The legacy of Evolution Studios

Weeks ago we witnessed the sad news of the closure of Evolution Studiosa team founded by Ian Hetherington and Martin Kenwright in Frodsham, UK, in 1999 and that had to close its doors on March 22, 2016, almost 17 years later.

It took the team two years to launch his first video game in a genre, driving, that he would never abandon. World Rally Championship (WRC) became its first title and the beginning of a saga that would have 5 more installments until its transfer to the Italian studio Milestone in 2010 with another 5 titles (and those that remain). Known for being the first game to be officially licensed by the FIA, WRC included all the official cars, stages and drivers of the World Rally Championship and was released in November 2001 exclusively for PlayStation 2, the fashionable console at that time. epoch.

After garnering good reviews (81% on Metacritic no less) Evolution wanted to turn WRC into a annual saga and in November 2002 he would publish WRC II Extreme, which would be followed by WRC 3, WRC 4 and WRC Rally Evolved or WRC 5, launched exclusively for Europe in October 2005, all of them published only in the second desktop of PlayStation, a brand that would always be linked to the studio until the end of its days.

Evolution’s last work with WRC was an adaptation of its fifth installment for the Sony portable, PSP, which would arrive in Europe in November 2005 and Japan a few months later, in March 2006.

Until then Evolution Studios had had Ocean Software as a distributor, but In 2007 Sony Computer Entertainment entered the scene and bought the studio in addition to another development team associated with Evolution, BigBig Studios, causing the departure of its two founders and making the third on board, Mick Hocking, the new boss, taking over in addition to SCE Studio Liverpool.

The madness arrived with MotorStorm

PlayStation 3 arrived and with it Sony took advantage of its recent acquisition to create a driving game that was visually stunning and very fun to play. At the end of 2006 it launched MotorStorma frenetic arcade that put us behind the wheel of trucks, buggies and dirt bikes in races through the desert in which anything went, smoke, sparks and pieces flew everywhere and it was not unusual to end up at the bottom of a ravine after pushing the turbo too much.

More than 3 million units sold and 82% on Metacritic helped Sony bring them back in the sequel. MotorStorm: Pacific Rift It was launched two years later, changing the desert landscapes for a jungle island, including 4-player split-screen local multiplayer (a good habit that we are unfortunately losing) and adding, among other things, Monster Trucks. The game somewhat improved its predecessor’s ratings but not its sales.

Despite this, Sony still wanted to continue betting on a saga that offered something different and in March 2011 it would hit stores. MotorStrom: ApocalypseSpectacularity was a hallmark, so the studio did the rest by presenting changing urban scenarios due to different natural disasters such as earthquakes or tornadoes that caused bridges to fall and buildings to collapse.

It was not the only novelty of the game, in addition to new types of vehicles (choppers, muscle cars…) it introduced the factions, in charge of sabotaging the races, setting traps, throwing fire at us and all kinds of tricks. Despite the spectacular nature of the game’s proposal, the reviews were not so generous, the title was weighed down by fierce competition in the genre and sales were even lower than those achieved by its predecessors.

It was not Evolution’s farewell to MotorStorm, the studio would still release a game for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, MotorStorm RCalthough it was a much more modest proposal, released at a reduced price only on the PlayStation Network in a sort of simple top-down radio-controlled car game, entertaining but far from being memorable.

Waiting for Gran Turismo

The year 2014 arrived and with it PlayStation 4, and Sony once again counted on Evolution Studios to take advantage of its extensive experience and strengthen its catalog with a new car game: DriveClub. This time, instead of continuing with a well-known saga and launching MotorStorm 4, the Japanese company’s order to the British studio was develop
a driving simulator that could compete with a colossus like Forza Motorsport 5 from a studio more than experienced in the matter like Turn10.

The challenge was huge, despite the experience of 15 years making car games and that WRC had a certain
simulation (especially in relation to mechanical damage) Evolution had specialized in the arcade experience, and that is why DriveClub mixed both worlds and gave all the prominence to the online experience, the challenges, the unlockable content and the community, a little exploited world in the genre.

DriveClub It was quite a challenge for Evolution Studios. In addition to achieving a high-quality graphic section that opted for realism, the required network infrastructure It far surpassed the previous experiences with PS3 and MotorStorm. Luckily, thanks to the power of PS4, the support of Sony and renowned signings such as Ged Talbot (formerly of Bizarre, responsible for Project Gotham Racing) all the obstacles were overcome – more or less -, although The initial result and its reception after launch was not as good as one would expect.

A half-throttle exit ended his options

The little variety in the tests, its lack of definition between being an arcade with simulation drops or a tremendously simple simulator and, above all, the shortage of content at launch (no photo or replay mode, no weather changes, few cars and circuits, etc.) andServer crashes In the first days it earned a multitude of criticisms, enhanced by comparing it with Forza 5 and its 60 frames per second, and technically DriveClub presented lights and shadows, it barely reached 30 stable fps and although some details looked almost photorealistic, others sang ” “.

It’s clear that Evolution didn’t release the game when it wanted to., but PS4 needed “its Forza” and there was still a long way to go for Gran Turismo to fill that void. The studio worked hard after the release publishing a “plus” version, improving its figures of events, cars and races, introducing some climatic effects of very high quality that offered an enviable graphic appearance. They didn’t stop there and would later launch DriveClub Bikes and they continued to support the online with new tournaments, challenges and special events of all kinds.

Evolution managed to make amends and DriveClub today is a great game, but the numbers rule and his hesitant exit only managed to sell a few 2 million copies after a strong investment by Sony. We cannot know all the problems that the studio had during development, but we do know that it was eventful and that it caused the decision to dissolve it after making a 50% reduction in staff in May 2015, leaving subsequent DriveClub updates to other Sony studios in Europe.

The world of video games, as in any company, is about making money, or at least not losing it, and The numbers did not add up to SCE WorldWide Studios. Luckily it seems that several members of Evolution were relocated to other Sony studios, but We will hardly see a DriveClub 2 or a new installment of Motorstorm. His work remains in our memories, the endless stages with the Subaru, the jumps avoiding rivers of lava or the lavish sunsets destroying a friend’s record with an epic skid.

Goodbye, Evolution Studios, and thank you for everything.

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Meet Quentin Reed, a computer enthusiast hailing from Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. With a strong foundation in Computer Science from his education, Quentin has delved into the world of technology with great passion. As a Software Test Analyst from 2018 to 2020, he honed his skills in ensuring the quality and functionality of software applications. Currently serving as a Manager at Gaming Laptops, Quentin combines his expertise in computers with his love for gaming. Embracing his identity as a computer geek, he continues to explore the ever-evolving landscape of technology, eager to stay at the forefront of innovation and contribute to the digital realm.