Caught in a snare
More than a month ago Evolve came out to tepid reactions and muted fanfare. Today’s release of the game’s first major content update, delivering on the Hunting Season Pass and the pre-order Monster Expansion Pack, might have curious players wondering if it’s worth a second look. I’m going to go right ahead and dash those hopes now.
While the four new playable hunters and the new monster to terrorize them with might represent some of the best ideas Turtle Rock Studios has had yet, they don’t do anything to change the core problems of the game. Given how expensive this DLC feeding frenzy is, and how little you get for it, even hardcore fans will want to do some soul searching before handing over their wallets.
Evolve: The Hunt Evloves Update (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: March 31, 2015
MSRP: $24.99 Hunting Season Pass (includes all four hunters), $7.49 individually, $14.99 for Behemoth (or included with pre-order Monster Expansion Pack)
The update includes four new hunters, one for each class. These characters are included in the $24.99 Season Pass, or can be bought individually for a dubious $7.49. Of course they are included in the ridiculous $99 PC Monster Race Pack if you bought that. Each new hunter is a fully fleshed out character with fresh abilities, new lines of dialogue, and new ways to take on Shear’s wildlife.
The new Trapper, Crow, reeks of edgy mid-’90s design sensibilities. He’s dark, broody, and has a pet bat-thing to help him track the monster. So spooky. Crow’s massive sniper rifle can shoot rapid-fire bursts, or charge up a single power-shot that will bypass the monster’s armor and rip into its permanent health. Very nasty. Similarly, his stasis gun can be fired willy-nilly to slightly slow the monster down or stop it in its tracks with a charged shot. Knowing when to charge and when to spam seems to be key to playing Crow well.
50% robot and 100% MANLY, Torvlad is the new Assault character. He sports a no-nonsense beard, tattoos over his shirtless chest, cybernetic limbs, and wears a gigantic twin mortar launcher on his back. The dude means business. Of all the new characters, Torvlad’s play style jived with me the least. While his mortar launcher does tremendous damage, its indirect fire takes a moment to land which can be fiddly and difficult to aim on a rampaging monster. I imagine with some great teamwork and practice he could be a beast, but when compared to Parnell’s point-and-click rocket launcher, Torvlad seems like more work than he’s worth.
Slim is the new Medic and I really love his design. The result of genetic experimentation, he’s got a total Cronenberg thing going on, looking more insect than human. Despite his odd appearance, Slim acts and talks like a normal affable dude, setting up some of the funniest interactions in the game.
Slim’s whole gimmick revolves around his healing burst, which has a far greater range than the other Medics. Successful hits from his default weapon reduce the cooldown time on his burst, and because of its long range he can generally heal the entire group in a fight, encouraging him to play aggressively. He also gets a nifty healing drone that can tag along after a hunter. It’s squishy, but can heal while on the run or revive downed friends remotely. I can easily see Slim becoming the new go-to Medic for random games.
Lastly, Sunny, representing the Support class, is a real treat. Another character that seems to borrow abilities from other characters, but adds a fresh twist to make them her own. She has a grenade launcher similar to Caira but with a lot more oomph, and can generate energy shields like the Duck Dynasty dude, but has a drone to do it for her — freeing her up to lob more grenades, yay! She can also supercharge her teammate’s jetpacks with an energy beam, perfect for giving your Trapper the extra lift he or she needs to get the mobile arena up over the monster. Sunny seems super handy and is probably my favorite of the new hunters. Also, her extra robot arm/glove is adorable.
The new monster, Behemoth, is a rock creature with a passion for squishing things and a serious aversion to heights. Unique among the monsters, Behemoth has no leaping or flying ability and must trundle his way around the map on foot. His mobility is supplemented by the ability to climb up almost any sheer surface, and by occasionally curling up into a boulder and rolling around like a giant petrified Sonic the Hedgehog. Still not super speedy by any means, Behemoth must rely on smart use of his attacks and other abilities to stay ahead of the hunters.
Players hoping to get their money’s worth out of Behemoth are going to want to learn how to use his rock wall ability ASAP. Slamming both fists into the ground, Behemoth can spontaneously generate a fairly large wall of rubble in front of him. This is good for creating an impassible barrier in choke points to get away from the hunting pack, or for separating one unfortunate hunter from the others for a beatdown.
His lava bombs function on the same idea, allowing him to create damaging pools of fire that further restrict the hunter’s movement. Rounding out his tool set is an area-of-effect shockwave attack that will travel up walls, and a tongue lash that can capture prey at a distance and drag them in close, Scorpion style. Overall, he seems like a monster that relies more on positioning and using the environment than raw force.
While billed as the “tank” of the monsters, trading mobility for sheer tenacity, Behemoth went down disappointingly quickly in my games against him. That’s not just a #humblebrag — a TRS producer confirmed during a livestream that the beast is suffering from some bugs that are curbing his survivability at the moment. The leading theory is that the hitbox of his weak point is too big and is getting clipped by shots that should be striking his more protected areas. This is an issue that should be fixed in the near future, but is still disappointing for players who ponied up the cash for Behemoth expecting a fearsome monster only to get a broken bird.
Personally, it was hard to tell if this bug was the problem, or if Behemoth’s size and sluggishness was the real culprit. Hitbox and health issues aside, Behemoth’s lack of mobility seems to be a real Achilles’ heel. While most monsters are able to avoid the full brunt of an orbital strike or Torvlad’s mortars, Behemoth, especially if hampered by tranqs or traps, just gets hammered by them. Smart rock monsters will definitely want to pick their battles inside caves and buildings to avoid the worst of these attacks and play to his strengths, but considering most map objectives are outside this may be difficult.
Behemoth, surprisingly, is not included in the Hunting Season Pass. If you want to play as this new beast, you’ll either need to have the pre-order bonus Monster Expansion Pack, or pay out another $15. I’m not an accountant, but shelling out almost a quarter of the cost for a full game for ONE character seems like a tough sell. In fact, this entire update is incredibly pricey. If you want to get everything (and didn’t pre-order) you’re looking at another $40 for a game that barely felt worth $60 at launch.
There are some free bells and whistles included in this update as well. A new Observer Mode has been added that will allow players to spectate matches from a variety of angles and perspectives. It’s a very robust spectator mode, with support for shoutcasting and variable HUD options to best keep track of everybody’s condition. I’m sure there are some hardcore fans of Evolve who will love this mode, but for most of us it will be firmly relegated to the “oh, that’s nice I guess” pile.
There are also two new maps out apparently. However, they are exclusive to the Xbox One version of the game for now and will only be available for PC and PS4 players next month. Sadly, as a PC player, I haven’t been able to test those maps out yet, and while the idea of timed exclusives makes me grumpy, it’s great to see Turtle Rock Studios add content to the game for everyone and not fracture the community behind paywalls. Kudos where kudos are due.
I love these new characters — they’re undeniably fun to play and drip with personality. I think Behemoth could be cool (when he gets patched at least). But at the cost they are commanding, I can’t recommend them in good conscience. This entire pack, hunters, monsters, and all feels like it should cost $15, or be the first installment of the Season Pass, not the entire thing. If you’re a diehard Evolve fan still playing regular matches, then maybe consider the new hunters. I wouldn’t even think about Behemoth until he gets fixed, and even then I’d advise waiting, both to see how his metagame plays out and for a price cut.
There is nothing here that should attract new players or even bring back lapsed hunters who have already moved on to other titles. I don’t usually soapbox about prices for game content, but the cost-to-value ratio for these packs is borderline insulting. If you already bought the Season Pass at launch, chalk it up to a lesson learned and enjoy the new hunters. If you haven’t, don’t support this kind of fleecing.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]