Going free-to-play has proven a boon for quite a number of games over the years—DDO, LOTRO, STO, TESO, and numerous others, some of which don't actually end in the letter “o”—and Evolve, at least out of the gate, is no exception. The day before it went free-to-play as Evolve Stage 2, its peak user count was 157; the day after, that number has jumped to more than 24,000.
That's far short of the big dogs in the park (although to be fair, nobody looks all that hot when compared to Dota 2 or CS:GO), and it's also a tiny frame of reference, certainly not enough to declare that “Evolve is back!” But it's good enough to crack the top 20 on Steam, something I never would have predicted a week ago.
Recent Steam reviews seem mostly positive, although there are complaints about the “re-beta” state of the game, particular with regard to server issues. And of course, existing Evolve reviews (including ours) aren't really relevant anymore because the game has undergone so many changes for the re-release. But the strong uptick in player count indicates that there's at least some degree of interest in what Turtle Rock was (and is) trying to do, and that points to the possibility of a turnaround. Convincing players to stick around will be a whole different ballgame, but at least the opportunity is there—and that's good news for fans who had been stuck watching it slowly fade into oblivion.