Review Post-Mortem: Evolve

My posts on Backlog Adventures have been few and far between since the beginning of my newest venture. I became the games reporter and review for The Toledo Blade back in December, which is the largest newspaper in the area outside of Detroit.

I appreciate the opportunity given in the print space allotted to my gaming thoughts, but sometimes there is not enough space to justify my full opinion. Alas, this is one of the more difficult differences between writing online and print, and one that I must adapt to.

Regardless, I felt it best to find a space online to sum up my thoughts that weren’t fit to print for my gaming reviews within The Blade.

This week, I reviewed ‘Evolve’–FOUND HERE AT THIS LINK–a game with an idea that may have been too clever for its own good. 

Evolve

I could be completely off track with this thought, but something smells fishy about who exactly Evolve is meant to be for. Looking at the pre-release push, the events that 2K showed the game at, and the way the game has been advertised, I would say that they wish the game to be a big hit with YouTube content creators and Twitch streamers.

If the complete drop off the collective radars of both services by the game–no more than two weeks after release–is any indication, I think they failed.

Why wouldn’t 2K Games want in on that money? I’m sure staring at the dollars being generated by esports is enough to make any stock holder or board member of a game publisher wheeze in excitement. It may be presumptuous of me to say, but Evolve strikes me as a game that was changed by a publisher mandate to be more “friendly towards that demographic.”

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I hold on to this thought even more considering that 2K announced today of an “Observer Mode” coming to evolve that is basically a stream broadcasting UI, making the game easier to broadcast on Twitch.

Of course, this focus on esports makes no sense whatsoever given the fact that Evolve isn’t a competitive game. There isn’t a ranked or league mode for online play, and outside of a few random tournaments sponsored by Turtle Rock/2K, the game isn’t being played as an esport.

Random aside: On the Steam listings for most played games for online multiplayer, Left 4 Dead has double the amount of users as Evolve. Food for thought.

Why would you want to play Evolve as a competitive esport? More to the point, how do you make that work in any way that is fair? Who gets stuck playing the monster? Does each tournament have sponsored, official monster players for entered teams to play against? Is this a kids t-ball league where an opposing team member sends out a monster to throw the ball?

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I don’t think anyone thought this out.

Maybe if 2K hadn’t been so busy thinking about those big, big esports dollars they would have noticed that the game is an absolute train wreck to play in public, solo-queue online play. I played around twenty matches in a row over the weekend as a solo and I think only one match went smoothly.

I don’t even mean that in a “my team lost so I am angry at this game” kind of way. I literally mean that stupidity was abound. Some players would run off and do their own thing, others would quit immediately if they didn’t get to play the Hunter role of their choice, others outright disconnected due to terrible online connectivity.

More often than not, the biggest issues were when someone clearly didn’t know what they were doing, and this goes for the monster player as well. More than a few times I saw the monster player attempt to run directly at the Hunters in the first thirty seconds, get boxed in my an arena and then proceed to stand in place and promptly give up on life.

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Maybe all of this would be more forgivable if the gameplay itself wasn’t so…boring. An average match lasts around twenty minutes. Fifteen of those twenty minutes are spent following footprints and scared animals in a circle or playing hide-and-seek with a giant Lovecraft-esque monstrosity, depending on if you are Hunter or monster.

Either way, it isn’t compelling gameplay. Even once you get past the tracking phase, team fights devolve into a complete mess of flashing colors and team members who won’t stay together. It doesn’t help that one hit from a monster will typically send your character flying into the nearest corner, where the monster will proceed to pound on your head like a confused toddler with a toy hammer.

As it stands, I don’t know if these experiences are bad because the average skill of the player base is currently very low or because the game itself is poorly designed. All of this is a shame given that there are some great bones. I really do like that each Hunter has a very specific role and that your team is punished if you try and ignore that. Likewise, the monsters each have a weight to them that make playing them a lot of fun.

Despite all of that, I feel that Turtle Rock’s efforts were supremely misplaced. Copying their own formula from Left 4 Dead may have served them better than attempting to sway League of Legends players and Twitch streamers.

Despite all of that, I feel that Turtle Rock’s efforts were supremely misplaced. Copying their own formula from Left 4 Dead may have served them better than attempting to sway League of Legends players and Twitch streamers.

Thanks for reading.

Follow me on Twitter at @DoubleUHarrison or email me at wharrison@theblade.com. 

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