REVIEW – Evil is dead again, the dead are evil again! Ash Williams is back, but he’s slicing up demons not in a new Sam Raimi movie but a video game this time. But does this Evil Dead: The Game live up to the original films?
“Tatre a mis trobeen ha zar Kanda! Kandaаа! Kaааndaaaaa!” some poor unconscious man re-read the evil lines of the Book of the Dead in the Necronomicon. That’s all it took for a horde of demons to return to planet Earth and plague good old Ash Williams, who nevertheless decided to retire after the conclusion of the Ash vs Evil Dead series in 2018. Yes indeed, but to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Sam Raimi’s cinematic saga, all the films are now available in Evil Dead: The Game. And like many other games that pay homage to the horror clichés of the eighties – think Friday the 13th, Predator: Hunting Ground and, to a lesser extent, Dead by Daylight – Evil Dead: The Game opts for asymmetrical multiplayer. On the one hand, it invites players to join a team of four survivors and, on the other, to embody the demon Kandar.
Ash and friends
Let’s start with the survivors, whose gameplay is roughly similar to a third-person action game. Here, the objective is simple: once the group has been placed on one of the game’s two maps, they must complete a series of tasks (find three pieces of the map, a scroll and Kandar’s dagger) to once again destroy the evil that is consuming Necronomicon. To do this, they will obviously have to work as a team since, like the heroes of Friday the 13th or Dead by Daylight, they are easy prey once they become isolated from the rest of the group. A lone hero is obviously more fragile. His fear index rises faster, obscuring the player’s screen, making him more visible to the demon’s eyes and more vulnerable (more on this later).
Unlike the two productions mentioned above, however, in Evil Dead: The Game, well-armed solo players can defend themselves using gunpowder and well-placed punches to crush undead skulls; this is where Saber Interactive’s multiplayer production stands out from the competition.
Strike the beast, and you’ll be protecting the peace
After the first steps of the game – which consist of scouring various rural farms to replenish weapons and resources – the title is an actual action game with an emphasis on confrontation. The fierce and dynamic combat is constantly interspersed with bloodshed and brutal finishing moves. In other words, the brawls between survivors and mutants are pretty spectacular, especially as you have access to a varied arsenal ranging from a single pistol to a double-barreled shotgun, not to mention a crossbow and a plethora of handheld weapons (shovel, baseball bat, cleaver, cleaver, chainsaw, etc.).
However, although the action is spectacular and relatively entertaining, the inaccuracy of the controls and the often awkward camera angles detract from the experience. Perhaps to compensate for this, the creators have made it too easy to slaughter the monsters. Players controlling the survivors are thus left with the impression that they are controlling the real ‘superheroes’, that they are not at the mercy of the demon, which runs counter to the spirit of the genre, which seeks to create a horrific and anxiety-inducing atmosphere. This feeling is further reinforced when you play with friends. Against a close-knit team, the demon has almost no chance of winning.
Being evil is good
An exciting gameplay twist is that Kandar’s demon is controlled mainly by an onboard camera hovering in mid-air. This is a really great idea that directly echoes the various feature films of the saga, as the demon, the evil presence that possesses everything and everyone, is represented in the movies primarily by a spinning subjective view. When you control this camera, the goal is to torment the various survivors walking through the forest by opening portals here and there through which skeletons, zombies and other freaks can pass. The most skilful players will even be able to trick the heroes by preparing the terrain they are likely to pass through by setting up various scares and traps. It is possible, for example, to place mini-Ash in supply crates, which will appeal to fans of the third film, or even to give life to certain trees that will not hesitate to slam their branches on the heroes’ heads.
Here’s where it gets interesting, because once you’ve scared a character, you can possess them for a while to turn them against their friends. What’s more, as a demon, you can possess the survivors and a tree, a car, and the many monsters that litter the map. All of these manipulations will increase the demon’s power while at the same time creating fear in the eyes of the enemy. It’s even possible to play as warlords, super-powered monsters, to destroy the enemy’s remaining forces. Unfortunately, combat is somewhat chaotic when playing as a skeleton or undead; the player sometimes has the impression of hacking into nothingness due to the lack of finishing moves when playing as a monster. However, despite these minor flaws, when you control the villain, the game becomes unique, as it’s actually highly entertaining when you surprise the excellent guys with your evil ideas.
“Say, you say everything twice?”
Even though both gameplay modes are entertaining and excellent, Evil Dead The Game quickly becomes self-repetitive. Each game looks the same and follows the same pattern: survivors must complete the same tasks to complete the Necronomicon, in the same order, while the demon lurks around them. For variety, objectives are still randomly placed on the map, but unfortunately, that’s not enough. This fatigue is compounded by a prolonged progression system and the fact that there are only two maps to explore.
Fortunately, you’ll be satisfied visually whether you’re playing on an old or new generation console or PC (with the right settings). A special mention should be made of the lighting effects, which are impressive and rediscovered depending on the weather conditions. Although the environments are primarily dark, you can also play in snowy playgrounds, walk on asphalt and various muddy paths in the rain, or chase the demon at dawn. The maps are also large enough to provide plenty of ideas and environments. Players can tour Ash Williams’ iconic cottage, but also a junkyard, a factory, an aircraft graveyard, a castle, a cave, etc. This is an excellent idea, considering that the Evil Dead movie saga is not really known for its travels.
Finally, fan service should also be mentioned because if Evil Dead: The Game is a perfectionist in one area, this is it. In addition to bringing together all the characters from the saga, Saber Interactive’s game also features the original cast. Ash Williams stars as Bruce Campbell, the actor who played the franchise’s hero on screen for nearly 40 years. Meanwhile, Betsy Baker reprises her role as Linda, Ellen Sandweiss returns as Cheryl Williams, and Hal Delrich returns as Scotty. Even better, the entire cast of Ash vs Evil Dead is on board, and then some. To top it all off, the title further multiplies the gimmicks by allowing players to rediscover iconic locations from the films and iconic phrases. It even uses the franchise’s visual language style. As mentioned above, the demon game will feature the famous interior view and the mini-Ash, the “living hand”, or the famous demonic mist. So, in the case of Evil Dead: The Game, fans will be in heaven.
For fans and multiplayer fans, mostly
A great tribute to the saga that inspired it, Evil Dead: The Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer game that surprises with its constant dynamism and frenetic, well-directed action. Unfortunately, the game quickly becomes self-repetitive. Despite many playable characters and two different game modes (survivor or demon), Saber Interactive‘s game fails to take a varied approach. There are single-player missions, but they are somehow too difficult and not fun enough. The production is aimed first and foremost at fans of the genre and Sam Raimi’s cinematic works.
+ Dynamic confrontations, great multiplayer at first
+ Pleasant graphics with spectacular executions
+ Characters from the entire Evil Dead saga (movies + series)
– Not too steep control, for both heroes and horrors
– Very self-repeating
– No story mode, just weak solo posts
Publisher: Boss Team Games
Developer: Saber Interactive
Style: Asymmetric horror multiplayer
Published: May 13, 2022