Well that was initially the case with Evolve. Coming from a graphic design background there was something almost perfect about the Evolve logo. The positioning of the V, the four small blocks on the left of the V and the large block on the right of it. It worked by showing exactly what the game is, what it is about and also giving you the fundamental idea without seeing anything but that logo. That was enough for me to have an interest.
But what of the game itself? The issue with these teamwork based models, is that unless you can get together with a regular group, it can often become a lesson in frustration and the same is true of Evolve unfortunately.
Sure, as the monster you can have a quick blast one evening on your own and get a lot of enjoyment from it, but try and do the same as one of the four hunters and your experience will vary wildly. This isn’t the fault of the game itself really, but at the same time it is, making it hard to pass proper judgement.
Let me expand on this a little, based on my own experiences. I played a few games with other random players and managed to find a mix of those with headsets who were willing to communicate, but also plenty either didn’t have the tools, or didn’t fancy talking. Which is what this game’s success boils down to. The need to communicate.
In games with players who were talking, one was able to stand out, give instruction and get everyone working as a team. Working almost as a commander making sure the medic did their job at the right time, that everyone knew their roles, when to attack, when to support, all of that jazz. These games were pretty damned fun to play, win or lose.
Then there were the games where no one would talk, everyone going off in their own direction, not sticking together, being picked off by wildlife, then destroyed by the monster. No support, no healing and four individuals just attacking to no avail. These were horrible games and the sort that made me want to switch the game off and never return.
However, when played with four other people you know, it becomes a joyous experience that is fun to play and offers plenty of laughs at the same time, as well as healthy competition. This was a throwback to the original days of online PC gaming and XBOX Live. Which in the end does make me sad, because those days are rarer than ever.
So anyway, onto the core mechanics. These are very finely tuned and work exceptionally well. The balance of any one game can shift many times depending on the approach taken by both the hunters or the monster.
The goal of the hunters is first and foremost to kill the monster, the earlier you can hunt it down and engage, the easier it can be to kill him, the longer you leave it, the more chance it has of evolving and being stronger than ever before attacking its final objective.
The monster itself has two ways of winning a round. One is to kill all the hunters or the other is to attack a designated point and destroy it, before the hunters destroy you. But to get to a point of being able to attack this point, you as the monster need to get there, whilst hunting wildlife to kill and feed on, so you can evolve.
The more time you spend hunting food, the quicker the hunters can track you and engage in combat using their various tools, including a trap that creates a dome type arena to keep you contained in battle. So basically it becomes a game of cat and mouse for the most part, which again, depending on who you play, with can either be tense or a bit dull.
One of the nice touches here, is that the monster can hide and prevent any hints showing up to the hunters by sneaking around, but it will take longer to evolve and it will move slower, or by going on the attack for wildlife and getting to stage 3 as quickly as possible you leave tracks, disturb birds, destroy surroundings and generally give the hunters clues as to your whereabouts.
The balance of the game is outstanding and really is fantastic to play in the right scenario, but just like I feel the new Rainbow Six will suffer the same fate, being able to have those fun and enjoyable moments on a regular basis will be difficult. Hopefully, as the casual crowd move onto the next big thing, you will be left with those who want to play Evolve in the way it was meant to be played, but for now it is pot luck as to what you will get, unless you can organise something yourself.
There is also a single player mode within Evolve and I must be honest here and say that I was very, very cynical when I became aware of this. It seemed pointless to have a single player option in a game that was clearly built for online capers only and would purely be just you and a few useless bots.
How wrong I was though. Well I say wrong, because technically it is the same as the online with a few bots, but it has had a few nice touches to make it worthwhile. That and the AI is surprisingly decent for the most part.
The idea here is that you play out a number of scenarios as either the hunters or the monster. Five scenarios set over ‘five days’ where the result of each day will affect the balance of power and the ease of the next scenario. Win a scenario and you will get a reward that will help you for the next, such as auto aiming turrets at a base, or locals who will join in with your fight; or as the monster extra armour, that sort of thing. Lose and the opposing AI will get the benefits instead.
I don’t know if it was because I went into this with a cynical frame of mind, but I found myself really liking the concept and even though it was essentially a repeat of the multiplayer aspects with a few minor adjustments, I found it to be a lot of fun and have found it a nice fall back when an online session has been doomed by players who don’t want to jump into the spirit of the game.
It is hard to grade Evolve, because based on some sessions it is a horrid experience that you never want to play again, but when it does click with the right people it is one of the best online team based games out right now. I have had more luck than not with online games in Evolve, so it is heartedly recommended.