The video game Evolve is a great example of asymmetrical gaming done in way that is both fun for both sides. In looking at the video game as an idea or maybe a platform for future games, there is a lot of potential. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as Evolve manages to get. It almost feels like Turtle Rock Studios is pitching a demo for what might be a better, newer Evolve video game to be released in the future.
There are many things that this first person shooter game does right. In terms of pure gameplay, Evolve is a first-rate hunting experience. The hunter side consists of four players taking the positions of medic, trapper, support, and assault. Medics are fairly self-explanatory; they have the job of keeping everyone alive. The trapper is in charge of finding the monster and keeping it in one place. Supports are more diverse depending on how you play. You can either choose a support which will help your fellow hunters to take less damage, or go more on the offensive and support your team by making it easier for them to do more damage. The assault class will be the primary source of the team’s damage. His job is to fire away at the monster and bring him down. While playing on the hunter’s side, the difference between playing with friends or strangers is enormous. Evolve involves an extremely high level of cooperation needed between the four classes if they want even a chance at taking down a competent monster player. Playing online with strangers often results in frustration due to lack of communication.
Being the monster in Evolve brings a completely different set of mechanics. For the majority of the game, monsters will want to be running away from the hunters. While running away monsters can feed on the wildlife on the map which allows them to evolve. The trick of being a good monster player is to balance running away from hunters and eating the wildlife. Evolving is also risky as the monster will enter a stasis creating a moment of vulnerability as it transforms into its new form. The reward for the constant running comes after the second of third evolutionary form. This is when the monster really starts to feel like an unbeatable boss that you control. At this point the hunting game shifts to where the hunters run away to strategic positions as you hunt them down. Each monster offers a different form of play through unique skills which helps to give each monster its own identity in Evolve.
There is no story.
You play as either a monster or hunter trying to take down the other side. This lack of a story is extremely disappointing. Here you have been placed on this vast world on a foreign planet full of dangerous wildlife, but you never find out why. Here you have numerous different hunters for each role that all look unique and come with special abilities, but you never find out why they are here in the first place. Here you have huge monsters which look and play distinctively unique from each other, but you never find out why they exist. Do you see the pattern? The lack of story or explanation of any kind within this created world feels lazy. It is as if the developers of Evolve felt that a story was not needed as long as their gameplay was sufficient.
This laziness carries on to the types of play the shooter provides. There are a total of six modes of online play that Evolve provides, but the only one you will ever really see playing without friends is Hunt mode. Due to the mode voting system in an online game lobby, Hunt mode will get chosen nearly every time. The only real way to experience the other modes is to either play them alone or with friends. Then you realise why no one plays these modes. None of them have been made as well as Hunt mode. The other modes simply come down to find X and destroy or protect X. Aside from Hunt mode, the other modes do not make real use of this asymmetrical gaming mechanic in any meaningful way. From the way the other modes play, it really does feel as if they were just tacked on to sound impressive on the back of the game box. Advertising six online game modes sound a lot more impressive than having just one, and it’s frustrating how evident it becomes that the other modes are just underdeveloped and unneeded extras made to give Evolve a boost in sales on launch day.
The games you play, in Hunt Mode of course, will either take less than five minutes or be twenty plus minutes of walking. If the monster is bad, it’ll end up getting caught right as the game begins before it had the chance to evolve. A good monster knows how to hide his trail and run around the map in an unpredictable pattern. This makes the hunter pretty much walk in circles looking for the monster a majority of the game. When the fight does happen, it usually ends so fast that you end up wishing that either the monster was better or that you found him sooner.
the majority of your time will not be spent fighting the monster, but looking at the scenery of this planet you know nothing about.
This isn’t to say that tracking is a bad thing in hunting games. In fact, Evolve does a great job on the tracking system but only if you look at it on a purely mechanical base. There should be fun things for the hunters to do while they’re looking for the monster. Maybe there’s wildlife on the map which allows the hunters to have extra animal companions. Or a plant that acts as a painkiller to make hunters harder to kill. There should have been something for the hunters to do while tracking the monster, other than mindlessly following the trapper who usually mindlessly follow the arrows. Is the tracking mechanically good? Yes. Is it created with player interest and interactivity in mind? No.
This Evolve review could have been very positive as Evolve has the potential to be a great first person shooter video game. It has a set of mechanics which is made with an asymmetrical system in mind with the goal of providing a unique experience for both sides. The worlds are vibrant and the monsters are mysterious and powerful. Unfortunately, that’s all this video game has. None of the environments or characters are explained or given meaning to their purpose. While there are six modes of online play, Evolve was clearly made with only Hunt mode in mind with the other modes being tacked on.
Evolve feels like a demo of a new Evolve game to come, and it is absurd that the publishers 2K games have marked it at full retail price. If you really want to experience great asymmetrical gaming, then wait. Evolve shows great potential for the future of asymmetrical gaming, but it’s not there yet.
● Unique mechanics for both hunters and monsters
● Great hunting system
● Lack of content
● Mechanics not created with player retention in mind
● Basically no story
● Only one real game mode made with the game’s mechanics in mind