Underrated sci-fi shooter is back from the dead

Older man with cowboy hat and hunting gear on holding his finger to his lips, next to burly bearded man with tattoo on his arm
(Image credit: Turtle Rock Studios)

The 4v1 monster-hunting madness of Evolve has been given a new lease of life since 2K brought peer-to-peer servers and matchmaking back.

Evolve is the follow-up to Turtle Rock Studios' Left 4 Dead. It saw the studio pivot from pitting players against zombie hordes, to tracking and hunting a player-controller monster instead. Were some people sore about it? Maybe. Were they desperate for Left 4 Dead 3? Yes, yes I was. But after just two years, dedicated server support was retired, and Turtle Rock went back to the zombie drawing board with Back 4 Blood.

Until recently, the only way to play Evolve was via the Legacy edition using peer-to-peer servers. It was de-listed on the Steam storefront a while ago now, along with the free-to-play version, Evolve Stage 2. But a few months ago, Evolve Legacy stopped working. Players speculated it was due to a Steam update, and a bunch of Discord admins reached out to publisher 2K to get it sorted (you can read about that saga on Reddit). Long story short, Evolve Legacy's peer-to-peer servers were reinstated. But to our collective surprise, both peer-to-peer, and matchmaking for Evolve Stage 2 were also resuscitated. And player numbers on Steam have surged since then.         

Left for dead

Graph showing upward trend of Evolve Stage 2 players

(Image credit: Steam Charts)

Evolve Stage 2 (the free-to-play version of Evolve, as opposed to the Legacy edition) is now seeing a resurgence on Steam. Steam Charts shows a spike in players since July's update. The playerbase shot up from a piddly 31 in June, to 1,607 after 2K rolled out matchmaking and peer-to-peer server support. (If you want to play yourself, here's our guide on how to play Evolve.)

Over the weekend, Evolve amassed almost as many active players as Back 4 Blood, as spotted by TechRadar Gaming's guides editor, Patrick Dane, on Twitter. 

The community is stoked, and has set their sights on an even bigger goal: getting Evolve relisted on Steam. The redditor who shared the goings-on from the Discord server seems hopeful, given the publisher's shock decision to partially revive the game. 

"From a company that did everything in their power to bury this game and pretend it never existed, that is a HUGE change in attitude towards the game, and I think it's safe to say that their decision was directly influenced by the realization that there are STILL thousands of people madly in love with this game and still playing it regularly," they said.

"My point is, I think we should carry this momentum in the hopes that maybe they'll one day relist the game on Steam or, hell, maybe even open lobby queueing back up eventually! Long shot for that last one, I know. But hey, a man can dream can't he? Especially considering yesterday, I never would have dreamed that they'd restore anything with stage 2."

For a game that was left for dead, Evolve somehow maintained a dedicated core playerbase. And now everything's coming up Milhouse for them. The world may not have been ready for Evolve's gameplay model when it launched in 2016. But if it had debuted in the current age of live service titles, no doubt it would've found its footing.      

It'll be interesting to see what – if anything – 2K does next with Evolve. Turtle Rock has moved on, recently wrapping up the Tunnels of Terror DLC for Back 4 Blood. And Left 4 Dead 3 isn't ever going to materialize unless Valve pulls its finger out. At least the Evolve community has something to hope for. And even if this is as much as they get, they seem to be happy about it. 

Shabana Arif
News Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Shabana has been writing about games for almost a decade now, as well as covering tech, politics, food, and other random tidbits at Gizmodo UK. She's stepped outside of news every now and then to write game guides, and always appreciates a DM if she's helped get you out of a pickle. During her time freelancing, you may have spotted her words at VG24/7, GamesRadar, and IGN. She's also held the position of news editor at Gizmodo UK, T3, and The Sun Online.