Once in a while, a game comes along that defies classification. Often combining elements from different genres, they tend to be overlooked by the gaming masses, who prefer easy labels like "first-person shooter" or "real-time strategy". Evolva is one of these unique, genre-bending games that, with any luck, will cause more than a few people to sit up and take notice.

In the distant future, entire planets are being destroyed by what seems to be a mysterious parasite. Spreading like a virus from planet to planet, it's only a matter of time before the parasite reaches Earth. In order to prevent the inevitable grim outcome, Earth sends a genetic scientist to an infected planet to find out what's causing the destruction and hopefully put an end to the crisis. Orbiting safely above the planet, the scientist deploys a squad of four genetically altered warriors, called Genohunters, to the planet's surface to discover the source of the problem.

Evolva could probably best be described as a futuristic squad-based action game. You control one of your Genohunters from a third person perspective (switching between them at will) while the computer controls the other three. Commands such as "attack" or "follow" can be issued to individual squad members or the entire team with the press of a hotkey. Three windows at the bottom of the screen show the viewpoints of your computer-controlled team-mates, while the window of the hunter currently in your control is replaced with a map showing locations of key items like health and your current objective.

What makes Evolva unique is its mutation system. By absorbing genetic materials from other life-forms, your Genohunters can acquire new abilities and mutate into more powerful warriors. These abilities include offensive ones such as fire-breathing or acid-spitting, as well as defensive ones like running and jumping. As your Genohunters mutate, they change in appearance according to the abilities they acquire - a hunter with more developed running skills may have longer legs, while a more offensive hunter may appear stronger.

In order to complete certain levels, your Genohunters will require specific abilities. For example, on one level you may find your team on one side of a wide chasm with no apparent way to get across. You would need to track down a creature with the ability to jump and absorb its genetic material, thereby acquiring its jumping skill. You can choose the direction of the mutations, increasing certain traits at the expense of others, as the situation requires.

A lot of effort has also gone into the AI in an attempt to create a realistic foreign environment. The indigenous creatures will ignore you unless you attack them, in which case they will either run away or fight back, depending on the situation. A lone creature would probably flee, while one in a pack may feel braver.

With its intriguing combination of action, strategy and character evolution, Evolva should bring a thrilling new experience to gamers everywhere.

Product: Evolva

Publisher: Interplay

URL: www.interplay.com

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Brian Wright

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