.

56 Comments

  1. magogjack says:

    Thanks Alec, looking forward to the next installment.
    It will probably decide which game I buy next, this or Heroes of the Storm.

    • Artificial says:

      HotS is free to play?

      • tormos says:

        access to the Beta is currently $40 US and individual characters not on the free rotation are ~7. So it’s very much the opposite of free ATM

        • Reapy says:

          Lots of rounds of contests giving out free keys around the web. I posted in a thread on a website and got a key the next day, so just keep your eyes peeled.

          No need to buy a hero, while pricy its interesting to try up the cast and stick with the free rotation. If you play enough to ‘level up’ you should be able to buy a newer hero or a couple of the ‘cheap’ ones, though I think the fun is sort of trying everyone out so no real rush to have to own one.

        • Cleave says:

          $40 for beta access to HOTS? Blizzard sent me a key not 2 months ago for free

  2. ravencheek says:

    Wait wait wait wait…. evolve is getting a 3 part review.

    For what is a multiplayer only game mode, with essentially less than 10 playable characters, that took me 10 hours in the beta to see/learn/experience everything it had to offer….. Oh wow, it’s like it will never end.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Read! Reading good! Reading clever!

      • BlackeyeVuk says:

        Never!

        Speak only in sign or dimcloud. Offend nature. Not clever.

    • Baines says:

      Don’t forget the two part “guide” RPS posted first.

      The Evolve coverage at this point is starting to feel like the RPS staff decided to troll readers. What are the current Vegas odds that the review will run longer than three parts?

      • montorsi says:

        I’ve spent more time reading about Evolve than I will ever play it. They’ve saved me a few bucks.

        • Groove says:

          Exactly this! I’m really enjoying the review and it’s telling me exactly why I don’t want to buy the game (I imagine the guides would have been of interest if I actually wanted to play it).

    • rcguitarist says:

      Well, considering how this is basically the blockbuster game of the winter, it makes sense that it would get more coverage than say an indie game release that had a budget of $20K. There are probably millions of gamers looking for reviews and information on this game so RPS definetely needs to cover it enough to provide those people with enough info.
      That said, i am not a fanboy and in fact I won’t be buying evolve until it drops to $5 because I see it as only having the value of a weekend rental.

      • Stupoider says:

        A big, hyped up release doesn’t necessarily translate into a big review, and a game such as Evolve has so little going for it that I’m surprised it’s been given this much attention.

        • Asurmen says:

          Why does it not?

        • rcguitarist says:

          Sure it does. The big blockbuster game is here…here’s our in depth analysis. That’s the way news works…and movie reviews…and book reviews…

        • Ferno says:

          Well I’m certainly enjoying it enough!

        • brokengod says:

          Plenty enough fun being had for my money.

          When did RPS comments become such a “we hate all AAA games” wankathon?

    • Afoxi says:

      12 characters + 3 monsters.

      • Hex says:

        = about $140.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          Nope.

        • Afoxi says:

          That would be the pack with 16 characters and 4 monsters + skins that make the monster glow in the dark and be seen from the other side of the map.

        • sharkh20 says:

          =$60

          12 hunters and 3 monsters is what comes with the base game. If you preordered you get a 4th monster later down the line when it comes out. Right now, the only day one dlc is cosmetic (which is pretty lame.) Any map and game mode DLC down the line will be free. Any monster or hunter dlc will cost $. You will still be able to play with people who purchase the dlc when it does come out even if you do not purchase it yourself.

    • badmothergamer says:

      I had hoped you’d finished your whining in the part 1 comments but apparently not. Look forward to seeing you again in part 3!

    • frenz0rz says:

      Oh, hush.

      You’re not interested in Evolve, therefore you don’t read about it.

      I AM interested in Evolve, therefore I read about it.

      Everybody wins!

      • ravencheek says:

        It’s becoming increasing hard to NOT read about evolve. The amount of coverage this game has gotten is staggering. L4D2 never got this much coverage and it released with twice the content. For half the price.

        • Ferno says:

          That depends on what you considered content. As a huge fan of L4D I found L4D2 poorly balanced and rather disappointing. It improved significantly, however, when they added the L4D1 campaigns to it.

        • yojimbojango says:

          Unfortunately half of the L4D2 content was the first L4D.

          Evolve is like L4D2, except instead of one survivor reskinned 4 times, you have 12 distinct hunters with different abilities and personalities.

          Also instead of having 5 weapons with various skins and changes to firing speed, there are 40 distinct weapons. Each of the 12 classes gets 3 unique weapons + 1 class specific weapon, and even the class specific weapons have small variations between characters.

          In terms of maps L4D2 came with 5 new campaigns split into 5 maps each (25) while Evolve only has one campaign played on 18 maps (5 maps per play through). Evolve gets a bit more mileage out of theirs by with very involved weather and map effects that actually have game play ramifications. A tutorial video states over 800,000 different combinations, however some of those seem to be smaller tweaks to wildlife and visibility levels which I really equate to health ammo and weapon placement in FPS terms. The significant ones seem to involve whole map reskins for winter versions where a blizzard rolls in at some point, or monsoons where the rivers and lakes get altered.

          In terms of monster weapons L4D2 had 7 (one ability per monster) . Evolve has 3 monsters, each monster has 5 distinct abilities (4 offensive, 1 special movement) for 15.

          In terms of ambient noise L4D2 had zombies. There were different skins and the odd one in a CEDA suit that could run through fire, but it was all basically a zombie. Evolve has 19 types of wildlife. Each has it’s own AI, attack patterns, and ways to use them to your own advantage. One aspect of the game that is hugely under-rated is how they interact. I’ve seen a dune beetle and a megamouth fighting in a cave while a pack of trapjaws sit on the edge of the fight waiting to eat the looser. Most players just run screaming through there and never pay any attention to it and that’s a shame.

    • brettski says:

      Did RPS pee in your oatmeal, raven? if you didn’t like the game, then just say so (which you actually did later in these comments) and be done with it. Why are you spending so much time spewing accusations of foul play when there are none to be found? Again, look at the coverage on this site and you’ll see that, just like us, they were psyched to see a game that could have been swell, but were kinda ‘meh’ on its delivery. Coverage does not equal fanboyism. Reduce those flames to a simmer, son.

  3. fuggles says:

    To me, it really just looks like you could buy Giants Citizen Kabuto and have similar, albeit more fun in multiplayer with a fantastically funny singleplayer component. All signs show it will go the way of titanfall, but if they made a Rampage mod I would buy a copy.

    • brettski says:

      That’s exactly what I was hoping for. Sadly, the reviws suggest otherwise. More asymmetric, please!

  4. Palimpsest says:

    My faith in RPS is really diminishing. Anyone know where I should go for early RPS-quality reviews?

    • GiantPotato says:

      Can you please explain to me, using examples and links if possible, what is wrong with the above review? I honestly don’t understand the negativity that I see sometimes in RPS’s comments section these days.

    • sneetch says:

      If you want RPS quality reviews then I really, really recommend this site I’ve found called RPS! It’s the closest I’ve come to RPS quality reviews on the entire internet.

      I don’t see the problem with this coverage really, Alec seems to be being critical but fair to me, exactly as a good reviewer should be; he’s going into the game’s pros and cons in an entertaining way. I can only surmise that you think he should only be either trashing it or praising it as befits your own viewpoint.

      • Palimpsest says:

        You know, this is nothing against Alec really. I just feel like RPS has developed a kind of blind spot towards the vacuity and flaws of big dumb games. If this came out a couple of years back, I feel the site would have scolded the game’s soullessness, concept that doesn’t work in practice and dull weapons/style. And come on, playing the monster is not that fun.

        It grates me to see coverage of CoD becoming more accepted, for example. John Walker (I think) used to treat the series with the contempt it deserves but now I see articles talking about CoD as if it’s not a joke. The site still provides good reads but it would be great if it could return to being the righteous hard-hitter I bookmarked.

        • SimianJim says:

          I hope you read your comments back and realise how immature they make you sound.

    • DrollRemark says:

      Dear Sir,

      Your recent [cartoon/article/comment] lampooning [my beloved topic of choice] was both [unseemly/dull/tiresome] and [beneath you/unfunny/pathetic]. You should know that [my beloved topic of choice] is completely unnecessary to satirise, on account of how perfectly realised a topic it is. Please cancel my subscription to Private Eye forthwith.

      Yours,
      Bob Huffington

      • Palimpsest says:

        Maybe the site is just ‘evolving’ sorry to cater to its current readership…

  5. thekelvingreen says:

    I was always the one who preferred to play against sims in Perfect Dark and TimeSplitters so I quite like the idea of multiplayer-but-not. I wish more games did it.

    • rcguitarist says:

      Yes, I do applaud the makers for making a single player mode pitting you against bots. Say what you want about how playing with bots isn’t as good, but when people stop playing the game and you want to fire it up again you will be glad that your game isn’t completely dead. Also, bots don’t cheat and become annoying campers.

    • Baines says:

      TimeSplitters bot AI was so hilariously awful that it was actually fun to get three friends, assign 10 AI bots, and start blasting.

      Despite the variety of game modes, TimeSplitters AI was pretty much only coded for basic “kill other people” deathmatch. It was utterly inept at modes like capture the flag and bag tag. It couldn’t even properly handle several weapons, as giving a bot a weapon set with mines was equivalent to telling them to repeatedly commit suicide. When Future Perfect added a baseball bat as a weapon, the AI would swing it and then wait a few seconds before swinging it again. It couldn’t use at all environmental items like mounted guns, remote guns, or Future Perfect’s buggy. It didn’t realize that fire-based weapons didn’t work on fireproof enemies, would quickly set itself on fire, and didn’t know how to put itself out. As for mapmaker maps, bots would get lost on even basic designs, unable to “find” entire sections of the map even if they had enemies or even items like bag locations or zones.

      Time Splitters bots basically acted as extra targets more than any measure of challenge, no matter their difficulty. Still, it was fun and made the game a better game. I wouldn’t see that kind of AI quality working in a game like Evolve though. Games have gotten more complex, while AI design has stagnated or even regressed, so I have to give some props to the Evolve team for both daring to implement bots and to apparently have done it in at least a somewhat respectable form.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      I’m surprised it wasn’t mentioned that you can switch between classes on the fly in singleplayer. That makes it better than something like Left 4 Dead, where you just have to hope the bots do what you want them to.

  6. Distortion says:

    The reason this won’t go the way of Titanfall is they have more game modes than team deathmatch and capture point and king of the hill, I can play this with bots if I don’t feel like dealing with people, I have a chance of actually getting 5 people to play together.

    *edit* Actually I may be remembering wrong on the numbers of game modes, but I find Evolve’s much more fun I guess.

    And when I’m saying “not go the way of Titanfall” I am referring to my personal experience with the game where I played it for maybe a week, got through one of those “campaigns” only because I wanted the other titan chassis, got fed up with the lack of game modes, stopped playing, then found out they supposedly later cut one of the game modes out.

    It could still get old, I get bored with it, or whatever. I’ll probably regret spending $60 on it, and not waiting for the price to go down, but I’m having fun being a monster and to me that’s all that really matters.

    • Hex says:

      The reason it will go the way of Titanfall is that it’s simply too expensive. For games like this which require a robust player population to carry it into perpetuity, it’s vital to make the the barrier to entry as low as possible.

      Limiting the audience to people not just able, but willing to fork out anywhere between $60-$150 or whatever, is ridiculous. It’s cutting your playerbase down to a fraction of the potential out the bat, and huge numbers of the people who buy the game are likely to move on to something else within a few months, (as people habitually do), dooming the game to a future of obscurity.

      Games like Dota 2 and TF2 and Counterstrike and what-have-you make it easy for everyone to hop in and get started. Evolve…just. I would love to play it. But there’s no way I’d risk more than maybe $5 on seeing how it plays.

      Look at Killing Floor, or even Crusader Kings 2, Turtle Rock. Loads of DLC, and yet people love them. Give people the opportunity to spend money on awesome stuff if they like your game, sure. But don’t shove garbage down your fans’ throats like this.

      • Bradamantium says:

        $60+$25 for a season pass nets you all the playable content. Anything past that is character skins, which are thoroughly unnecessary. That runs the same cost as Titanfall. Unlike Titanfall, all maps are free, and playerbase isn’t split by the DLC – you can fight a DLC monster or fight with DLC hunters without owning that DLC. The pre-order sloppiness was inexcusable, but the overall DLC is nothing exceptionally out of the ordinary.

        • Hex says:

          Your definition of “ordinary” seems quit a bit off from mine. To determine my ordinary, I’d look at similar games in my library and recall what I’d paid for them, to determine what I deem to be reasonable to expect from Evolve:

          CSGO — $7.50
          L4D — I don’t recall, but I remember playing it not too long after it came out, so possibly full price. What, $19.99, maybe?
          L4D2 — $4.50
          Killing Floor — (and all accouterments) — >$10. There are a few bits of DLC I don’t have for this game. I’d say I have at least 75%-85% of the available DLC.
          Natural Selection 2 — $24.99. (Would not recommend for purchase at this price.)

          So looking at the titles above, and what they offer, I’d peg Evolve at being a $30 value, on release. At least $10 of that just for the New Game Smell. And you’re telling me $85 is okay?

          If that’s what passes for “okay,” no thank you. I’ll either wait for the inevitable Steam sale, or just pass it up altogether. Depending on what the community is looking like, next Xmas.

          • Bradamantium says:

            Pffft, if you want to bring in reduced sale prices, then there’s a pretty good chance Evolve will go for ~$10 given time. Even throwing that out the window, by the metric of AAA game costs, it *is* certainly fair, and comparable to similar games.

          • Hex says:

            Comparable =/= Fair

          • ravencheek says:

            This is perfectly comparable. L4D2 release for less, with more content. And supported mods.
            Evolve is releasing MORE expensive with less content and the quite clear cash-grab money store inbuilt. No mod support.

            Pay more for less, or pay less for more? Which is the obvious correct answer.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      Which way did Titanfall go? I mean, I won’t deny that it’s not the most popular game out there, but I can still easily get into a full game, even at 3 AM in a weeknight. A couple thousand players is all you need, and honestly, it’s all you can expect a year later, unless you’re playing a free to play game or one of the juggernauts of multiplayer gaming.

      Evolve is currently the 9th most played game on Steam. As long as the developers support the game with new maps and modes, like they said they would, I think enough people will stick around. It also has the benefit of being sold on Steam, unlike Titanfall, and I’m sure it will get plenty of visibility during the Summer Sale.

      • Ferno says:

        I was going to say, I bought titanfall, played it with friends and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not sure why everyone got the impression it was some failure. Loads of people bought it. They even added a coop horde mode later down the line for free. Not every multiplayer game has to attempt to be this eternal game in the line of CS:GO and DOTA2 which we will all play forever.

  7. Aetylus says:

    It looks like steam has shut down reviews of Evolve after a flood of negative reviews by alpha/beta players who then didn’t purchase and complained about price/DLC. There’s got to be a story (and another Evolve article) in that.

    • ravencheek says:

      I think most people (me included) did this.

      I was looking forward to this game ALOT, then when I saw the open beta I almost jumped out my chair to download it fast enough. Then after a long total of 18 hours in the open beta I felt very….. wanting.

      It feels like there just isn’t enough there so they have added the arbitrary lengthy unlock system to make people stay for longer.

      This and the quite frankly ridiculous “console level” pricing have put me off.

  8. sharkh20 says:

    This game has a better dlc model than most games with DLC these days. The only day one dlc was skins, which i do agree is pretty stupid. I don’t think this game’s dlc holds a candle to games like CS:GO or TF2. Other than CS:GO, I have never seen a game where completing chore like missions for the paid expansion operation invites you to pay more money as a reward. Buying all the dlc in that game would cost you like 10 thousand dollars.

    This game gives you 12 hunters and 3 monsters (a fourth later if you preordered) for $60 dollars. The only day one dlc is for cosmetic skins. Any future maps and game modes will be free.

  9. lanelor says:

    The beta was boring and the game still becomes a grind fest in less than 10 matches.

  10. WinterborneTE says:

    I am really enjoying this. I played the beta and got a bit bored with it, but I am really enjoying the new game modes, especially the dynamic 5 day evacuation mode where winning and losing changes the next map at random, ending up feeling like a L4D campaign. I think Rescue mode though is my favorite. When the hunters are escorting a bunch of NPCs through the jungle towards a dropship evac point and then they start disappearing to wraith abductions, I felt like I was in that part of Aliens where they were coming out of the walls. Only sometimes I get to be the alien.

    The base defense missions feel suitably epic as well where the monster has a wave of minions (weaker stage one Goliaths) that spawn periodically to help (and in which you start at stage 3). Being a hunter and seeing three monsters charging you is suffiently trouser browning of an experience.

    I see a lot of folks from the beta who keep saying there isn’t anything to the game, and if it were the beta, I would agree, because the beta only had one game mode. If this game only had Hunt as a gamemode it would be short lived and dull quickly.

    But it doesn’t. I don’t know how long term it will last as that will depend on the release rate of new maps, but I sure am enjoying it.

  11. draakisback says:

    played in alpha and beta and yes i had fun playing the monster but not playing as a hunter. That was tedious and boring as hell to be quite honest. If i forget the huge price tag on the base game and the DLC fiasco thats going on at the moment, the core game in terms of fun is a bit below the original L4D. I just feel like the game its self was a huge missed opportunity. Its called evolve and yet as a monster you don’t actually evolve you just gain more HP and get stronger versions of the same skills. it would have been cool if the level 1 monster was literally useless for anything except eating stuff and what it ate/what monster type it was decided what the skills would eventually be. Like for example, you eat a fire bug or something and you get access to a fire skill. Then after collecting a few skills you can choose to make them stronger or drop a few as you go all the while steadily getting more beefy in terms of defense based how much you eat. This concept took me all of a minute to think up and yet its 20 times more interesting to me than the current game.