I feel safe in saying that Evolve is the biggest fuckup of 2015. And what an irony in saying this, due to the fact that Evolve was initially my big reason for getting a PS4 in the first place--I didn't own a gaming PC and wouldn't for a very long time, so a next-gen solution was my only ticket. Of course, even that would be messy, since the release date was pushed back a few more months into 2015. So, I waited with rampant anticipation, and why not? It had swept the E3 Meaningless Awards buzz, received praise and excitement due to its original concept: 4 class-based hunters playing cat and mouse with a gargantuan monster. A team-based shooter with hunting and tracking mechanics, while the monster was a constantly-evolving boss creature that either stalked in the shadows or momentarily engaged in frightful combat. It was the ultimate "be the boss" game, and destined to be a great big-game hunting experience to boot. What could go wrong? Well, plenty could--and did.
The first real sign that things were shaky was the initial beta testing of Evolve on PS4. Not only were connections and matchmaking kind of slow, but it was becoming clear how truly dependant you were on your team as a whole. Teamwork-based shit isn't bad at all, but when all it takes for a loss is one guy to fuck up his role a little bit, the arduous process of losing and matchmaking all over again gets tedious. There are 4 main classes in Evolve, with 3 or 4 character variants each: assault, support, medic, and trapper. You fuck up as a trapper with your encapsulating dome, you never will get the drop on a monster ever.Your assault sucks, you won't get damage off. Your medic gets toasted, and you can kiss your ass goodbye. There are a number of respawn timers, of course--but you have to be careful not to get blown up in a single fight. Letting the monster eat stuff and evolve its powers makes the endgame less possible for the hunters victory.
Sometimes you get a dumb person playing the monster, trap them, and kill them in 2 minutes. Other times you'll spend 15 minutes running in circles until the "endgame" scenario of a round starts, where the fully-grown monster has to destroy a reactor for its victory. You'll probably get instances where there are intermittent scrimmages, sure--but it's more likely you don't. Overall, the theory and idea of hunting monsters using scared wildlife, corpses, and your mutant dog friend is fun, but it gets old when certain aforementioned scenarios play out very often. You could be doing fucking nothing for almost half an hour before the inevitable battle royale.
As for the hunters themselves, they're interesting and varied enough. Some of them are clearly better than others--the trapper with a sniffer dog will definitely help dumber hunters track the monster easier than the others. Some of the supports are just too unwieldy next to the one who can shield you constantly. With medics, at least you have a very varied roster of snipers, resurrection summoner dude, and standard heal-o-matic. Assault characters will usually let you choose between mine throwers, flame guy, rocket launchers and chain guns, so pick your poison and you'll usually be good to go. Their balance isn't the best but they're all worthwhile picks. If only the DLC price gate wasn't so shitty--but more on that later.
Playing as the monster is usually fun. I wish they could have taken the monster and the controls for it and put it in a different game because it's smooth and excellent. Everything from jumping and climbing to flamebreath and stealth moves are great, and it feels cool to pounce on someone from the underbrush or throw a huge boulder at the hunters. There are 4 monsters, if I recall corrrectly--I only ever played as the giant gargoyle dude and the Cthulu terror, as I had not unlocked one and did not pay 15 fucking dollars for the other. Monster balance seemed odd since one in particular could float and teleport and drop lightning homing bombs on you and I hated that fucker. But, as I said before, playing as a monster was fun for a while--until the ennui of the same old scenario sets in.
There are some other scenarios available. One involved waves of smaller enemies while hunters try and protect a thing. Another was basically trying to kill monster nests before a monster hatches more shit. To be honest, these alt modes weren't all that great. What was better were the Modifiers in the standard hunt mode, wherein you could do something like set the weather, create 2 monsters to hunt, utilize your spaceship as a giant additional searchlight, and more. There were a few of these variants but you could only choose 1 at a time, which I fucking hated. Why not just let me go wild and have like 2 or even 3 at once? Anything to break up the one fucking mode. In Team Fortress 2, you had dozens upon dozens of maps; you had not only 9 classes with limitless weapon loadout options and cosmetics, but match types like KOTH, Capture Points, Capture Flags, Payload, Payload Race, Special Delivery, Man Vs Machine, and Attack/Defend. These were spread across wildly different locations and schematics and never felt like you were doing the same shit. I know, different kind of team-based game, but my point stands because Evolve locks you into very specific roles across a small variance of maps and architectures. Games almost always begin and end the same way, and always have the same kind of midgame shenanigans of domes, tracking, and eating wildlife. What sounded and looked good on paper was done to the bare minimum.
Now, all of this taken into consideration would probably be enough for me to say "it's like a 6/10 game or something" due to a lack of enough content. But the shit train for Evolve doesn't even start until we touch the toxic fumes of its DLC model. Initially the most controversial aspect of the game, Evolve had offered a huge season pass that included things like worthless skins, character unlocks, and a future monster. For $25, you get 4 new hunters that otherwise would have been $7.50 each. Add to this a new monster that's worth $15 fucking dollars, only free if you bought the dumbass $80 deluxe edition. I'm not even counting the $60 worth of tiny cosmetic DLC things for your guns and weapons which all look like crap anyway--you can barely see shit like that in such a dark game. This pricing comes with the fact that all of it was announced way before release, raising red flags about how much content was either cut or being hung out to dry. In a game where the content is already quite sparse, there's another $40 worth within 4 hunters and a monster. The game brand-new was $60, making this a $100 purchase if you wanted 5 more characters to play in the same old hunting mode. This was exploitative horseshit, especially because it was announced so early and dangled around in light of a very bare bones selection of play modes. Add to this fact that another season pass was announced for 2016 containing just as much bullshit, and you have a laughtrack effort.
Against my better judgment, I had purchased Evolve but soon traded it back in. I probably wasn't the only one--not only on console, but on PC the player base nosedived into hilariously low numbers. Since it launched in February 2015, the numbers show the shockingly low amount of people still playing. Even in March, people were already moving on. Perhaps funniest of all was a recent contest Turtle Rock did: if there were enough arena hunter wins, everyone would earn 16 free skins. It fell short of the mark by maybe 20k wins and there were no free skins handed out. That's a great picture not only of how shitty Turtle Rock is with their PR and generosity, but also how much the install base has dwindled.
Evolve is like a bad dream that I've blacked out from remembering and only look back upon in disgust. For such a heavily anticipated thing, it crashed spectacularly and probably lies within the same graveyard as The Order 1886. It's yet another early 2015 release that will become forgotten as the rising tide of good shit enters for the holidays. It will only ever be relevant as a failed experiment in terms of both initial ideas and how DLC can completely fuck over a game's entire release. Compare (as I love to do) The Witcher 3's model of release with Turtle Rock's.W3 continuously released minor knick knacks and features for free in the months following its arrival, while promising a huge expansion of the game world later in the year for less than a 3rd of the original price. Evolve sold every tiny bit of scrap for 2 dollars or more apiece and gave away nothing, gating even your progress behind tedious time and money schemes. Fuck you, Turtle Rock. The only thing that evolved was the bullshit scheme they had for the consumers, giving the absolute minimal while asking for the maximum monetary grant. Fuck Evolve; it is the worst AAA release of 2015 and I'm sure Ubisoft is pleased that someone beat them to that for once.
Amazing and topical!