Last week 2K Games and Turtle Rock Studios let loose a five day open-beta treat for Xbox One owners. The result? Gamers had an opportunity to get in some hands-on time with the hybrid, asymmetrical, competitive multiplayer shooter. The only problem is that the end result of the experience left something to be desired of the experience.
I haven't read any other hands-on previews of the games or gathered any feedback from gamers coming out of the miniscule amount of time I had with the title. I didn't want my thoughts tainted about what the game is about and what was to be expected from the experience.
Stepping away from the beta with only my own thoughts to fall back on, I can clearly say that based on what was present in the beta it's not indicative of a game that seems as if it's worth the $60 asking price. This has little to do with the content and everything to do with the game's mechanics.
For those of you who haven't followed the game, Evolve is a competitive multiplayer game. It's a 4-vs-1 arena battle game where four hunters attempt to hunt down and destroy a monster controlled by a player. Hunters come in different classes and have various abilities, skills and weapons at their disposal. Trappers can hunt down and trap the monster; assault provides heavy artillery; medics keep the team healed; and support offers extra shield and cloaking for teammates.
The human hunters are pretty straightforward and easy to grasp once you start playing. The monster, on the other hand, requires a lot more skill, thought and mindful tactics if you want to win. Turtle Rock really put a lot of effort into the varied playability of the different monsters, with players having to truly memorize the map layouts to know how to get around, as well as understand each of the skills to make the most out of the monster's abilities.
The objective of the hunters is to hunt down and kill the monster. The objective of the monster is to hunt down and kill the hunters. The monster has to eat other NPCs around the map in order to grow stronger and level up, making it tougher to kill and enabling its skills to dispense serious damage against the hunters.
All of the above is fine and dandy. However, the problem comes in with the game's lack of gameplay depth.
As hunters, you don't have to do much in the way of micromanagement other than using your skills repeatedly when the cooldown is finished. There is no weapon management – you don't have to worry about running out of ammo, or your guns jamming or finding new gear. There's no crafting meta-game or loot grind. It's all very... static.
The removal of equipment micromanagement means there's little to worry about with hunters and even less to think about when confronting the monster. The only goal is to stick with your teammates and repeatedly pepper the monster with fire. That's about as far as it goes, tactics wise, for hunters. So long as the trapper traps the monster and the other team members keep shooting (an artillery strike or two is also handy) it's hard for hunters to lose. There's nothing else really working against them if the four players just stick together.
Anyone in control of the monster has a lot more to deal with. The game has a much stronger flavor of intrigue, since getting trapped is pretty much a death knell for the monster. The objective then becomes to divide and conquer the hunters. There's a meta-game involved when playing as the monster, such as leaving dead bodies of creatures in one area while maybe sneaking off someplace else to get an advantage on the hunters. The game has a lot more strategic depth when playing as the monster, and this is what keeps the game somewhat fresh.
The problem, of course, is that beyond monster strategy and huddling in a group as hunters, there isn't much else to the game's play mechanics. Physical obstacles or obstructions aren't much of a problem or presence in Evolve and you won't have to worry about the weather doing anything other than obscuring your view from time to time. Added to this, the NPCs roaming around provide little more than some target practice before getting to the main monster.
Turtle Rock recently unveiled the game's upcoming DLC content, but most of it centers around skins and monsters. Arguably, though, the monsters are what keeps the game interesting. Skins? Well, when you're playing as a hunter you can't see yourself anyway, so they don't really matter. The different modes might help, but the modes don't really change the core game.
There's a repeatable measure to the game that wears thin rather quickly given that the mechanics are so sparse. As hunters it boils down to this:You shoot, you heal, you stay together, you win. Don't break that formula and you don't have to worry.
One of the other drawbacks is the size of the maps: they're too small. A few times a match started and a trapper tracked the monster within two minutes, trapped the monster and the team killed the monster before it had a chance to do anything. The maps needed to be twice as large, especially for monsters like the Goliath, where it has to rely on moving along the ground at moderate speeds and is pretty easy to track. There's obviously a lot more leeway for flying monsters like The Wraith, but the balance isn't quite there to make the hunt feel like... a hunt.
Something that may have helped the game is maybe if the player count was upped and it was 7-vs-1 or 15-vs-1, but they increased the health and damage output by the monster. As big as the Goliath is, it takes a while for it to actually kill a single player, making the bouts seem a little silly when a monster weighing several tons has to constantly pound on a single human multiple times in order to kill them. The Tank from Left 4 Dead had an easier time killing humans than the Goliath does.
So far, Evolve is looking like a game that seems fun for a few hours over a lazy Saturday afternoon, but it lacks a lot of functional depth. Weapons are attached to characters, and customization is practically non-existent.
Maybe there's a lot more to the game that Turtle Rock has planned for release that extends the playability or mechanical depth so it's not so... repeatably perfunctory.
From what I've played, and in my own humble opinion, I'm not quite seeing the $60 here based on the limited amount of playability from the standpoint of the game's core mechanics. Said sentiment rings especially loud when compared to the kind of deep content that's been showcased for games like Dying Light, the upcoming Borderlands: The Handsome Collection or recent releases like Far Cry 4 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Hopefully Turtle Rock proves me wrong and has a lot more in store for the game when it launches on February 10th for the Xbox One, PS4 and PC. You can learn more about the game by paying a visit to the official website.