Fear is meant to follow in the wake of most monsters, but I've never found Evolve to be scary. It's a hunting game that puts you on edge, though leaning forward – as if to stick your head through the foliage just to glimpse the cloaked creature – is an act of determination, not angst. When you're a glorified exterminator with a big gun, joined by three others playing to win, you get camaraderie, strategy and failure divided equally. The monster (and the fifth player) is nothing to be scared of.
Evolve favors the hunters in that regard, playing out as a multiplayer story of four humans ensnaring the biggest, stompy-est Goliath there is - and the game's poster beast is named just that. The developers at Turtle Rock Studios compare their monsters to role-playing classes, too: Goliath is the bruiser, while the Kraken, which looks like Cthulhu's creepy cousin, is a lightning mage minus the cloak. And the third monster, which I was able to try last week in San Francisco, is the backstabbing rogue. The Wraith is finally something to be scared of.
The Wraith is a prime candidate for a Megadeth album cover, resembles a slithering octopus made of scythes. Lacking in health and armor compared to her snarling colleagues, the wraith is the sneakiest a giant monster can hope to be. One of her key abilities turns her invisible while an identical decoy swims through unobservant hunters, perfect for escape or destroying contested structures.
The dense atmosphere of Evolve, which is set on a wild and jagged planet, really connects with the Wraith when her goal is to surprise. The "abduction" ability turns her into the world's creepiest stage hook, shooting forward and latching on to a human before pulling back into the shadows. If timed right, the other hunters will turn and find one of their own missing, a voice fading into some shaking leaves.
The sudden abduction by the monster is a classic moment pulled from creature features, cleverly turned into a genuinely useful mechanism in Evolve's eternal battle. Separating hunters from each other is crucial when you're the beast, whether it's tossing the team medic out of reach or snatching the trapper away before he can harpoon you in view of his trigger-happy friends. The strategy doesn't always succeed, but it sure is fun.
Whereas the other two monsters feel more like an expression of granite-faced endurance and towering power, the Wraith taps into a different kind of monster role-playing: the underhanded, reptilian stalker waiting to ensnare. You're formidable in the open too, what with having blades for arms, but battles start with a burst of chaos as you flash through and steal the show.
Though Evolve strives for fairness in all its matches, I've always felt that the biggest inequality came in the bulldozing monsters that just weren't as fun as their hunters. Now, with a killer that thrives on scares, I'm beginning to sense a shift in Evolve's interesting balance.