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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: June 17, 2000
Many computer games released today defy meaningful categorization. There are so many hybrids out there that it is almost humorous to see publishers, reviewers, and retailers attempt to place them into neat little niches. Evolva, the refreshingly different squad-based third-person action shooter, is a real genre buster. The British company Computer Artworks, most famous for being the creator of the best screensaver around aptly named Organic Art is the developer, and Interplay (in North America) and Virgin Interactive Entertainment (in Europe) are the publishers. Although at heart a 3D shooter, Evolva integrates key tactical elements of squad-based real-time strategy games. Although I have played hoards of 3D action offerings, it reminds me of none of them because of its unique appearance and gameplay.
The story here is well developed, even though you do not hear much explicitly about it after the opening video until the very end. Using genetic engineering and an extension of today’s DNA research to free the world of genetic defects and imperfections, humanity has begun a new era of experimentation optimizing health, beauty, and intelligence in order to achieve global peace. But, just as present day forecasters are predicting, the eradication of famine and disease triggers longer life spans, resulting in a ballooning of the global population; causing violent wars to break out over precious living space. Then to make matters even more dire, genetically engineered weaponry imposes incredible decimation of the planet. Eventually advances in space travel and the discovery of habitable planets in the local galaxy eliminate the problems of overpopulation. In the course of all the intense fighting, the Genohunter was developed as the ultimate soldier, adapting to any situation by mutating at will to meet new challenges.
You take on the role of the Evolva, part of the elite troops who are the masters of the Genohunters and who are charged with patrolling the outskirts of space and specifically with investigating strange activity on a not yet colonized planet. You control your set of Genohunters from the safety of your ship that stays in orbit above the planet. To your horror you discover that the world has been infected with a meteor-borne parasite, spreading its huge limb-like roots and generating ruthless guardians to protect it as it lays eggs on the surface with the intent of spreading to other planets. Your mission is to stop it, with the future of the galaxy depending on your success. You specifically command a team of four Genohunters — one agile, one quick, one clever, and one powerful. Genohunters absorb enemies, taking their dead corpses and breaking them up into meat, and then based on a DNA analysis mutate themselves to incorporate useful capabilities possessed by these foes. Thus you face tricky choices about what to absorb, when, directly affecting how your team operates and how effectively you can complete your objectives.
While selecting the proper mutations for your squad, you must continually battle the alien parasites. Although you begin with very little in the way of offensive capabilities, ultimately there are ten different weapon types, each with five powerups, acquired through defeating creatures with these capabilities including: claws, flame, spikes, spores, invisibility, spiders, electricity, flammable mucus, and a gene disruptor that causes your enemy to fight on your side. In addition, more passive abilities such as stickyfoot (needed to move over slippery surfaces), invisibility, armor, running, and jumping are also available. The weapons in Evolva are wonderful in both their appearance and their function, particularly the snot, and evolving arms is far superior to the normal pickup system; but there is a slight question in my mind why the “ultimate” fighter Genohunters would not already possess the arsenal they needed before being dispatched to the planet in the first place. Overcoming different foes requires different Genohunters and weapons. Sometimes you have to protect indigenous creatures from the alien invaders, such as in level three, and you frequently face seemingly overwhelming odds. Besides animated enemies, you must avoid traps along the way such as minefields.
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