Editorials

Discussing Evolve: Part 2 – Content

evolve_part_2_content

Enough? By What Standard?

Part 1 examined Evolve’s DLC but left an open question: Is the content of the base game worth the $60 price tag? Unfortunately, that’s a subjective question and there is no right answer for everyone. I don’t believe you can quantify value in terms of some objective measure, like the number of hours it takes to complete a game.

That puts us in a bit of a quandary, then. I cannot judge for you whether or not Evolve, or any game, is worth $60. But what I can do is compare Evolve’s content to another well known and somewhat similar game. Since Evolve was developed by Turtle Rock, the natural comparison is to Turtle Rock’s previous game, Left 4 Dead. With that measure, if you thought Left 4 Dead had content worth $60, then Evolve has content that is worth $60.

Here’s why.

Maps

Admittedly, Left 4 Dead has a slight advantage in the number of maps. Each of the four movies had five chapters, so there were twenty maps overall. Evolve has sixteen maps, four of which are only for Defend mode (more on modes in the next section). So I’ll give the content edge to Left 4 Dead here, but with one caveat.

The modes in Evolve are such that the maps are not as linear. The exceptions are the Defend maps which are similar to the final map in each of Left 4 Dead’s movies. That is they are shorter and focused on a last stand scenario. For the remaining twelve Evolve maps though, the route you take the second time you play Hunt on a map will be totally different than the route you took the first time you played. Likewise, the route you take the third time will be different still. This is somewhat offset by the fact that in any match you may cross back over a previous path multiple times. How often, if at all, will depend on the game mode (it’s more likely in Hunt than in Rescue or Nest) and how long the game takes.

Still, I’ll give the nod to Left 4 Dead here, if only by a slight margin. 

Game Modes

But maps are where the advantage for Left 4 Dead, in terms of content, ends. Both Evolve and Left 4 Dead can be played cooperatively against bots or in asymmetrical multiplayer. However, whether in coop or in multiplayer, Evolve offers four modes compared to Left 4 Dead’s one (Survival was a DLC mode not available at Left 4 Dead’s launch). Evolve’s four modes are Hunt – the mode in the beta; Rescue – the hunters are attempting to help survivors escape while the monster tries to kill them; Nest – the hunters are trying to destroy monster eggs; and Defend – where the hunters are protecting a ship that contains the evacuating colonists.

The first three of these modes can be played on any of twelve maps while Defend, as noted earlier, is played on one of the four remaining maps. They can be played as a stand alone game on one map (Skirmish) or played as a series of five rounds (Evacuation). In Evacuation the match starts with a Hunt round and ends with a Defend round. In the three rounds in between, there is a vote for the next mode.  Defend and the previous mode played are not an option. So for round two, the options are Rescue and Nest. If Nest was chosen for round two, then in round three the options are Rescue and Hunt.

There is a real difference in these modes requiring different strategies. In Nest, the monster can chose to open an egg spawning a minion to fight by it’s side. It sacrifices an egg in doing so, but it makes it much riskier for the hunters to take the fight to the monster. That means finding the eggs and destroying them. In Rescue, it may be best for the trapper to go solo and capture the monster in the mobile arena, not in an attempt to kill it, but merely to buy time for the other hunters to get survivors to the transport.

Therefore, Evolve’s four modes offer significantly more content than the single mode that was in Left 4 Dead.

evolve_hunters

Characters

The other area where Evolve’s content compares favorably to Left 4 Dead is in the characters. Evolve has twelve hunter characters broken into four classes; Assault; Trapper; Medic; and Support. Each class has three different characters and each one has different weapons that make a difference in how they play.

I’ll compare two medics to illustrate. The game starts with Val unlocked. Val, like all the medics, has a burst heal that grants some level of healing to herself and any other character in close proximity. She also has a med gun. This can be used to restore any other character to complete health over a short period of time. Val has a sniper rifle that is used to create a weak point on the monster that the other characters can target for bonus damage. Finally, Val can fire a tranquilizer dart which slows the monster and allows the hunters to track it.

After reaching the first level of mastery with each of Val’s unique items, Lazarus is unlocked. As a medic he also has the burst heal. But, instead of the med gun, Lazarus wields the Lazarus device allowing him to bring dead comrades back to life. Lazarus has a silenced sniper rifle which can be fired more rapidly than Val’s but does less damage. Complementing this he has a personal cloak, allowing him to hide in the open while he shoots the monster.

Playing as Val means spending much of your time while fighting the monster using the med gun to keep teammates health up. Lazarus, on the other hand, tends to stay hidden, doing as much damage as possible, and then resuscitating teammates that have died (note: when all health has been lost a character will go down and start to bleed out; any teammate can revive the downed character during this time. But only Lazarus, not even the other medics, can resuscitate a character after they have bled out).

This compares to Left 4 Dead’s one survivor character, which had four different skins (there was no gameplay difference between Zoey, Bill, Louis or Francis). Left 4 Dead offered some variety in giving the player a choice of which weapons to use. The weapon options included a couple of shotguns; an smg; an AR; a scoped hunting rifle; and single or dual wielded pistols. This allowed some variety in gameplay and, notably, allowed you to change your load-out in game.

While not as significant as Evolve’s mode advantage, the characters provide more content in Evolve than they did in Left 4 Dead. 

evolve_monsters

Monsters

On the other side Evolve has three monsters (Goliath, Kraken, and Wraith) compared to four for Left 4 Dead (boomer, smoker, hunter, and tank). Comparing these is more difficult than the characters. The boomer, smoker, and hunter were all relatively weak and were intended to wear the hunters down with repeated respawns. The tank, on the other hand, typically showed up just once per map and could wreck havoc or die without having much impact. But each of Left 4 Dead’s monsters were essentially one trick ponies.

Conversely, Evolve’s monsters have four different abilities, each with three different levels of strength. The game’s title reflects that the monster can progress from relative weakness (Stage 1) to relative strength (Stage 3). This is true for all modes except Defend, where the monster is at Stage 3 throughout the match.

Using Goliath as an example, the four abilities are rock throw, charge, fire breath (“Oh no, there goes Tokoyo…”), and leap smash. A player taking on the role of Goliath is given three points at Stage 1. The player can distribute these points however they want. They could put one point in three of the abilities or all three in one ability – fully leveling it up. After evolving to Stage 2 the monster becomes tougher and the player is given three more points which can likewise be freely distributed. This is repeated again when evolving to Stage 3.

Kraken and Wraith also have four abilities, but they are different from Goliath’s abilities and from each other’s. Additionally, how each monster traverses the map is different. Goliath is a brute who runs, climbs and leaps; Kraken flies; and Wraith darts about in quick bursts.

Therefore, just as with the characters, the level of variety for the monsters is greater in Evolve than it was in Left 4 Dead (or even Left 4 Dead 2).

Conclusion

So I can’t tell you if this content is worth $60 to you. But if you look at the slight difference in map content, the greater variety of game modes in Evolve, and the greater variety of playable characters, it is hard to see how anyone who was satisfied with the content of Left 4 Dead wouldn’t be satisfied with the amount of content in Evolve.

A point of clarification is in order. Just because Evolve may have more content than Left 4 Dead does not, de facto, mean it is the better game. Left 4 Dead 2 clearly had more content than Left 4 Dead and a lot of people would say Left 4 Dead is the better game (in part because it is simpler and more straight-forward). Any number of factors besides the amount of content will determine how much a game is liked, or hated. Being fresh off of the grind of leveling up characters in Destiny and doing all the missions in Dying Light I sometimes think I would have preferred less in Evolve; something closer to the original Left 4 Dead.

But it’s too soon after release of Evolve to say which is my preferred game. Evolve scratches many of the same itches that Left 4 Dead did and playing with friends is a lot of fun. Early concerns that the characters were going to be a bit flat in Evolve compared to Left 4 Dead have lessened as we have mixed characters from different teams and gotten more dialog out of them.

A Note on Longevity

Do I have concerns about longevity? Yes, I do. But the reason why is not lack of content. Much like Left 4 Dead 2, marketing mistakes and gamer over-reaction have marred the perception of Evolve (Left 4 Dead 2 also suffered from a horrible launch from a server stability side; Evolve has been rock solid thanks to alpha and beta tests). It remains to be seen how much this will impact Evolve’s sales. Valve stuck with Left 4 Dead 2, particularly on the PC side, but the game never fully recovered from those initial perceptions. The perception of Evolve may likewise always be tainted. But I’m hoping this is not the case and that Turtle Rock and 2K will weather the initial negativity allowing Evolve to regain the audience it deserves.

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