This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Evolve.
I'm a patriotic citizen of single-player as you know. I understand the need for the nation of multiplayer, and will even holiday there sometimes to see all the people in the pavement cafes wanking for pennies day-in-day-out. But when the armies of multiplayer start gathering at the border, I'll be all up on that barricade like Jean Valjean.
"Hey, come buy this overblown multiplayer mode! Don't worry, the bots mean it's also single-player, and therefore, we can charge 80 bucks for it!"
It's shit with bots, and you fucking knew it!
"Whoops! Guess you'd better subscribe to the online service, then! And while you've got that credit card out, perhaps you'd like to look over this 100 bucks worth of DLC content we arbitrarily left out of the game at launch?"
AAA gaming, what the fuck do you need all this money for? Does GDC get so wild these days you have to hush up legions of rent-boys with assholes stuffed full of birthday cake? Or are you just feeding it all to the dread god Nyarlathotep in return for guaranteed 8 out of 10 reviews? I know what you're not spending it on - making games good! 'Cause if you were, we'd all be on the holodeck by now, fisting Counselor Troi!
Evolve, then. (That wasn't an instruction, sit down.) Humanity has colonized a far-away planet called Shear (apparently discovered by "Shear" luck), only to find that the place is teeming with prehistoric monsters (which I'm assuming the estate agents left out of the initial viewing), so the people are starting to wonder if an evacuation mightn't be prudent. Yeah, no shit, Shearlock! A colourful band of mercenaries are called in to keep the monsters occupied while the populace gets the hell out of Dodge, and this provides the background for the actual gameplay in which four co-op players go up against a monster controlled by a fifth player. Would be very innovative indeed if Left 4 Dead didn't exist!
Well, honestly, it's the tank encounter from Left 4 Dead crossed with the boss fight against The End from Metal Gear Solid 3. Most of the fight is blundering around the open-ended wilderness looking for the sodding thing, broken up by brief exciting moments of getting blatted in the face with chunks of tarmac. It's like Motocross for the blind! I knew straight away that playing as the monster was going to be my bread and jam, because who the fuck wants to drag three distracted tit-nibblers around like a dog-walker passing through a sausage festival? When the monster is beholden to none but themselves, hiding from Team Sausage and devouring wildlife in an orgy of self-gratification, which felt like a rather appealing analogy for the entire state of single-player gaming in an increasingly multiplayer-focused industry. Speaking of, Evolve is a new friend for Titanfall to frolic with in the wonderful evergreen meadow where next-gen multiplayer-only games can be sold for full price.
There's no solo experience, really. Playing against bots just isn't fun. They're way too coordinated - you want to be the monster against players that react appropriately to being pinned against a cliff and systematically double-fisted in every hole - panicking and fucking up and all blaming each other in the chatroom afterwards, tee-hee. Of course, the real challenge is finding a public game where you can successfully win the monster role instead of getting shunted onto Team Bellend and immediately quitting to try again. Yes, I was that asshole! There's a matchmaking system where you stack the five different player roles in order of preference. So, I put in monster first and trapper last, whereupon the game sat juggling its bollocks for five minutes and said, "Oh, I get you! You want to be assigned as the trapper four times in a fucking row!", so either there's something wrong with it, or no-one else wants to play as the fucking trapper either. Probably because their main job is to throw out the big arena net that stops the monster from fleeing and then going around the other players with a sandwich platter and a selection of drinks while they do the rest of the work.
Whoops! Hold the phone, the guy who was assigned monster has just dropped out of the lobby, Evolve. Can I take his place, now?
"Sorry! Can't hear you! I'm too busy pushing birthday cake up a rent-boy's arse!"
But if you keep trying, eventually the laws of probability are on your side, and you should get into a game as the monster before nightfall. At which point, you can happily run around by yourself eating animals until you're fully upgraded and can take revenge on the human players for trying to involve you in their multiplayer rubbish, the bastards!
So, I guess there's something for everyone, but I consider it overpriced, 'cause it is largely one central concept of, "humans hunt monster, monster floss teeth with humans", and everything else is so much damp cladding around the exterior. There are multiple gameplay modes, but not much changes besides what needs to be defended and how many of them there are. And there's also a campaign mode that strings five random games together, with benefits granted to whichever side won the last one. And this, the game assures us, means that there are hundreds of thousands of unique campaign experiences, aren't you glad to have bought a game with such relentless variety? The marketing copy doth protest too much, methinks. There are more combinations for a deck of cards than there are atoms in the universe, but Solitaire, nevertheless, starts to feel a bit samey after the first few billion games.
Progress is gained by the game unlocking new characters after you demonstrate mastery of each of the base character's skills, so I dutifully flung tarmac frisbees around 'till I knocked out enough teeth to unlock the second of the three playable monsters. And then suddenly, it stopped. Hurling an entire parking space at someone and then Goomba-stomping the medic, and then charging the other two, so that between the four of them, I tarmac'd a new highway out of guts - that was fun! Impactful and cathartic! The new monster's attacks are all variations on a theme of farting lightning around, and that wasn't fun! And it rather killed any motivation I had to unlock the third monster, or indeed play at all. The scales fell, and I rose, blinking into the daylight. And I realise that the problem with the Evolve gameplay model is that the experience is so anticlimactic.
Let me put a feeler out to grope your collective titties, if I may - who is still playing Titanfall? Very few of you, I shouldn't wonder. I'll wager there's a lot of equipment that you put a lot of effort into unlocking now kicking its heels against the side of an empty server. 'Cause you've got none of the satisfaction or closure that comes from reaching the end of a good story, or completing the last of an increasingly hard series of structured challenges. Your interest just gradually peters out, and you stop. Here, I'll show you what I mean.
- Survival of the wettest: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- So can we look forward to Evolve being banned in schools in the American south
- So when they do a sequel, are they going to call it 'Re-Volve'