Plague Inc: Evolved Review

From the stressed heartbeat sound of the first menu click all the way to the last survivor dropping to the ground, Plague Inc: Evolved combines sinister realism with the cold hand of mathematics.

The premise behind Plague Inc: Evolved is simple enough. You release a pathogen into the population and manipulate its DNA through a series of mutation. Each mutation gives the pathogen different symptoms (runny nose, brain haemorrhaging), transmission vectors (spread through the air, by bird) or abilities (antibiotic resistance). Your goal is to spread your creation through the world and kill off the entire human population before researchers wise up to what you’re doing and develop a cure.

“Early Access” Does Not Mean “Unstable”

If you avoid Early Access games because you aren’t sure about what you’re going to get, Plague Inc: Evolved is going to be the title that changes all that for you. This game has been labelled as “Early Access” for over a year, meaning the developer doesn’t feel it is “complete” yet, but it’s definitely playable. At this point the development seems focused on multiplayer; you would never know – the game is solid.

Wipe Out the World With Zombies

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The zombie plague of the necroa virus feels like two games in one. First you spread your necroa virus far and wide, then evolve it into a monster that regenerates its victims into zombies. That really gets the world’s attention. Here your job is not so much worldwide death, but worldwide zombification.

In addition to looking for a cure to your virus, the “living” in this scenario also form zombie task forces to hunt down and exterminate the turned victims. Not only do you need to make your virus spread far and wide, you need to evolve the resulting undead into viscous animals who can withstand the army attacks.

Mind Job

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My favourite vector is the neurax worm that gets into peoples heads and convinces everyone they actually like it. JUST LOOK AT THOSE GANGLIA. Imagine having that thing swimming around inside your head.

The 3D virus models in Plague Inc give it a sense of realism that simpler non-moving graphics would not come close to matching. Even though they don’t do anything, the splash of 3D make the diseases look downright evil as they spin around menacingly.

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The bio-weapon type is the last pathogen unlocked for good reason. Not only does its release from the lab into patient zero spark immediate concern, but its high kill rate focuses global attention on developing a much sooner than the other pathogens who are able to wait until they are well established in the population.

Normal mode in Plague Inc is just like real life. A majority of people don’t practice proper hand washing techniques, doctors don’t work very much, and the suffering of sick people are generally ignored (until it’s right in your face). Early decisions such as DNA preferences have long term impact on how you are able to mutate and infect people throughout the game.

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The developer has recognized this game’s potential for tie-in content. At time of writing they’ve partnered with Fox to bring the simian flu virus from the Planet of the Apes films into the game. This is a brilliant move because Hollywood’s obsession with apocalyptic medical-based thrillers doesn’t seem to be on the way out.

One Screen Wonder

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The bulk of the game takes place on a single screen – the world map. Watch the satisfying spread of your disease as it fans out over countries, journeys across the ocean, and zips around the sky on planes.

Since your ability to affect events in Plague Inc is confined to making DNA evolution choices and smashing science beakers, the best option for controlling your outcome is by doing all you can to keep your pandemic non-lethal for as long as possible. As soon as people start dropping dead the race will be on between your lethality and the world’s ability to develop a cure.

Island nations like Cuba and Greenland can be troublesome to infect once ports are shut down since they are effectively cut off from the rest of the world and contribute to vaccine research while their populations are safe. My otherwise effective super germ has been stopped more than once because it was too deadly and couldn’t spread to those countries fast enough.

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Finland in anarchy! As your disease hits critical mass and the death toll spirals out of control, society starts to break down. Street-level views show urban decay as the infected and healthy people of the world try to continue their day to day lives.

At this point the entire world is focused on finding a cure for your disease. You should have spread it across the planet and infected most of the population. Now you spend your remaining points to make it as lethal as possible so you don’t get stopped.

The Virus Overcomes

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Almost there. Research development in Plague Inc is non-existent by this time as the last of mankind starts to retreat into caves. By the time you see this message one of two things will happen. This is where you can lean back with that smug smile and enjoy your victory. You don’t even need to see the game over message because this feels just like your opponent conceding defeat. The first time you see this, it feels great.

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It’s hard to believe a game that has just one screen would be able to hold your attention for so long, but this is the power of great game design on display in Plague Inc. Even the CDC has positive things to say about Plague Inc: Evolved. This is a great tool to teach the public about how diseases are spread, identified and battled.

The subtle message we can take away from the difficulty levels on this game is: Never forget to wash your hands. Hand-washing is one of the single most important factors in controlling how far and how fast a disease can spread.

Plague Inc: Evolved on Steam

You can buy Plague Inc: Evolved on Steam today.

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Category: PC, Strategy

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