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    Evolve Online: Monstrously good competitive play where every match feels different

    The core of Evolve is asymmetric competition one monster against four human hunters. the clue’s in the title, of course, because the special sauce is that the monster starts off (relatively) weak and, through gobbling up wildlife, can evolve into a more powerful form that levels the playing field and then evolve one more time into an absolute powerhouse. this is hunt and be hunted.

    There are three monsters to choose from but the first, goliath, fits Evolve’s unusual rhythm perfectly a brute capable of breathing fire, chucking boulders, charging and jump-slamming into distant hunters. it’s great how subtle improvements to these abilities with each evolution, and a general increase in size and strength, is felt in your impact. get to level three and you can bash hunters around like skittles. the flipside being that evolving is a lot easier said than done.
    “When the Monster becomes the aggressor, things change utterly”
    What makes Evolve special is the unusual pace of a match: the monster has a brief head-start, and the first few minutes are spent running. hunters don’t ‘improve’ in the way the monster does, so their goal is to find and down it as quickly as possible, while an advantage still exists.

    when this switches and the monster becomes the aggressor, things change utterly now trapping you could be a death sentence for the hunters. this constant changing of the interplay is what makes Evolve unique. traditional competitive thinking says the most important thing is balance between sides. Evolve shows, quite brilliantly, that balance can be a seesaw.

    But it’s not perfect. the other two monsters, Kraken and wraith, are less fun than good old goliath. both have their moments but Kraken fights at more of a distance, which isn’t as satisfying as crushing a puny human up-close, and wraith’s stealth-based abilities make avoiding detection and escaping traps far too easy.

    Even worse is the needless grinding that blocks off these and the other hunter class options until you’ve performed arbitrary tasks such as dealing 8,000 damage with goliath’s flame breath and so on. these take many, many games to complete and of course every class is separate. the medic is particularly arduous to work with, requiring your teammates to start failing before you can start levelling. a structure should enable the game it is layered onto: this one just frustrates.

    Over time this recedes, and what’s left is a competitive experience like no other. the ideas in Evolve are first-rate and, more often than not, lead to tense and exciting matches where advantage swings back and forth. finally tracking down an elusive monster just before it can hit level three is exhilarating, and tinged with a desperation to get it down now. hitting level three as goliath, and turning around to hulk smash the four gnats that have been harrying you for half an hour? now that’s priceless.

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