Can Free-to-Play Save Evolve?

Remember Evolve? We don't blame you if you don't. Turtle Rock Studios' 4-on-1 multiplayer shooter generated lots of hype around its unique humans vs. monster gameplay, but the game quickly fizzled out after its release due to an excessive amount of paid DLC and a general lack of engaging content.

Fortunately, Turtle Rock is turning the PC version of Evolve into something it should have been all along: a free-to-play game.

So how will all that work?

The game has re-emerged on Steam as a free-to-download game called Evolve Stage 2, which is currently in beta. If you already bought Evolve, you'll have "Founder" status, meaning you'll have access to all of the content that was originally in the core game (same goes for any downloadable content you've purchased).

Turtle Rock has made tons of gameplay tweaks as part of this new update, which you can read about here. The developer says you'll be able to unlock all of the original game's content simply by playing, though it's not completely clear what you'll need to pay if you want to earn stuff faster.

What about consoles?

Unfortunately, Turtle Rock has been silent on whether or not the console versions of the game will get the free-to-play treatment. As of this writing, you can still buy the original version of the game on both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Store.

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Can Evolve be saved?

It's certainly not impossible. Every time we got our hands on Evolve before its early 2015 launch, we wanted more, and even called it our favorite multiplayer game of E3 2014. The game's asymmetrical combat can be a real thrill; teaming up with your friends and using your collective special abilities to take down a huge monster provides a unique sense of satisfaction, as does controlling that same monster and stomping and shredding your enemies to pieces.

But while the game still doled out those exciting multiplayer moments when it finally released, the fun faded fast. Evolve ended up being boring to play if you didn't have friends handy, largely due to an unrewarding progression system and virtually no true single-player mode for those who prefer fighting solo. Our biggest complaint was that Evolve simply didn't feel like a $60 game, something that Turtle Rock has finally acknowledged after over a year.

Turtle Rock co-founders Chris Ashton and Phil Robb were brutally honest about their own mistakes in an official blog post, stating "Yes, there was excitement. There was also disappointment -- for players and for us. The DLC sh*tstorm hit full force and washed away people's enthusiasm, dragging us further and further from that first magical pick-up-and-play experience."

Who knows -- what was once a mediocre paid game could end up being a great free-to-play title. Evolve is the kind of game that shines when you're playing with friends, and it'll be much easier to convince your pals to hop on when they don't have to pay a dime for it. The biggest PC games in the world -- League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive -- are either free-to-play or dirt cheap, so Evolve can only go up from here in terms of player base.

Still, those games are thriving not just because they're free, but also because they're constantly supported by their developers with new content. Turtle Rock needs to show that same level of commitment to this new version of Evolve, as well as be clear on whether or not Evolve Stage 2 will come to Xbox One and PS4 (console fans don't seem happy right now). Between that and the fact that the cost of Evolve's add-on content was almost equal to the price of an entire seperate game, Turtle Rock has a lot of goodwill to win back.

Time will tell if Evolve will get a new lease on life as a free title. On the bright side, you can find out for yourself without dropping your hard-earned cash.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.