Evolve: Big Alpha Impressions

Does the FPS from 2K and Turtle Rock stand up?

The Evolve Big Alpha weekend was definitely a blast; nearly every top-tier journalism site started tossing out alpha codes by the thousands and the masses gobbled them up for the weekend to test out the game servers. Streamers, YouTube personalities, weekend adventurists and even teenage brothers and sisters joined the massive asymmetrical shootfest of man against monstrosity. An impressive turnout definitely helped 2K Games / Turtle Rock to turn development and server testing towards the right direction, but is it enough to promise that the game will have lasting power? We take a look.

The original playtest I saw during E3 was impressive to say the least. The familiar texture that Turtle Rock originally brought to the Left 4 Dead series was back and expanded into one massive title (if you've played L4D, think Tank mode developed into a full game). I felt right at home picking Bucket, the noggin-detaching, British-accented Support robot with a guided missile rocket launcher. We won, and I was certain this game would be first in my purchase queue for next year.

Then the Big Alpha hit and I was anxious to get my hands on codes and share them with anyone I could. I wanted to explore what each role offered and grab each available character I could. Disappointingly, I found Bucket was a secondary character and took some serious character leveling just to experience the British bionic, but Hank was thankfully in his place. I was ready to scalp monsters on Shear, and support was the role I wanted the most (although I ran as Trapper and even Medic a few times). 

Navigating Shear was pretty difficult, but it felt like since Evolve was an adaptation of a small segment of L4D, it was a welcome difficulty. Being a carniverous plant snack was commonplace when romping through swamps. Scaling skyscraper plateaus with the jetpack assist felt ubermenschy. The game gave me a high that I hadn't experienced since Half-Life, and it felt so good to take down the behemoth with a skyborne barrage of missiles after dodging a hungry Megamouth.

But after hammering several playtime hours out of the game, there was something amiss I couldn't pinpoint. I loved it like I love sushi, but sometimes sushi plates can get warm and the fish just tastes a little sour in the mouth. Evolve left me satisfied when I shut down my machine, but almost too satisfied. Granted the alpha only gave us a snippet of the entire package due out this coming Feburary, but in the matter of a handful of hours I felt like I had already completed the game. I was happy to see some RPG-like elements a-la Titanfall, but I dreaded that hitting that cap would get me a gold star, a "E2" badge, or some flag I could wave around online that would only give me a kind of credibility from someone's teenage brother or sister. It's analogous to YouTube sensations getting perfect scores on Dragon Force songs for Guitar Hero—congratulations, you've got a million hits, here's your fifteen seconds.

Gameplay aside, this package carries one graphically intensive load. I think my video card had to push its limits in order to churn out all the intricacies of Shear. After running it and a stream setup on a secondary monitor, I'm fairly certain my rig needed a breather. If running a machine with a sub-par graphics card, be prepared to upgrade, as Evolve is one beautiful game. A glance below and I'd argue you'll be convinced it's one game to look forward to, albeit with a suspected short timespan of enjoyment.

Follow Jeffery "Undestructed" Wright on Twitter! @WrightJeffD


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