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Evolve: Multiplayer masterpiece or another overhyped flop?

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An image from "Evolve" (2K/Turtle Rock Studios/TNS)

An image from “Evolve” (2K/Turtle Rock Studios/TNS)

Last week, Turtle Rock Studios released Evolve, the latest game in the Co-Op-focused first-person shooter genre from the same masterminds who worked on Left 4 Dead and its subsequent downloadable content.

The game pits a team of four human players against a single gargantuan monster controlled by a fifth player. Both sides clash in a short-lived yet desperate attempt to either save or eradicate a human colony on the exotic and lively planet of Shear. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as the story goes.

While its diverse and immense landscapes are beautiful and its gameplay is revolutionary in its simplicity, Evolve may not be worth the costly $60 price tag.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to the game is its titular monsters and their struggle to survive, evolve and hunt down the mercenaries sent to exterminate them. The player controlling the monster traverses Shear’s landscape, ranging from massive atriums to murky swamps, and encounters wildlife to feed on in order to evolve. The Marsh Striders and the Titanic Tyrants are components of the wildlife that set Evolve apart from most other games I’ve played

The monsters in the game hop around the landscape throwing titanic punches and breathing fire. The land-bound Goliath, is a well-balanced character that is interesting to play with in comparison to the more powerful and airborne Kraken and Wraith. All present an equally unique experience and a more advanced set of challenges for the hunters to face.

As opposed to the monsters, the team of hunters struggle to navigate the treacherous environment of Shear, completing objectives of the game like civilian rescues and monster nest destructions.

A player most commonly finds himself hunting down the monster before its power swells to such an extent that the hunters will have a significant disadvantage in the fight. To do this, each player is assigned to one of four classes: the heavy-hitting Assault, the healing Medic, the cunning Trapper and the defending Support. Each class comes with a cast of three characters who vary in their quick playing style, visual design and quirky personality, diversifying an otherwise rigid team model.

Unfortunately, the full cast of hunters and monsters is unavailable when the player begins the game. The game instead only provides the Goliath and one hunter from each class at the start. The rest must be unlocked through a cumbersome progression system that demands a certain amount of damage with all three of a hunters’ weapons or all four of a monsters’ moves. This especially hinders class progression since each character has a refreshingly different play style.

The combat in Evolve relies on its reflex-heavy play and is strategically driven. Jetpacks give the hunters a tactical edge by adding a lateral element to the battlefield. Players can more tactically fly up to a monster’s head then dart around the massive cliffs of Shear in a quicker fashion.

Evolve focuses solely on two kinds of matches: Skirmishes and Evacuations. Both can be played in single player mode, Co-Op or proper player vs. player, as it was meant to be done. All matches feature the signature four vs. one combat and the same pool of 12 maps and four game modes.

Evacuation mode plays out as a series of five Skirmishes, with each skirmish having lasting effects on the rest of the “campaign.” However, Evolve lacks a true single player campaign and fluid story. Unlike Left 4 Dead, the Evacuation mission sets play more like a randomized adapting match playlist rather than a real story.

The most surprising feature of Evolve is how easy it was to pick up. Each class and monster only has four abilities that are relatively straightforward and easy to use. Gun aiming is forgiving due to the monsters’ titanic size and much of the game’s overall requirement of skill stems from a player’s instincts, quick thinking and tactical teamwork.

Evolve will inevitably come on sale or perhaps they’ll release it packaged with all the DLC for a low price. When that happens, I implore you to give it a try and immerse yourself in the savage planet of Shear.

Until then, this masterpiece of multiplayer play lacks the complexity to warrant its initial price tag.

Alessandro Arena-DeRosa can be reached at [email protected]

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