There are a lot of things I like about co-op gameplay. Being able to coordinate with teammates to reach an overall objective is, in my opinion, the best way to play games. Sometimes a single player campaign will catch your eye or stick with you, but for the most part when the campaigns are over most of us turn to multiplayer or co-op to get the most out of our games. Occasionally, a company will design a game with little to no campaign and just focus on the multiplayer and co-op experience, but this is typically hamstrung by the fact you need to buy items in game or fork over a huge amount of cash for downloadable content to get a more rounded out game experience. Destiny is a huge example of how you need the dlc to even play certain levels to get the most out of your game. While I get the need to provide more content and make money at it, I feel that gamers without large wallets are starting to become victims of this pay to play mentality. Thankfully, Evolve is changing this for the better.
Evolve is the newest title from developer Turtle Rock Studios and publisher 2K Games. Evolve is pretty straight forward in terms of basic gameplay, but where it shines is how you approach the various scenarios with your team. Think of it like chess; easy to learn, and hard to master. Evolve is a fully co-op game without a campaign mode and I know some of you are rolling your eyes already. Patience. The main concept of Evolve is that you are a 4-person squad tasked with your basic bug hunt, except that one of your compatriots is the monster. This is a 4 on 1 battle for survival where the best man/woman or monster can win.
The overall story is that your group of hunters is dropped into hot areas and needs to assist the local scientists, rescue survivors, destroy nests, or defend certain points. The hunter group consists of 4 players (or AI) each of varying classes; Assault, Trapper, Support and the Medic. Assault is your basic tank/damage dealer, the Trapper is great at locking down the monster and slowing it, while Support buffs the team with different abilities depending on which character you selected. The medic is pretty obvious and tries to keep their teammates in the fight for as long as possible. This squad will be pitted against a certain monster in one of the previously listed scenarios. One of the nicer points is that each class has 3 different characters to unlock as you become more proficient with your character’s particular abilities. For example: Eva is your starting Medic and the group’s sniper. She has a healing beam that continuously heals damaged players, and a bolt action sniper that has armor piercing rounds. Now after you level her up, you will unlock Lazarus who is also a Medic, but he can cloak and revive fallen comrades instantly. Each class progresses the same way and has enough variations between new characters to keep you engaged and entertained even if someone picks the class you wanted for the next round.
If you select, or get selected, to be the monster you’re in for a treat. There are a total of three: Goliath, Kraken, and the Wraith. Like the hunters, each monster has their own strengths and weaknesses, be it brute strength, flight, or cloaking. I won’t divulge too much on the monsters’ individual abilities because unlocking them is all part of the fun. The monster, to me, is where the fun is at. You get to hunt indigenous wildlife and feed while avoiding the hunters. The reason you want to avoid them initially is because the hunters working in tandem are a force to be reckoned with for a fledgling monster… until you evolve. When you start as the monster you assign a certain amount of points to the attacks and special abilities you want to use. From there you gain evolution points every time you feed until it’s time to evolve. Once you begin your evolution (5-10 seconds) you’re vulnerable in your egg until you assign the new points and emerge, bigger and meaner. In total, your monster can evolve a total number of 3 times and once it hits level 3, the entire game changes. At this point hiding really isn’t something to be worried about as you can knock a lone hunter across the screen and pummel them into submission. Think of Hulk tossing Loki around in the Avengers. Thankfully, the game gives you a total of three monsters to upgrade and unlock. So that’s a total of 12 hunters and 3 monsters without purchasing any dlc. That being said, there will be more hunters and monsters all available for download if you want to pay for them. There’s even a season pass available so you can get all the content for the year as well. The difference between Evolve and every other game DLC that’s out there (Destiny, listen up) is that all future map packs will be free. The developers have gone with a concept that I think is stellar. You get all future maps at no charge and the only thing you do need to pay for is characters or monsters. That way if you go into a match with people who have dlc you can still play on the map and experience the new dlc and see if you actually want to buy it. Whereas games like Destiny leave you in the cold, because the maps and weapons/armor are part of the DLC. If you don’t have it then you’re out of luck.
I think my favorite part of Evolve is that you can you play on random maps with random people or you can even customize your own battle experience. This is one of the few games where if you make a custom/private match you actually keep the xp you earn toward leveling up. So you can have a private match with 5 friends or you can do a match with just you and another person. In that case, I can be the monster and my friend can actually control the remaining AI characters simply by quick swapping via the directional pad. A word to the wise, if you play solo as the monster against the computer, be ready for a fight. The AI is relentless and can spot you across the map and will hound you the entire match. Now I know how any monsters who fought the X-Men felt. That being said, the planet of Shear is highly inhospitable to both hunters and monsters, as you find some of the local fauna can take a monster out just as easily as a hunter(s).
Just to mention a side note as well. The game does also have a companion app for Android or iPhone users called Evolve: Hunter’s Quest that plays as a puzzle game, but will also unlock extra damage and abilities in the game once synced to the server. Some of the unlockables for certain characters are definitely worth the time playing so you can upgrade your damage, healing duration, aoe, etc. for your hunter on the PS4/Xbox One/PC.
All in all my time with Evolve has been fantastic even though it’s only a co-op game at it’s heart. That being said, with you able to play online with strangers or set up any sort of custom match you want, and being able to get free map dlc, this is the sort of game that offers a replay value that most gamers want and need. So if you’re game, and think you have what it takes, grab a couple of friends and join the hunt. The question becomes, are you the hunter or the hunted?