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Evolve (PC) review: Evolve review: Hunt or be hunted

Evolve is a welcome evolution from the Turtle Rock Studios team and a refreshing kind of title that you likely haven't experienced before, introducing excellent four-versus-one action that can be enjoyed on- or offline.

Jeff Bakalar
Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
3 min read

Evolve is certainly something different enough to labeled as new, and for that developer Turtle Rock Studios, makers of the massively successful Left4Dead series of games, needs to be applauded.

The Good

Evolve is a great team-based co-op or offline game where players can work together to take down a giant creature or play as the beast themselves. It looks gorgeous and really shines on a high-end gaming PC.

The Bad

Evolve requires a healthy amount of practice to find your bearings. Occasionally players might find themselves in a frustrating game of chase during a round.

The Bottom Line

Evolve is a welcome evolution from the Turtle Rock Studios team and a refreshing kind of title that you likely haven't experienced before, introducing excellent four-versus-one action that can be enjoyed on- or offline.

Left4Dead didn't invent the idea of co-op, it just thrust the genre into the mainstream with a force that changed the way games were made forever. For most gamers' money, Left4Dead is one of the best co-op experiences of all time. After Left4Dead, any title released without a co-op mode of some sort seemed like it was lacking something.

With Evolve, Turtle Rock Studios is back doing what it does best. But instead of zombies, teams of four players take on a ultra-powerful monster that evolves over time. Best of all? You can play as the monster. Evolve features a variety of maps for players to hunt down and ultimately kill the beast, with separate classes for each player.

Turtle Rock Studios

On the surface, the game doesn't feel as approachable as Left4Dead, mostly because of the amount of complex customization and alternative weapon choices at your disposal. This makes the barrier to entry that much more to surmount. After about 30 rounds, I felt I was finally starting to put it all together. Be warned, though, there's definitely a learning curve.

To that point I discovered a breakthrough with the game early on. After a handful of frustrating online matches, I began to play offline, as a sort of practice mode before I jumped back into the online arena. I can't stress this enough: try Evolve offline first!

Turtle Rock Studios

There's just as much -- if not more -- fun to be had playing the game yourself. You're afforded the ability to instantly warp to any member of your team, which can be overwhelming in times of chaotic action, but endlessly fun nonetheless.

By playing offline I was able to hone my skills and more easily understand each player class and the pros and cons of each role. There's not a lot of hand-holding in Evolve, so the more time you devote to learning offline, the better your online performance and experience will likely be.

Going into to Evolve, I didn't really have an idea how I'd answer the "everyone will probably just want to play as the monster" knee-jerk reaction to the game's premise. Even though playing as the flying Kraken monster is one of the most exhilarating things I've done in a game, I've found it so much more rewarding to work as a team (alone or with friends online) to take one of these creatures down.

It's an interesting psychology in practice -- where you'd think players would just want to assume the role of an all-powerful behemoth that obliterates anything it touches. In Evolve, it's just as appealing to play as a team member.

Turtle Rock Studios

The game isn't without a set of letdowns. Unfortunately I found that they tend to pop up just in time to deconstruct the action down to a lame exercise in map traversal. The glowing footprints of the monster don't feel like much of a hint after a while, so I found myself "chasing the dragon," as it were, on numerous occasions.

Each different game mode within Evolve also takes a bit of replaying before it starts to make sense, even after checking out a cinematic tutorial. Again, playing a fair amount offline will really help in wrapping your head around the game's many diverse modes.

Check out GameSpot's review of Evolve

Most of my time spent playing Evolve was with a Maingear Torq system running an Nvidia Titan Z. The Torq easily ran Evolve at maximum settings with frames-per-second numbers reaching well north of 60. Combine that experience with a G-Sync-enabled Asus Swift RoG monitor, and Evolve is one of the best-looking PC games I've seen in a while. I also had some time with the game on the Xbox One and was fairly impressed with its performance as well -- of course, don't expect to get the silky-smooth frame rates possible with a high-end gaming PC.

In the end, Evolve is hitting the scene at an unusually sluggish time and offers something you likely haven't experienced before. Those concerned about the lack of an official "campaign" need not worry. Even if there's barely a semblance of a storyline, Evolve's depth and longevity provide more than enough value.

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