As enthusiastic as I am about Turtle Rock's Evolve, a big, beautiful mutant of a co-op shooter, there's an element of sadness. The new game's existence is one more reason not to expect a new instalment of Left 4 Dead, the legendary zombie-bopping franchise Turtle Rock created for Valve back in 2008.
Evolve is very much a game after Left 4 Dead's rotting heart - a team of Hunters must use their abilities and the environment in concert to nobble a giant predator, much like a Survivor team collaborating to kill a Tank. Addressing crowds at an event last month, studio co-founder Phil Robb acknowledged Left 4 Dead as a reference point, but was at pains to assert that Evolve should be judged on its own merits.
Has it proven difficult to escape Left 4 Dead's shadow, I asked him later, and does Turtle Rock ever find it frustrating that the franchise is now associated primarily with Valve? "Being part of the team that created Left 4 Dead opened up a lot of doors for us," Robb began. "But yeah, there's always that question. How much did Valve do? How much did this person do? How much did you guys contribute?
"I can tell you that without the original Turtle Rock team, Left 4 Dead never would have happened," he went on. "It's our creation, we gave birth to it. That is not in any way to diminish Valve's contribution to the game - they had a huge contribution. Those guys are smart, they know their shit. They were really good sort-of mentors for us. When you're in with those guys, they... we were always able to take our ideas and throw them at them and see what they thought."
As reported by Eurogamer, Turtle Rock and Valve parted ways because it was tricky to work in tandem given the 800-mile gap between the companies. The developer is now keen to establish itself as a standalone brand, not beholden to any third party for relevance.
Evolve isn't just the studio's first homegrown IP - it's the game Turtle Rock has always dreamed of making. "It actually pre-dates Left 4 Dead. We were talking about this idea before Left 4 Dead was anything, before we even thought of Left 4 Dead," Robb told me. "Left 4 Dead almost came about just from watching the community and watching what people were doing, whereas this was an idea where we were really like, 'Wouldn't it be cool if...'"
The game will be Turtle Rock's ultimate trial by fire, he added - its success or failure will decide the studio's creative agenda for years to come. "Yeah, we worked on Left 4 Dead, but we're ready to do something new, and this is the point where Turtle Rock proves that we are our own independent entity and that we can do our own awesome game experience by ourselves.
"It just seems like... 20 years I've been in this industry and I'm always having to prove myself, over and over again and it's the same with our team. We've an awesome team and that sounds cheesy; everyone says they've got a great team, but we were really able to put together a great team. The original Turtle Rock team was never bigger than twelve people. When we split out we lost three of them to Valve, and the rest are still with us - and that's pretty cool."
For more about Evolve, watch the below gameplay video with OXM commentary - the game will apparently offer graphical "parity" across Xbox One, PS4 and PC. As for the future of Left 4 Dead, this leaked Valve database may be of interest...