Evolve review

Evolve Wildlife

Wildlife can be dangerous to the Hunters and monster alike.

Tipping the scales

Evolve’s four-against-one setup creates another concern: its experience hinges on a world-class matchmaking system. The matchmaking isn’t something I can test properly before release, and it’s part of the reason I’m withholding my final verdict until I’ve had a chance to play Evolve on public servers. From my time playing in the week before release (and throughout Evolve’s earlier testing periods), I can say that when you’re paired against opponents who are much less or much more proficient than you, Evolve devolves into boredom and frustration.

It takes coordinated, acrobatic Hunters to keep pace with a fast, experienced monster. It takes a clever, competent monster to entertain Hunters who’ve seen it all. To manage this, Turtle Rock added a mechanism that balances Evacuation matches over time. If a team loses a round, they get a buff in the following round. Annoyingly, it’s unclear whether these buffs influence HP or damage output and to what degree. But they are cumulative: if you continue to lose, you’ll get stronger.

The competitive purist in me doesn’t like the idea of core player stats being tampered with, but in practice it’s mostly inoffensive—I only noticed the effects of Evolve’s balancing system if I’d won or lost several successive rounds. Also, you can disable it altogether by creating a custom Evacuation match. Still, what bugs me about this system in ranked play is that it doesn’t appear to take the level of victory into account. If the Hunters put three narrow wins together, they’ll come into the fourth round with three “balances” against them, which seems unnecessary.

My feelings about Evolve’s maps couldn’t be more mixed.

Evening the scales, however, are Evolve’s “map effects.” When one team wins an Evacuation round, they earn a map bonus in the next round, like clear weather for easier monster-spotting, armed AI colonists, or static teleporters. A victorious monster might unlock electric eels in the next map’s rivers and ponds, or radioactive gas that damages the Hunters. I like the balance that these effects strike between being surprising and unobtrusive.

My feelings about Evolve’s maps couldn’t be more mixed. There are 16 of them (four are only playable on Defend), and individually they’re well-designed, spacious arenas populated by rock pillars, rivers that hide the monster’s footprints, and a mixture of deadly and docile wildlife to impede the Hunters and feed the monster.

But the maps are also surprisingly homogeneous. I can’t think of a moment where being placed on a particular map meant that I had to change my tactics. The maps are excellent jungle gyms for the Hunters and the monster to fly, chase, and clamber over. But collectively, they all share same general shape and rocky, overgrown texture, and the few map-specific features within them don’t prompt different playstyles. This is something that will erode Evolve’s replay value over time. It means something to be on cs_office in Counter-Strike, or on Operation Locker in Battlefield 4, and I wish Evolve’s maps had more meaning within its systems.

Evolve Sniper

Lazarus' gun marks the monster with diamond-shaped targets that amplify damage when Hunters shoot them.

When human players aren’t around, leave a match, or you decide to play alone, the AI that fills the shoes of Evolve’s Hunters and monsters is flawed but usually competent enough to not get you killed. The AI Hunters’ greatest shortcoming is their limited autonomy. Blast an egg in Nest to half health and run away, for example, and your teammates won’t stick around to finish the job. The bots are fine at the basics: traversing Evolve’s cavernous layouts, doing damage, healing the player being attacked. Especially on the monster side, though, the AI lacks the creativity to truly take advantage of Evolve’s weird weapons and abilities, and ends up doing the safe, predictable thing in most scenarios. Still, considering the scale and variety of Evolve, functional bots are impressive enough.

Evolve’s emphasis on skillful movement, spotting, and out-maneuvering your opponent make it an excellent competitive game. The Hunters and monsters have some of the most elegant, simple-but-deep mechanics I’ve laid hands on. And Evolve is one of the best-looking games on PC, blessed with splashy particle effects, smart UI, and monsters worthy of Pacific Rim.

But I’m concerned about Evolve’s longevity. At first touch, Turtle Rock’s 4v1 formula has tons of novelty. Over dozens of sessions, though, the short, intense matches that it (usually) produces felt less memorable and remarkable. Without maps that bolster its replay value, or mod support to fill in, I worry that it falls to paid DLC and Evolve’s planned free map releases to keep pace with players’ content fatigue.

Note: Evolve is chiefly a multiplayer game, so we’re withholding our final verdict, including the score, until we’ve had the chance to evaluate it in the same public environment that you'd play it in.

Evan Lahti
Global Editor-in-Chief

Evan's a hardcore FPS enthusiast who joined PC Gamer in 2008. After an era spent publishing reviews, news, and cover features, he now oversees editorial operations for PC Gamer worldwide, including setting policy, training, and editing stories written by the wider team. His most-played FPSes are CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Rainbow Six Siege, and Arma 2. His first multiplayer FPS was Quake 2, played on serial LAN in his uncle's basement, the ideal conditions for instilling a lifelong fondness for fragging. Evan also leads production of the PC Gaming Show, the annual E3 showcase event dedicated to PC gaming.