Having garnered success on mobile and tablet when it originally launched in 2012, Plague Inc. drew crowds with a unique yet macabre premise. Loosely labelled as a strategic sim, the game allows players to engineer a deadly pathogen in their crusade to eradicate the entire human race.
In those years since launch, Plague Inc. has hatched itself a devout community thanks to a stream of updates and add-ons. It has even gone on to spawn its own board game adaptation and now, in 2016, Plague Inc. Evolved has arrived on PlayStation 4.
Although things have changed since its debut on tablets and smartphones, the core idea driving Plague Inc. remains intact. Whether starting your own custom game or selecting one of the many rule-oriented missions, your end goal is to cleanse all life on planet Earth.
How you go about this task will depend on several key factors. For example, there are plenty of different pathogen classes to choose from. Next to bacteria, virus, and fungus are several more exotic variants, each with its own unique traits and behaviours. The more matches you play, the more of these you can unlock and mess around with alongside a growing pool of mods.
Upon locking in that pre-game selection an interactive world map will appear, broken down into various nations. Players can choose any of the available countries, effectively kicking the game into action as patient zero suddenly emerges.
From here the clock starts ticking. Depending on how you invest your growing stockpile of DNA points will determine how fast the infection spreads. Options from the hex-based development grid will also notch up the severity and lethality of the pathogen. Although it’s tempting to immediately start killing people off, victory can only be achieved through a strategic balancing act.
For example, if your plague becomes too lethal, it will kill off the population before it can spread to a wider number, quickly triggering a loss state. Similarly, ramping up its severity will put countries on high alert, pre-empting them to start finding a cure. Despite having no direct control over the pathogen, players must leverage the tools and information at their disposal.
This information refers to the many different traits a plague can adopt, as well as the target countries themselves. Greenland can be particularly hard to reach due to its limited sea and air traffic, not to mention its icy barren climate. Even if players manage to fully optimise their pathogen to suit a specific country, there’s an element of luck at play too.
Plague Inc. isn’t much of a looker. It’s cool to watch the world slowly engulfed in red and black patches but there’s not a lot else going on. Given its strategic sim nature, that won’t be a big issue for fans of the genre, though the one-track visuals do help to galvanise that encroaching sense of repetition after several hours of play.
Chances are, many will fail in their first few attempts to exterminate the global population in Plague Inc. There’s a lot of information to soak in before players can start employing effective tactics which they also understand in terms of the mechanics. Needless to say, securing victory – especially on higher difficulty settings – feels like a proper achievement. By that same token, losing can be a frustrating experience. Although every bit of key information is readily available, sometimes all it takes is one country or mini-event to stop your plague dead in its tracks. Thankfully, there’s a manual save option, though rebooting your progress to alter any mistakes made can feel a tad cheap and unrewarding.
On consoles especially, you’ll struggle to find anything remotely similar to Plague Inc. Evolved. It’s a grimly unique title that has grown since its mobile debut several years ago. The broad list of scenarios available – not to mention those being created by the community – provides plenty of substance for those who fall in love with its nuanced brand of gameplay.
However, while I certainly enjoyed most of the scenarios I played, I found myself falling into that same groove, opting for a select cluster of traits and tactics to help ensure victory every time. Very soon, Plague Inc. became one of those games I couldn’t sit in front of attentively and immerse myself as the action unfolds. Although there’s certainly an active element at play, the long periods of waiting meant I’d need some other form of media playing in the background just to feel comfortable. It’s a minor downside to end the review on and one that can easily be swept aside for those who game and multitask anyway. Let’s not forget, that’s how a majority of mobile games are consumed so it should come as no surprise that the same is true of Plague Inc. Evolved.
Version Tested: PS4