(Reviewed on Xbox One)
UPDATE: As of the 26th February, Turtle Rock Studios have released a patch for the Xbox One version of the game – hooray! The 1.1 patch notes on Turtle Rock’s website outline the changes and tweaks that have been made to the game; chief among them is the fact that they have resolved the issue with players repeatedly losing their progress and data. While I’ve yet to hear anything about a patch for the PlayStation 4 and PC versions of the game, I think it’s safe to assume that a similar patch must be underway for players on those platforms as well. So, while Evolve’s progression and unlock system is still tedious and problematic, on the Xbox One for now at least, you should be able to play the game online with friends without having to worry about your progress being wiped when joining matches.
Everyone knows the legend of Achilles right? The invulnerable Greek war hero, who couldn’t be injured thanks to his mother Thetis ever so conveniently dipping him in the river Styx as a baby. Thought to be an immortal warrior after his glorified river-dunking, he was killed later in life from a wound to his heel at the end of the Trojan war; the very same place on his body where he was held during said river dunking by his mother all those years ago. An immortal warrior felled by a tiny but crucially overlooked detail.
Want a sci-fi version example of the above? Take the Death Star from Star Wars. It’s the Galactic Empire’s planet-sized world-destroying spherical megaweapon; equipped with powerful tractor beams and superlasers, and staffed with armies of Imperial stormtroopers and fleet after fleet of TIE fighters to defend it. So what happens? It’s completely and utterly destroyed thanks to the explosive combination of a shoddily placed two-metre exhaust vent and a pair of well-aimed proton torpedoes.
Well, those two above examples of fatal flaws are kind of how I feel about Evolve in its current state. It’s one of the most exhilarating, addictive and joyously inventive multiplayer shooters that I’ve played in years, but unfortunately due to the game being designed around a pointless and counter-intuitive XP-based progression system, and the existence of an infuriatingly frequent progress wiping bug, the game is also one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had in gaming for a long, long time.
When everything works, it’s nothing short of a dream for shooter fans who are looking for a fresh and unique multiplayer experience. When the game wipes your progress and you lose everything again for the umpteenth time, making you start back at the bottom rung of a tedious and completely unnecessary progression ladder, it’ll make you want to unleash your inner monster and destroy your living room in rage. You’ve been warned.
Okay, let me rein in my personal frustrations for a second before I go into full-on beast mode myself just thinking about how messed up the game can be and let’s talk about what the game gets right.
Designed by Turtle Rock Studios, the guys and gals who brought you the fantastic Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, Evolve is an asymmetrical four versus one multiplayer sci-fi shooter/beat ’em up game, where four hunter players have to track and hunt down one massive player-controlled monster. When I first heard of the game, my immediate thoughts were something along the following lines:
“So the basic premise is that it’s a Left 4 Dead Tank fight, only with a giant Kaiju instead of a hench muscly zombie, and four tooled up space marines with lasers, rifles and all sorts of other sci-fi wizardry to boot? Count me in!”
Before we get caught up in the dusty catacombs of my easily amused mind, let’s go over the game’s short but sweet plot setup. Evolve takes place on the planet Shear, a human colony planet which is under attack from a new, non-native race of mysterious, alien wildlife. These monsters are incredibly powerful, cunning and intelligent, with the ability to rapidly evolve (hence the title) to ever-more increasingly powerful forms. Their numbers have increased to the point that they have entirely overwhelmed the colonists to the point of no return, and things are getting very desperate indeed.
As part of a last-ditch effort, a crack team of monster hunters, assembled from across the known galaxy, have been hired to help the colonists with their monster problem. Originally contracted to cull the monster population, the hunters arrive in orbit around Shear to discover that the situation has rapidly devolved (see what I did there?). The monster population is now so large that the entire planet is considered an inhospitable write-off, and the hunting expedition they signed up for is now a full-scale global planetary evacuation. So, it’s time to kill monsters, not get eaten along the way and save the population of the entire planet – not much pressure then eh?
Evolve is essentially a digital foxhunt set on an alien planet – only the fox in question is about three storeys tall, breathes fire, and generally likes to cause a real ruckus for both humans and the local flora and fauna.
While I abhor foxhunting in real life, virtually hunting down a massive monster with three friends in tow is an incredibly exciting experience. As you might imagine, the game’s unique pacing and rhythm results directly from the power imbalance between the four hunters and the one monster. The hunters are inherently weaker than the monster, and they have to effectively co-ordinate and attack together with each of their unique weapons and abilities if they are to have any hope of taking the monster down. The monster, on the other hand, has to try and elude the hunters at first, scarpering off through the beautifully dark and grotesque environments of Shear, all the while wolfing the local wildlife along the way and hoping to buy enough time and distance to undertake the titular evolution process to get stronger and more powerful.
While there are several different game modes to play, the Hunt mode most effectively showcases the unique rhythm of Evolve‘s gameplay. In this mode, the monster gets a thirty second headstart to dash off into a level, at which point the hunter team drop in to the map and begin to hunt it. The monster, currently at stage 1, is at its most weak and vulnerable at this point, and unless controlled by a skilled player, then confrontation with the hunters can usually be fatal. After it’s eaten enough wildlife, the monster can then evolve to a stage 2, and ultimately a stage 3 – at which point, it can destroy the map’s power generator, forcing a win. The match also ends if the hunters kill the monster, or the monster kills all the hunters. Each match often consists of several stop-start scuffles between hunters and beast before a winner is victorious, and due to the game’s tight balancing between the hunters and the monsters, the clashes nearly always go right down to the wire.
Matches take the form of four basic modes – the aforementioned Hunt, as well as Nest, Rescue and Defend. I’ll talk about Defend in just a second, but Rescue and Nest are slightly different riffs on the basic Hunt formula; Nest tasks the monster player with defending a clutch of its eggs from the attacking hunters, whilst Rescue pits the hunters and the monster in a frantic race to get to injured NPC colonists in the map and get them evac’d or eaten.
These modes and matches can be played as one-off single events, or collectively as part of a five-match campaign multiplayer mode called, funnily enough, Evacuation. This is where Evolve really comes into its own, and it’s the most ideal and enjoyable way to play the game in my opinion. Evacuation draws from all the game’s maps and modes and constructs a dynamic structure of events for players to fight their way through.
Each match in Evacuation functions as the equivalent of a day in the game’s story. After the opening round of Hunt, players vote on which mode they’d like to play next, with victory in each match granting their respective teams bonus XP in the form of saved or killed survivors.
Evacuation ends on day five with a round of Defend, and it’s the outcome of this match which determines which team is the overall winner. Hunters have to stop the monster and its minions from destroying two power generators and finally, the evacuation ship’s fuelling pump in a tense last stand scenario. To bring up Turtle Rock’s previous work yet again, it’s like the rescue level at the end of a Left 4 Dead campaign, only with no zombies and a giant pissed off monster to shoot at instead; in other words, it’s great.
What’s really cool about Evacuation is that it functions in a similar manner to Titanfall‘s campaign mode in structure, but unlike Titanfall, the events aren’t scripted and pre-determined, and things dynamically change from match to match according to whether the hunters or the monster won the preceding match.
For example, if the hunters win and kill the monster on the Wraith Trap map, then in the next level, they are granted special teleportation gates which enable them to get around the map much faster. Likewise, if the monster wins on Wraith Trap, then the monster gets access to its own teleportation rifts which give it the movement advantage instead. So although you’ve technically only got to win on the last match in Evacuation to win the mode outright, just how easy or hard that last match in Defend is going to be is determined by how well you’ve played across the four previous matches; the outcome of the fourth match being particularly important as it gives the winning team either turrets with tougher armour or minions with tougher armour respectively. With all that bonus pot of XP on the table for the winning team, the Defend matches at the end of a close-fought Evacuation campaign often feel like a tense game of Poker…only with less pokerfaces and more poked (and presumably torn apart) faces instead.
David(s) and Goliath
Moving on from such awful poker gags, from what I’ve just said about the overall structure of the game, Evolve might look overly basic, simple and repetitive at the macro level, but it’s at the micro level where things really get interesting. In particular, it’s how each character and monster in the game brings something different and special to the table. Each skill, perk and ability you choose, on top of your hunter’s/monster’s inherent abilities all feed into the flow and final outcome of the match. The attention to the smallest of minute details, such as how fast your jetpack recharges, to how damage resistant the monster’s armour is, are crucial factors in just how that next hunter on monster conflict is going to go.
However, if you’re playing the game solo, then a lot of the game’s fantastic intricacies can go largely unnoticed. Playing the game offline is alright with the AI bot companions/monsters, but it’s also rather dull to be quite frank. By all means, everything in Evolve certainly functions as a solo experience, but it’s far from ideal, and certainly not how the game was designed to be played. As a monster, you rarely feel threatened by the all AI hunter team, who don’t ever really manage to keep up with you particularly well (the Tracker AI in particular is terrible) or cause you much trouble when they do.
Likewise, playing as one of the hunters with all AI teammates is often an equally underwhelming experience. The starting Support class character Hank will often cause more harm than good by frequently calling in his orbital strike ability at the worst possible moments, scattering the team whilst completely missing the monster. Used in the hands of a skilled human player, Hank’s orbital strike is a fantastic area-denial tool, but in the hands of the questionable AI it just becomes what feels like a ridiculously annoying trolling tool.
Played online however, Evolve is absolutely incredible. Suddenly, once the tedium of the bots is removed, everything clicks into place and the adrenaline starts to flow. This is how the game is supposed to be experienced, with tense, anxious human players occupying both the hunter and monster positions. In a lot of ways, Evolve at its best can often feel like a really tense horror experience for both sides. There’s this constant fear that you’ve got to keep running and not get caught by the hunters early on when playing as a monster, and an equally driving fear to catch the monster as fast as possible when playing as the hunters to stop it from wiping you out later on.
In my opinion, while playing as the monster is fun, I particularly love playing as the underdog hunters, as I find the experience to be far more satisfying and exciting. Even though you’re tooled up with plenty of gear and in the dominant position at the start of the match, you still feel very vulnerable and nervous for the vast majority of the time; darting through Shear’s dark jungle environments with the rain lashing down on your screen as you’re in hot pursuit of your quarry still manages to send a bit of a chill down my spine when I know that there could be a clever monster player lurking around any corner.
When you do see this monster in amongst all the gloom, there’s just this really exciting and dangerous feeling about having spotted it. It’s this heart stopping moment where you might just catch a small dark shape in the moonlight lumbering up a cliffside in the far distance, or you get a glimpse of a leathery wing as it disappears into a nearby foliage of trees. There’s this mixed feeling of dread and joy at having seen it; you’re excited to be hot on its tail, but nervous at the prospect of engaging the brute in combat.
Once you’ve caught up with the monster and trapped it in the mobile arena, then it’s time to unload all your firepower into its thick armoured hide. The action in these moments is fast, brutal and deadly. If you and your team are all synced up and communicating well, there’s just this brilliant sense of excitement and finesse to the combat. It all just flows, and there’s a real joy to seeing how each member of the team contributes to the action whilst also shoring up the others’ weaknesses. Having found the monster, the Trapper then needs to keep it contained, the Medic needs to keep everyone alive, the Assault needs to inflict as much damage as possible to the monster while it’s trapped and the Support needs to generally buff everyone’s abilities, functioning as both a second heavy damage character and impromptu escape artist when necessary. When every player on your team communicates effectively, helps each other out and generally functions as part of a well-oiled machine, then the game is incredibly fun to play from any of these positions.
Personally, while it’s certainly exhilarating being the Assault trooper having the majority of the tête-à-tête confrontations with the monster, I find it more exciting playing as the Medic and Support classes who are more concerned with keeping the other hunters alive and kicking. There’s something really satisfying about being that steady base rock and foundation of the team who’s keeping everyone healed, and likewise it’s equally satisfying fighting as the Trapper or Assault when you know you’ve got a capable human Medic ready to patch you up when the going gets tough, or a Support who can briskly cloak the team to get them out of danger.
Even playing as a monster it’s still quite a surprisingly nerve-wracking experience. Knowing that you’ve got to run for your life as four eagle-eyed sci-fi poachers are hot on your tail (literally) is electrifying; that feeling of being persecuted for the majority of the match is incredible, and feels like something out of a claustrophobic horror game even though you’re being pursued across vast wide-open expanses of forests, canyons, tundras and swamps.
Evolve to a stage 3 monster however and suddenly the tables turn; the hunters become the hunted and now it’s your chance to actively pursue your human antagonists or destroy their power generator to win the match. The power trip you get when you’ve reached stage 3, knowing that you’ve managed to completely outfox your attackers and now all that’s left is to tear them to pieces is fantastic – you feel like an awesome end of level boss dishing out endless waves of pain.
Whether you’re playing as hunter or monster, what particularly keeps the game compelling and interesting to me after many hours of cumulative play is that there’s this frequent sense of wonder and possibility to be had upon discovering new tactics and uses for each hunter/monster’s abilities. Even though there are only a handful of different modes to play, the large variety of different skills, perks, hunters, monsters, maps, creatures, map modifiers and strategies to choose from can feel quite mind-blowing at times, even after several hours (alright, days) of playing.
For example, playing alongside a skilled human player using the Trapper Abe, I discovered that the Mobile Arena which is typically used to contain the monster within a limited arena and force it to fight, can also be used as a clever way of blocking off the monster from the injured survivors which the hunters need to save in Rescue matches. It was an incredibly effective yet incredibly simple technique that would never have occurred to me to try, and it’s testament to how flexible Evolve‘s sandbox really is.
It’s not just on the individual level that character choices and skills matter; how you pair up your choice of hunter with your teammates’ pretty much determines how you’re going to most effectively function as a unit. For example, certain groups of hunters are particularly well suited to finding the monster fast and early on in a match, but aren’t really built for dishing out or taking a lot of punishment if the monster makes it to the later stages, whilst other groups of hunters are best suited for tough, drawn-out combat scenarios that go to the bitter (and brutal) end, but aren’t particularly well suited to finding the monster early on. Experimentation with your own characters and your teammates is the key to success as a hunter.
On the monster side of things, I’ve also seen some clever monster players using unorthodox tactics that have consistently been very effective. I’ve seen stage 1 monsters who at first glance seem to be suicidal idiots waiting at the hunters drop location rather than running away like you’re supposed to, only for the monster to subsequently butcher the hunter team in record time. Impressive doesn’t quite do it justice.
From my experience of playing, there’s certainly a lot of different strategies to try out regardless of whether you’re a hunter or monster, and this great level of depth and freshness to Evolve‘s gameplay is what makes it so fascinating to play time and time again. Yes, it’s a repetitive experience (hell, technically aren’t all multiplayer experiences repetitive by their very nature?) but also a refreshing and damn fun one; Evolve in my opinion manages to absolutely nail and vastly improve upon that addictive just one more go mentality that Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 perfected.
So, you’re thinking, it’s a great game then? Well…
“Target That Weakspot!”
Okay, so before I delve into my problems with Evolve, it’s time for a bit of history and background information here about my relationship with the game. I’ve been one of Evolve‘s biggest fanboys pretty much right from the start, championing it for months and months on end, and so far in the review, I’ve been more than happy to excitedly shower it with praise. From the moment it was unveiled to the world with that awesome January 2014 Game Informer cover feature, I’ve been eagerly champing at the bit to get my hands on the finished thing and start blasting monsters and eating humans to my (twisted) heart’s content.
After playing the game early at the October 2014 London Comic Con, I was absolutely enthralled by the asymmetrical magic of the game’s human on beast combat, and it quickly rocketed to the top of my most anticipated games of 2015.
Shortly after Comic Con, I then played bits of both the Big Alpha and the Open Beta when they became available on Xbox Live – not too much of course, as I was already more sold on the game by this point and wanted to savour the final product and not get burnt out on these digital snippets of the final thing.
On release day, I downloaded a standard digital copy of the game, started playing, and absolutely loved it.
So what I’m trying to say is this – based on what you’ve read so far in this review, and bearing in mind what I’ve just told you about me and how much I absolutely love Evolve in these last four paragraphs, here’s my current verdict on the Evolve.
Unless you’re an amnesiac masochist with plenty of time to waste, do not buy the game right now.
As much as I adore the game on one hand, I couldn’t recommend anyone who’s interested in the game to pick it up right now in the condition it’s currently in as it has two massive problems. One of these is purely down to the way in which the game has been centrally designed, while the other is a small but disastrous bug which has been causing me and a hell of a lot of other Evolve players some major grief.
The small bug is by far the more egregious of the game’s problems, but before I can get into why it’s so poisonous and destructive to the player’s experience, I’ve first got to explain the bigger, more fundamental issue that’s part and parcel of the entire Evolve experience; the grinding.
Nose to the Grindstone
The major problem I have with Evolve is that the entire game is based around an unnecessary, frustrating and pointless grinding system of unlocks. It’s a cripplingly bad design decision, a fatal harpoon in the side of what’s otherwise a glorious white whale of a success. In trying to dangle some fancy new arbitrary carrots in front of their player’s faces, Turtle Rock have actually implemented a progressions system which puts up roadblocks and gets in the way of everything their game does brilliantly.
If you pick up a standard copy of the game like I did, then you start with roughly a third of the game’s content. The other eight hunters and two monsters are locked behind a progression system which forces you to complete arbitrary objectives to level up each character’s skills. This means that you spend an awful lot of your early hours of the game playing as characters that you don’t want to play just in order to unlock other ones, and not only that, you have to play them in a way that is usually to the detriment not only of your experience but your teammates.
Often, the tasks you have to perform to unlock the next progression tier are completely counter intuitive to what you’re actually supposed to be doing as that role, or place entirely the wrong emphasis on the wrong activity at the wrong time.
For example, when playing as one of the Medics, your chief responsibility to your team is to keep them healed – simple right? Yes, there’s more to it than that of course; playing as Val, the starting Medic, you also need to juggle between hitting the monster with tranquilizer darts to slow it down, and punching holes in its armour with your sniper rifle, but your first responsibility to the team is to keep the team healed.
Unfortunately, in order to level up her gear, you have to arbitrarily hit the monster X number of times with the sniper rifle, hit the monster Y number of times with the tranquilizer darts and heal Z number of health points with the med gun. Achieving the med gun one is relatively easy as it’s directly linked to you helping your team in the way you’d want a Medic class to operate, but the other two objectives are much less important to your job as the healer; yes, of course hitting the monster with sniper rounds and tranq darts is helpful, of course it is, but it’s no bloody good if half you’re team are flailing around in pools of their own entrails whilst you decide to go AWOL and snipe for a bit.
Similarly counter-intuitive objectives are present for every single character; follow Daisy for X numbers of metres as Maggie, cause Y number of damage points to the monster with mines as Markov, cause Z number of damage points with Bucket’s turrets. Why? There’s no need – why encourage players to go off and do things which aren’t always in the team’s best interest?
Because of this, you’ll frequently find yourself playing with numbskulls who are more concerned about levelling up than playing their role – chucking out mines and laying out an anally organised bunch of traps when they should be just up-close and firing away at the monster that’s currently tearing up their teammates. If these stupidly arbitrary weapon and ability progression systems were taken out, then I’m sure that people would almost undoubtedly play their crucial roles far more effectively as a result.
This ridiculous unlock system basically boils down to one question; do you want to play your role effectively and win the match, or do you want to level up your character? As a hunter, you stand or fall as part of the team. If one player decides to just go off free roaming in order to level up their assault rifle, then you’re all totally screwed. Participation and focus from every player is vital if you want to have any hope of success as one of the hunters.
Things aren’t quite so annoying on the monster side of things – if you want to go off and level up your monster over everything else, then at least you’ve only got yourself to blame if you want to level up your rock throws over surviving – but there’s still a ton of pointless grinding to do just to unlock all three beasts.
I understand that a lot of multiplayer games have these unlock and progression systems as a way of giving the player something to work towards or to keep them from getting bored, but were they really necessary here? The game is an absolute blast to play with friends; it doesn’t need this pedantic and fiddly Battlefield/Call of Duty style progression system to keep your interest in playing. Can’t you see that Turtle Rock? Your game is fun without all this artificial padding. Did you have so little confidence in your game that you felt that the only way to retain your player base and to stop them going off and playing something else was to give them silly little meters to fill up?
What’s more is that for a game which is all about delicately managing this constantly shifting but intricately balanced asymmetrical power dynamic between hunters and monsters, the progression system means that some players will have more powerful and effective hunters and monsters than others.
The small statistical differences that you do unlock are minor at first, but once they’re fully maxed out, they can make a world of difference to how your hunter on monster encounters go down. To take Val as an example again, with every one of her skills levelled up, she can cause 10% more damage with the sniper, keep the monster drugged for 10% longer and heal 10% faster than she could at the start of the game. That added 10% on all her moves is a slight but significant advantage, and it just feels strange that you have to slave away at these progression unlocks to make your class fully effective and not have them already operate at optimum levels right from the start.
The problem is that this creates a power imbalance amongst players – those who’ve played the game longer than others will have characters and monsters that are way more effective than a starting player’s roster, which just seems needlessly unfair. Just the fact that the game even rewards you for having spent more time than others to level up the characters by performing tasks which often run counterproductively to playing your chosen role feels weird and distinctly odd. Giving some players better bonuses and perks purely on the basis of them having clocked up more in-game hours than others just doesn’t sit right with me in a competitive game at all.
Couldn’t we all just have the full set of characters and monsters unlocked at max power to begin with? There’s absolutely no need for any of the excessive grinding and jumping through hoops that Evolve makes you do. If there really does have to be a sort of progression system to give players that sense of forward movement, then why couldn’t it just be tied into purely cosmetic unlocks instead? As you’ll see from a quick glance at the in-game shop, there’s a ridiculous number of paid DLC character and weapon skins available to buy – instead of holding them back there, couldn’t those skins be the unlock rewards you could dangle in front of players as incentives instead? Come on.
If Turtle Rock had chosen not to make grinding new characters and unlocks such a substantial portion of the game, then the game would be so much more enjoyable, and gameplay amongst players also probably would be far more tactical as a result.
On second thoughts, perhaps that’s exactly why Evolve released with its own Candy Crush style mobile app – there’s so much grinding to do in this game that it’s starting to look more and more like a fundamental necessity to unlocking the full game’s content, and not an optional extra anymore.
Shear Waste of Time
Unfortunately, the progression system is not the only big problem with Evolve. Oh no. There’s a second, smaller but even more infuriating hazard to you losing all resolve to keep playing Evolve, and it’s a problem that’s been plaguing me incessantly from the moment I’ve picked the game up. In fact, it’s still causing me issues to this day. While it’s not a questionable design decision like the game’s progression system, the combination of the two problems pretty much killed off all desire I had to keep playing for a time. Not exactly the best feeling to have in a game’s launch week…
Well, spit it out! Just what is this annoying problem you allude to I hear you ask? The game comes complete with a small but fatally overlooked bug which commits pretty much the biggest cardinal sin in gaming that I can think of – your entire game’s progress can get completely wiped when you join a friend in the online multiplayer. For a game built primarily around online multiplayer, this is a massive, MASSIVE problem. You lose all progress, unlocks, character and monster progression and all leaderboard scores, and your game is effectively reset as if you’d never picked it up in the first place. The kicker is that the £50 you paid to get the game hasn’t also been magically reset back in your pocket either.
I’m absolutely staggered that something this basic and fundamental has been missed by such a big and capable developer – particularly when you consider that the game has had two major public testing periods prior to launch. I have no idea whatsoever on how to make a game (as you can clearly tell) but just how on earth did something this destructive to the player’s experience slip through into the final product? How did something so basic yet so intrinsically problematic to the game get missed in development? Did Turtle Rock leave their entire QA department behind when they split from Valve or something? How!?
If you want to play online with your friends – i.e. the way the game is designed to be played – then you run the risk of losing all your progress, unlocks and leaderboard scores as frequently as every couple of days. Hell, you’ve even got to set your screen boundaries again, invert your stick controls and tell the game whether you want subtitles displayed – it’s a complete factory wipe of the game, you loose absolutely everything and anything you might have had up to that point and it’s as though you’ve never played the game before in your life. What the hell? This is absolutely unacceptable in my mind, and as a result I cannot recommend picking up Evolve until this massive problem is addressed via a patch or update.
When it first happened to me, I thought this must have been a simple but unfortunate one-off glitch, and that whilst I was slightly annoyed (I hadn’t made much progress at this point) I presumed that I’d just been one of the unlucky few, and that it was a one-off. However, guess what happens next? A few days later, I accept an invite to a friend’s game and lo and behold, my rank has been reset to level 1, all my characters are gone and my hours and hours spent tediously grinding away at their progression perks have apparently gone with them. How I managed to avoid destroying my controller right then and there I’ll never know, but thankfully, I kept my calm, let out a long sigh of resignation, and started again from scratch.
But guess what? A week later and – yes, that’s right – completely reset again. So, at the time of writing, my game has been entirely reset THREE separate times within the opening fortnight of the game coming out, with two of those resets occurring just days apart from each other in the game’s opening week. It’s not a one-off glitch; it’s a bug that’s baked into the game.
Once I’d finished raging quietly to myself, I started looking online and seeing more and more people complaining about the same thing. It’s not affecting absolutely everyone who plays Evolve, don’t get me wrong, but from what I’ve seen it’s not exactly just a handful of one-off cases either. Turtle Rock’s forums are full of people having the same issue, and players have posted videos to YouTube showing the moment the bug wipes out their progress in real time. It’s a total mess – I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a consistently problematic bug in all my years as a gamer, and I’m sickened that it’s happened to a game I was initially endlessly passionate about.
From my own experience, every single person that I’ve personally played Evolve with online on Xbox Live so far has had a complete progress wipe (or two) themselves, or is well aware of the glitch and they’re desperately hoping it doesn’t affect them too, like some kind of particularly virulent flu strain. There’s also a similar (but way more avoidable) issue with the game wiping player’s progress when they are logging into game from a different console, which is worth bearing in mind if you’re planning on playing Evolve on multiple PS4s/Xbox Ones.
All of this is not exactly great news when you’re trying to foster an active community of players around your brand new game eh Turtle Rock? It doesn’t bode well for the game’s online longevity when a portion of your fanbase fears to play the game online at launch for fear of losing their time and progress.
To calm down for a second here, it’s worth noting that Turtle Rock are aware of the bug, and I presume they are looking into patching it at some point in the near future. Also, on a sympathetic note, if you too are one of the unfortunate sods like me who’s been struck by the frustrating bug, then 2K Support have a help page where you can get your previous characters and monsters unlocked again.
Unfortunately, they can’t restore any of your progress, highscores or unlocks for some strange reason, but hey, at least getting your characters back is some consolation for the lost hours you might have already sunk into the game.
To be fair, losing your leaderboard highscores is purely superficial, though nonetheless it can still sting a little. To toot my own horn for a brief second, going from being in the top 300 Medics in the world back to a blank slate was a little bit crushing to say the least. But the same can’t be said for losing your progress – it’s unacceptably bad, and I’m sure many that have encountered the bug will just be so angry that they’ll just not want to go back to the game again.
‘Twas Bugs That Killed the Beast
In a lot of the online discussions and reviews of Evolve I’ve read, there’s been a lot of fuss that’s been made about the game’s DLC structure; namely the fact that the game has been built as a barebones platform structure to which continual DLC will be bolted on to in the future. Whilst this is an important concern, and something that certainly looks to be the case, I’d argue that it’s not worth bothering getting worked up about any future content the game might get when the basic content the game ships with doesn’t even work with regular consistency.
The crucial takeaway fact from this review is probably this little nugget – there’s a good chance that if you play the game online, or get invited to a friend’s online multiplayer game i.e. the whole entire concept that the game is built around, you can potentially and inexplicably lose all progress when joining. Fuck it, you’ll probably just lose progress by sneezing too loudly when the game is on, it’s that temperamental and shaky. Unless you want to play the game offline by yourself (don’t, it’s painfully dull after only a few games with the bots), or you have no qualms about regularly losing all your progress every couple of days, then I’d highly recommend not picking up the game until Turtle Rock make an official announcement that they’ve dealt with and patched the problem.
However, to gradually ease off the vitriol a tad as we reach the end of this review, it’s a big testament to just how much fun and excitement there is in playing Evolve that despite being unlucky enough to get three complete progression resists within just the opening fortnight of the game’s release…the game’s just so much damn fun that I can’t help but wearily pick up the controller once again and go back for more, even though I know that I probably shouldn’t at this point.
Like a poor battered housewife, I stupidly keep deciding to start the lengthy grind process all over again, in spite of all the lost time and progress that I’d previously clocked up, and jump back into the hunt, hoping that I don’t get my hopes dashed all over again. It’s literally the definition of insanity. I repeat the same actions over and over again, each time I furtively hope that this time, maybe this one time, my progress won’t get reset. Each time, I’m bitterly disappointed, and even more disgusted with myself for even hoping that the game might just really work this time, fingers crossed.
To arrogantly re-quote myself from the beginning of the review, I’ll stand by my words that Evolve is one of the most exciting and interesting multiplayer experiences that I’ve played in years. It’s managed to reignite the long-forgotten flame in me that fell in love with online multiplayer games in the first place. Not since the glory days of Halo 3 matchmaking have I become so involved in an online multiplayer game; over the 40+ hours I’ve racked up so far, Evolve has kept me involved, interested, focussed and excited in ways that I wouldn’t have thought possible for a game that’s only got four different modes at its core. It’s asymmetrical combat is pretty much perfectly balanced between man, woman, robot, trapjaw and beast. It’s got intense moments of nail-biting dread, epic adrenaline-pumping player-controlled boss fights and a deep and interesting level of tactics and strategy to every decision and choice you make, all wrapped up in a tight, clever and intricately balanced class based shooter.
However, despite all this praise, I can’t recommend you pick up Evolve. Not right now anyway, not in the state that it’s in.
Unlike the titanic beasts the hunter team must fight, Evolve is constantly getting caught and trapped by its own faults; it’s a powerful yet graceful beast that’s unfortunately been snared by its own egregious and intrusive progression system and small but deadly overlooked bug in its code. It’s a majestic beast of a game, but despite its intricately balanced and addictive four versus one combat loops, the game is scuppered by a frustrating clusterfuck of problems. So, whilst I definitely recommend you give Evolve a try at some point if it looks like something you’d be interested in, even as a huge fan of what the game manages to get right I’d still highly recommend not buying the game until there’s an official patch from Turtle Rock that they’ve fixed this platform-agnostic progress reset bug.
This is exactly the sort of thing a reviewer is here for in my opinion – to wade knee-deep into game, whether it’s good, bad or anywhere in between, and report back to the reader so that they don’t have to. Well, while this hasn’t exactly been a timely review by any means – I’m sure that many of you reading this who are interested in the game may well have already gone out bought the game like I did – I just hope it’s been a useful one. If you’re reading this and you’re on the fence about Evolve, then hopefully I’ve given you some potentially useful pointers to think about whether the game is worth your time.
Evolve is one of the freshest most exciting multiplayer games that I’ve ever played – but consider that fourteen days after release, I’ve got a game on my hands which has been designed for extensive online play with others, yet I daren’t play it online anymore without risking losing all my progress for the fourth time. Sound like fun to you?