Co-op monster hunting in Evolve

Evolve header

There’s an immaculate bank of four monitors before me. Black cables connect the highest of high-end PCs, headsets, amps, controllers, keyboards and mice. It’s a typically slick preview setup designed to show off the game and win over the game journalist. On the opposite side of the room is a lone PC.

I make a beeline for it, not because I’ve got Twitter beef with the four other journalists present, or because I’m wickedly antisocial or even because it’s got a slightly fancier monitor. It’s because this PC is for whoever controls the monster. And nothing is going to stop me doing that.

You see, Evolve is a four-on-one shooter where one team of humans hunts a terrifying player-controlled alien. The four Hunters each have a class and a unique set of skills to help them on their 15-minute quest.

There’s nothing quite like it. It’s a bold game that opts for asymmetrical cooperative multiplayer; it’s an even bolder one that drops the concept of a traditional campaign entirely (although you can play solo with AI). Evolve nevertheless spins its story: the setting is Shear, a rough and rugged planet on the farthest fringe of explored space. Humans are mounting a colonisation attempt, but the planet isn’t having it. Not its unpredictable climate, which veers from freezing to boiling. Not its composition, which can best be described as ‘jagged’. And not its diverse population, many of which have claws.

“The idea for Evolve has actually been around for a while,” says Turtle Rock founder Phil Robb. “Way back even before Left 4 Dead was made. Just the idea that, hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we could get together and hunt a giant monster? Part of it is us trying to figure out what the appeal of games like Deerhunter were, sitting around going, ‘I don’t get it, what’s so fun about sitting in the weeds and waiting for this deer to go by?’ And it sort of snowballed into, ‘Well, hey, what if it was a bear? And then it was, ‘Screw bears, what if it was dinosaurs? What if it was giant alien monsters?’”

Evolve’s inspirations are many. They include the 1996 historical adventure movie The Ghost and the Darkness starring Michael Douglas as a lion hunter, a specific scene in Peter Jackson’s King Kong where the giant ape bursts into a village and battles Jack Black and company, Aliens, Predator, and The Grey.

I’m the Kraken for the first match. Its maw split into clammy tentacles, its posture stooped, its back adorned by two cephalopodic appendages generating crackling blue bioelectricity, this is a gigantic alpha predator and one of three playable beasts (a fourth is scheduled for DLC). It’s a different organism altogether from the first to take the spotlight – the hulking Goliath. Where that is a bipedal bulldozer able to “punch through the hull of a starship” according to its bio, the Kraken is more about ranged projectile damage.

These monsters have gone through many drafts. The original Goliath, for instance, was called Scorpid. “He was very crab-like,” says Robb. “And the thing that we found with him is that he wasn’t relatable... With a crab, you can’t get the raw fury and emotion that you can with another creature. We gave Goliath lips so that he could pull back his lips in a snarl, and we gave him eyes so that he could emote. We have a lot of character in our Hunters and we wanted to do the same thing with the monsters.”