Yet another game has fallen prey to a major delay, pulling it out of a holiday season release and shunting back into Spring 2015. Evolve, Turtle Rock's intriguing shooter that pits four humans against one nightmarish player-controlled monster, will now miss its October launch in favour of releasing next February.
2K claims that the game will benefit from four months of extra polish, citing an "overwhelmingly positive response from press and fans," but should we be worried that the asymmetrical multiplayer experience isn't shaping up properly at this late stage?
Take-Two announced the delay in their latest quarterly financial report, revealing that Evolve is now targeting a February 10th 2015 release date. During a subsequent investor call (transcribed by Gamespot), president Karl Slatoff explained that fans expected a degree of polish that requires extra development time.
"We are encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response from press and fans, and believe by extending development by a few months, it will allow the team enough time to fully realize their creative vision for Evolve," he said.
"Historically, we've always benefited from giving the creative teams more time to polish the titles; we've never regretted it," CEO Strauss Zelnick added. Describing February as a "pretty terrific release window," despite the likes of Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3 and Bloodborne sharing the same monthly slate. "It's not at all crowded, and we will benefit from the fact that there are a lot of holiday sales of consoles so the install base will be bigger."
On the face of things, this is business as usual. We like to see publishers take the decision to delay games if necessary, regardless of the resultant wait, as opposed to pushing them out in substandard fashion. It's common practice; both the aforementioned Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight made the same move for the same reasons. As such, no, there isn't anything to worry about.
Or... is there?
Though I'm personally dubious about Zelnick's views on February being "not at all crowded," the phrase that sticks out for me is Slatoff's claim that feedback is "overwhelmingly positive." Though we're excited about the premise, and Matt's preview describes an early preview build as "frantic, fabulous fun," as far as I'm aware the praise for Evolve's alpha and press builds definitely hasn't been unanimous. Some of my NDA'd little birds [no, you're not Varys, Jon - Ed] suggest that Evolve's alpha caused concern in terms of long-term appeal, polish and enjoyment when playing as certain classes, but even our own Brendan Griffiths has raised several issues about the latest press build.
"So far, Evolve hasn’t made the best of impressions," he wrote." The Kraken is a clunky creature to control and it’s frequently unclear what it’s supposed to be doing when the objectives change beyond killing the hunters. While playing as the medic is sadly just a little boring unless you’re diving in under the monster’s feet while wearing your invisibility cloak to revive another teammate who got a little brave."
"I want to be more excited about Evolve than I am right now, but the great idea of four players taking on a massive boss character badly needs polish, or ironically given the name, a few more rounds of evolution as it’s currently slipping down the food chain."
Meaning, of course, that the decision to delay is the right call. Evolve will need an unimpeachable degree of polish both in terms of visuals, but more importantly mechanics and balance, in order to ensure that the gameplay experience is fun for everyone involved. After all, the enjoyment of four players arguably hinges around the ability and experience of a single opponent (or the lack thereof). A few extra months will allow Turtle Rock to take some of the less "overwhelmingly positive" feedback into account and deliver on their vision of a tense asymmetrical hunting ground.
So should we be worried? Not yet, but perhaps you might want to hold off on any pre-order that doesn't guarantee a significant saving as-yet, or wait for more timely previews and reviews before making a final assessment (good practice at the best of times!). We've got our fingers crossed.
As things stand, I'll be playing the latest build and potentially interviewing the Evolve team at Gamescom. Naturally I'll pose some of these questions if I get the opportunity. Stay tuned!