"If you say 'Predator game', what do you expect when you hear those words?" muses Tramell Isaac. It's a question he and the team at video game studio Illfonic have spent the past two years grappling with.
The answer they have come up with is Predator: Hunting Grounds, an asymmetric multiplayer game that turns friends into foes before spicing things up even more by throwing AI enemies into its action-packed pot as well.
The game's set-up will be instantly recognisable to fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1987 action classic. Four players band together to form Fireteam, a group of elite soldiers on a mission to take out a drug lord and his AI-controlled henchmen hiding out in the jungle. As Fireteam attempts to infiltrate and complete their objectives another player takes control of the titular Predator and, just like in the movies, hunts them down.
"People make fun of me at work because I'm hooting and hollering while I'm playing and it's legit me having a good time," Isaac laughs. "My wife told me the other day – sorry honey, if she ever reads this – she said, 'I wish you had this much fun with the stuff I want you to do.'
"But you get into it and you want to win or get your whole crew out alive and have these heroic moments," he continues. "And at the very end somebody swoops in and takes you out, or you lose somebody and you can't save them. These really water-cooler moments that you get every five to10 minutes. There's always something that happens where after the match you want to talk about it with your friends. It's hilarious. For me, it's about having fun. "
Isaac, a veteran of 26 years in the game industry, has classics like the groundbreaking Neverwinter Nights, the original Fallout, and the PlanetSide franchise under his belt. And while those long-form storytelling RPGs couldn't be further from the frenetic quick-action bursts of this game, he says he ported lessons learned from those into it.
"A lot of those learnings allowed us to map out what it was that we needed to work on," he says, citing examples of level progression, different character abilities and sustaining a live audience. "Those were beneficial from my experiences. I've been making games for 26 years now and there are only a few games where I've been like, 'I can't wait to get home and play.' And this is one of them."
So what does he prefer playing: the hunter or the hunted?
"Lately I've been playing Fireteam because I like running around the jungle, doing the missions, taking the AI out and working together as a team to try and hunt the Predator. But I've got to be honest, I have fun doing both because there's a different set of priorities," he says. "As the Predator, hunting people and talking trash to those people as I kill them, that's a lot of fun."
Then he laughs and says, "When I get going as the Predator in the office... no door is thick enough to not hear me. You get to talk trash when you're ripping somebody's spine out, man, that's the best."
Who doesn't want to hunt down their closest friends and work colleagues right?
"Exactly. We beat up on Chuck a lot. He's our CEO. We hunt him down a lot. He's usually the first one to die on the Fireteam."
Who: Tramell Isaac, Vice-President of Art at Illfonic
What: New asymmetric multiplayer game Predator: Hunting Grounds.
When: Out now on PlayStation 4.