Evolve Usability Review

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Evolve, by Turtle Rock Studios, is an asymmetrical shooter where players can either play in a team or as a terrifying monster whose goal is to eliminate all of the Heroes. Simplified, Evolve is a complex 4 v. 1 cat-and-mouse game where the monster gets stronger as the game progresses.

A game published by 2K, a publishing company with dedicated user researchers, Evolve is sleek, easy to learn, and difficult to master.


Sleek and Clean

Menu navigation is clean and intuitive in Evolve-- every option is easy to find, understand, and use. Part of the ease of use can be attributed to the size, type, and coloring of the fonts used on Evolve's menus. The fonts are easily read from a distance (as is necessary for console versions) and clearly mark cursor location by highlighting the menu bars as the cursor passes above them.

Starting Menu, with the cursor hovering over 'Solo'
Where I think Evolve excels is its use of contrast (colorful/monochromatic, bright/dark, text/no text, etc.) in establishing screen architecture. For example, the starting menu uses bright hues on the left and muted, faded, or dark colors on the right. The bright red creates a focal point on the left, establishing that important content is on the left.


Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master

I was *terrible* at the monster tutorial.
Evolve is quick to teach new players the basic controls -- as soon as a new player begins the game, they are moved into the monster tutorial. The game incentivizes tutorial use in the form of badges/achievements -- the faster the player moves, the more badges and XP she or he gets.

Later, after players have picked a character to play in a match (that they have not played before), they are shown a quick tutorial video about their selected character's abilities.

Players are also able to find additional, advanced tutorial videos for every available character. From what I could tell, each character has its own quirks and challenges.


One issue... Bots? What Bots?

Really, the only issue I had in Evolve was knowing if or how bots would be joining the game. Not the kind of person who enjoys highly competitive games, I decided to invite a friend and play with two other bot AIs.

... Problem was, we weren't sure how to start a bot game. Unlike other games (such as DOTA 2), which clearly label bot matches, we just had to muddle along hoping that bots would join. In the following screenshot, for example, we were seven seconds until loading into the unknown (into the game? into another screen? We weren't sure, since it was our first time playing) and we didn't have bots assigned.

Loading map with 7 seconds left.

I was genuinely concerned that I hadn't pressed the correct button somewhere, and that we'd load into a map two players short. We didn't -- thankfully, because even with a team of four we got curbstomped by Goliath -- but for a minute or so, I was more concerned than I was having fun.

Recommendation: instead of assigning bots at the end of the map setup process, put 'bot' nameplates into the 'empty' slots on the match screen shown above. If a new player joins, one of those bot plates can be removed and replaced with the player's badge. This serves the purpose of showing the players that bots will be joining the game.


Happy Labor Day, all. I have an idea for a non-review post -- specifically about the role and importance of clear typography in video games and elsewhere. I know I talk about font sizes, colors, types and such a lot in my posts, so I think I might explore that topic a little further.

Thanks again for reading!


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