|a game by||Computer Artworks Ltd.|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Genetic engineering - don't mess with it. That's our advice anyway. It might promise you the freedom to drink and smoke as much as you want, safe in the knowledge that you can replace your used and abused bits with healthy organs purchased from your local butchers, but where's it all going to end? Compulsory brain transplants to create a servile race of co-operative workers, that's what we reckon, although Evolva's got a radically different spin on proceedings.
Set in the 'future' (no, really?), human beings have cracked the genetic code and created the ultimate warrior, the Genohunter. The Genohunter can absorb any creature, analyse its DNA and mutate itself to incorporate any abilities it thinks might come in handy later on. Which is lucky, because a parasite has arrived and it's intent on destroying our planet by laying eggs and using an explosive force to spread its offspring.
As an Evolva (military commander), it's your job to control a shipload of Genohunters and absorb, mutate and destroy any parasite that gets in your face. So we're talking about a shoot 'em up then? Well, yes, but the origins of Evolva mean that it could prove to be something rather special.
It's being developed by Computer Artworks, a British company headed by renowned computer artist William Latham. This means the visuals are about as good as you can expect to see on your PC, and because they're dynamically scaleable, they adapt to suit your machine and enable dozens of creatures on-screen at any one time. If you shed a tear for the legions of Doom every time you go to bed, Evolva could be the stuff of new nightmares to come.
But, along with ensuring the visuals in Evolva are going to be absolutely top-notch, the technology behind the company could make it one of the most exciting and original releases of the year. Customising the Genohunters isn't merely a marketing term - apparently there are more than one billion variations, and quite often it's essential to mutate to get past certain puzzles in the game. This means that no two people will ever share exactly the same experience, although you can email the DNA of your creations to your mates, or you can keep them to yourself and challenge others to multiplayer duels in specially built arenas.
Computer Artworks' artificial intelligence technology also promises creatures that react in a realistic fashion, along with fully interactive environments with ice that melts and vegetation that can be torched. Ambitious? Naturally, but we've just sat through a one and a half hour demo of preview code, and it looks pretty damn impressive. Expect a full review and interactive demo next month, but in the meantime, check out the movie on this month's CD.
On the whole, eggs aren't seen as the most life-threatening force the world has ever known. In fact, anything that comes out of an arse isn't going to make you run screaming into the street, weeping at the injustice that created such repulsiveness. Aside from a politician's speech, of course. But, there is another exception, and it's the evil parasite egg that's landed on a far-off future planet in our solar system. It's spreading its foul tentacles across the continents, churning out countless creatures to consume all life in a bid to replicate itself and take over the surrounding planets. Naturally, it's up to you, controlling your four Genohunters to wade In there following standard computer game plot guidelines -ie kill everything.
So without further ado, here's what happens in Evolva. When you kill something you absorb its genes. Once you've collected enough, you can mutate each Genohunter with the different abilities (14 in all) of said creatures. To upgrade your character you choose from a branching selection of two paths, both leading to the raising and lowering of certain abilities. So say the makers, there's a possibility of over a billion combinations of Genohunter.
Sounds good, huh? So don't get too disappointed when you find out that the only real difference is how long you can hold the fire button down for before your weapon's energy runs out. Individual characteristics are automatically decided for you at the start of the game, but even these aren't given enough of an opportunity for distinction.
Considering that the developers come from an artistic background, it's a good thing that the visuals do the job. The landscapes exude an otherwordly (if a little too polished) loveliness, while there's a suitable graphical progression of environments through each of the 12 levels. Although, sadly, more often than not there's a tendency to resort to indistinct tunnels and valleys.
On another positive note, there's your Genohunter's Al, which is almost perfect. When not in your direct control they defend themselves rather well. But if they are called from the other side of the map they'll usually find the quickest way back, though (if you were wondering about that 'almost) there are some rare moments when they'll fall pointlessly to their deaths. The enemy, however, are a different matter, resorting to attacking you en masse until they die. Rarely is the time you're not surrounded on all sides by a swarm of them while you fire wildly into everything and nothing.
Evolva also falls rather easily into the cliched 'find key/open door' variety of puzzles. Or 'find reactive plant spores and blow up large rock', if you want to be more precise. Which means such situations as clearing a level and then spending ages wandering around the empty land searching for an elusive spore that just happens to be stuck high on the ceiling. With the puzzles taken out, Evolva is just a straightforward shooter: clear one area, advance, clear another, etc... And if anyone mentions that I didn't use the proper flanking tactics and strategies described, I can only answer that I didn't need to.
But Will It Involvya?
Evolva contains some good ideas, but it doesn't go far enough. While I played it all the way through to the end, I can't help feeling I was spurred on more by the graphics than the actual gameplay (incidentally, the ending's rubbish). Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad game, it just needs some more additions to complement its good looks. I played it once, completed it in normal mode in a couple of days, and I don't want to play it ever again.