Evolve is perhaps the best example of how a team is only as strong as its weakest link. This makes for great team-based tactical combat for those who are equally matched, but can frustrate those who are not.
It’s fair to say that Evolve was one of 2014’s most hyped and anticipated titles. Winning tons of awards at gameshows all over the planet, expectations were sky high for Turtle Rock’s team-based multiplayer shooter. To a degree this was surprising, because the game’s basic premise is fairly straightforward; a team of four hunters battles with a giant monster inside a game arena and all five characters are player-controlled. However, the brilliance behind the concept lies in the fact that all five players are perfectly balanced. Your team of hunters consists of four distinct roles/classes: assault, medic, support and trapper. Within each class, you are free to choose from a small selection of hunters – each with his or her own set of abilities and tools. Each team then faces off against one of three types of monsters – individually many times more powerful as each hunter and with the ability to grow (evolve) in strength as the battle progresses.
It’s a pre-match setup that sounds basic in nature, but is incredibly intricate in its execution. Because of the different options per class, there are dozens of different team combinations possible – and each and every one of them can result in a well-oiled killing machine where every role complements the other. Your medic can either possess the skills to weaken the monster you’re trying to take down, or can use his skills to revive teammates who have gone down during the hunt. It’s a careful balancing act and the right choice might well be down to who you’re playing with (or against) instead of where your preferences lie.
When playing Evolve with three teammates who are of a similar skill level and know what they’re doing, teaming up against the game’s huge monsters is a real joy. Ideally, you’re also fighting a monster that can give you a good run for your money due to a combination of monster traits and player skills – because your adversary is also under player control. This is, however, also Evolve’s biggest flaw. For the game to work, the carefully crafted balance has to stay more or less intact – and that’s not always a realistic option for some players and didn’t quite ring true for about half of the games we played as well. This can be somewhat frustrating, because you feel like you’re missing out on something truly excellent.
Careful matchmaking, and perhaps more balancing optimizations by Turtle Rock in future updates, could help alleviate this. Let’s hope this happens, because all the basic building blocks are in place with excellent next-gen graphics (though they could have been more diverse in terms of scenery) and core gameplay dynamics that provide a great foundation to build upon. As it stands, Evolve is a brilliant game for those who can bring a well-balanced team to the table and a fun one for those who are into multiplayer gaming but can’t quite do the same.