Evil Dead: The Game Reviewed

Evil Dead: The Game Reviewed

Evil Dead: The Game Reviewed

Posted by Lawrence Rennie

18 May, 2022


“Hail to the king baby”. Ash Williams and Evil Dead: The Game are here to tear through the 4v1 asymmetrical PVP genre with the series’ typical irreverence and over-bloodied, rip-roaring chaos.

Newly released on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Epic Games Store on PC, and NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW, Saber Interactive’s Evil Dead: The Game is a surprising delight, delivering on much of the unconventional personality of its film and tv namesake while also being an excellent improvement on its other horror-film-turned-asymmetrical-videogame predecessors. With its unique charm there is plenty to be had here for both fans of the Evil Dead films and fans of Friday the 13th: The Game and Dead By Daylight

Come get some indeed!

4v1 Asymmetric Games and Horror Movies 

The 4v1 asymmetric has proven rich ground for horror properties in gaming lately. And of course it makes sense, since what are our most favourite horror slashers if not one monster/killer going after a hapless group, each of whom will either die a brutal and bloody death or live to see daybreak at the end of the movie. 

Dead By Daylight ported the genre’s classic 80s structure exceptionally, imitating its most infamous monsters and “final girls” and pitting them against each other in a hunter vs hunted scenario, before then using its initial success with the form to bring those most iconic horror characters into the fold explicitly—Ash Williams and Evil Dead even made the cut late on. Then, amongst Dead by Daylight’s many and continuing imitators came Friday the 13th: The Game which allowed players to take control of the hockey masked killer and roam around camp hacking and slashing the film series’ cast of horned up teenagers, or conversely working as them to take the fight back to Jason and escape with your head and vital limbs still firmly attached to your body. 

Friday the 13th: The Game found middling success; it had its fans but never quite caught on the way that Dead by Daylight managed to, mainly because its core gameplay just wasn’t quite as strong. It lacked the personality that the movies exhibit, imitating the Jason vs camper’s scenario but never quite capturing the terror or thrill that facing Jason from the movies should have, unfortunately.

When it comes to Evil Dead: The Game as another 4v1 asymmetric it is far more helpful to compare it to Friday the 13th: The Game rather than Dead by Daylight, not in the least because both are a more direct movie vs movie comparison, but because while the gameplay for the two is also more alike Evil Dead, importantly, manages to improve upon and get right many of the things that Friday the 13th did not. 

Survive the Woods 

The main game mode of Evil Dead: The Game pits 4 survivors of the Evil Dead universe (across both films and tv series) against 1 demonic entity in control of its own army of the evil dead. 

Survivors must search the area for map fragments which will then point them to the Kandarian dagger and pages of the Necronomicon. Acquiring these (after defending a zone around them for a time period) will then grant survivors the power to defeat the Dark Ones in a sort of truncated boss fight (you blast them with beams while they shoot dark energy back and deadites swarm you). After this the Necronomicon will appear and begin the final part of the game. Like the films, the skin bound Necronomicon grants the power to conjure the evil dead and also banish it again. To stop it getting back into your hands the Kandarian demon will have to do it all it can to destroy the book within two minutes, else the survivors will finish reading its passage and win the game. 

That’s the general overview for both sides: humans trying to piece together items around the map and the demon doing all it can to stop them before roles finally reverse right at the end and the humans have to specifically stop the demon. You can play either straight online PVP and join as either survivor or the demon, or have 4 human survivors vs an AI demon, a private match with at least one friend, or play entirely solo with a team of AI survivors helping you against the AI demon. The two gameplay styles for both sides differ quite massively, however, so there does end up being quite a bit to latch onto here.  

There are 13 survivors to choose from in total across 4 different classes (4 of these characters are also unlockable in missions), each of which with its own distinct perks and an unlockable skill tree that progresses as you play with each survivor. The perks and special abilities of each are distinct enough to allow for various playstyles and to allow players to form specific strategy with their teammates. You might want a healer along with a tank, for example, and someone to disarm traps or buff the team. This teamwork will actually prove key to your success and not something that can just be generally cast off; the odds are stacked far more heavily against the survivors than the demon but proper coordination and strategy will swing those odds the other way. It ends up being a good balance and should hopefully promote an in-game community that is actually willing to work together. 

As survivors you have melee and ranged capabilities but you need to find weapons across the map, each of which comes with a rarity scale. The melee combat is simple but it is satisfying and grants some gnarly bloodiness. Your light and heavy attacks are just a simple one button press, but hitting an enemy enough will stun them along you to press R3 to unleash either a killing blow or a combo animation. These stun moves allow the game to get all of its Evil Dead gore out, as the animations present some wonderfully gory moves with deadites getting chain sawed down to the bone, or given bone crunching blows to the head. The damage seen on the deadites during combat is great and makes the combat all the more gratifying. Like the very best of Evil Dead a shotgun blast to a deadite may do little but strip away all their flesh to reveal a ghoulish, bloodied skeletal form underneath while they continue to pursue you unabated. 

Deadites are simple enough to fight one on one, and with a group of survivors a lone deadite stands no chance. But the trouble comes when they start to pile up which then leads to some really intensive battles which I had a blast with, gore and viscera flying everywhere in strew of red-misted chaos. It’s over the top and overtly gruesome in the same way the films are which is precisely what you want.

The real killer for survivors, however, is your fear level which ratches up the more time you spend alone, or in the dark, or the more unsettling acts of demonic presence you witness. You will need to manage your fear meter rigorously by setting campfires or staying with teammates, because if the fear level gets too high your actions will become weakened, the demon will be able to see you anywhere on the map, and they’ll even be able to possess you temporarily. Fear also allows the demon to level up and spend points on more powers—which you definitely do not want as a survivor. 

While exploring you’ll also be in search of supply cases which will allow you to upgrade your stats (melee, range, health, shield, stamina, fear) to even the odds. Again this ends up being pretty vital since they demon is always getting stronger as well. 

The survivor gameplay is a lot of fun, especially if you’re in with a group of friends since then you will be able to properly coordinate. However in my experience so far as the community has gotten a grasp of the gameplay teammates have gotten more helpful so it is not a total hellscape of toxicity, yet. Playing with the AI functions well enough as your teammates works for the most part since they always stay by your side like in Left 4 Dead, but they do have a tendency to get stuck in animation loops or frozen in place which usually leads to them dying. 

Or Take Hold of the Army of the Dead

Now to the Kandarian Demon: while the survivors play in 3rd person the demon is just a first-person camera, just as it is represented in Raimi’s iconic work. Saber have lovingly paid attention to the way that Raimi’s camera swooped around the films, exerting its unknowable demonic presence on anything it set its eyes on, and used this to craft a unique playstyle for the demon. 

You have 3 lords to pick from, each possessing their own army, but rather than existing as a tangible presence you are merely a spirit that sets other acts of evil in motion. You swoop around the map collecting infernal energy to then allow you to spawn deadites around your enemies, or set traps, possess parts of the environment, your own horde, vehicles, or even the survivors themselves. So though it is mostly a kind of tower defence mode of gameplay you do also have the capabilities to get hands on. It again manages to capture the way the evil dead works in the films and expertly gamify it. 

The demons also exhibit the typical Raimi personality of the films. Traps can come in the form of flute playing skeletons, or you can possess trees to surprise enemies with a sudden branch swing, or even grab their car from them and proceed to run them over with said car. You can possess any of your own deadites around the map as well, each of which has their own abilities. The possibility for possessing survivors also opens up a whole other avenue of ridiculousness, all of which are just as you might want from an Evil Dead game. Get them sawing at each other, or hop in a car and drive off in the wrong direction before wrecking the vehicle to leave them stranded, or drop all their resources and leave them defenceless. Be as evil as possible to defeat your foes!

If you become powerful enough you can then also spawn as your chosen demon lord to unleash unprecedented hell upon the survivors. They are extremely powerful, making them about as satisfyingly crushing as you’d hope for as a leader of the evil dead. I’ll fully admit it brought me plenty of glee to suddenly appear as Evil Ash and reign devastation upon regular ol’ puny Ash.

The demon has the upper hand across the board, simply because you can’t actually die and need only to run down time or kill all the survivors. Still, it is extremely enjoyable to exert bloodied chaos upon your foes and to get your hands dirty from time to time too by joining the battlefield. With its mix of personality and accuracy to the source texts the Kandarian demon mode is all that an avid Evil Dead fan might want. 

Hail to the King Baby!

The true test for Evil Dead: The Game will of course however be its pursuit in harnessing a sustained community to keep it afloat. There is scope here to expand and the game could end up as a more fleshed out success like Dead by Daylight if it takes the right steps, and its initial offerings leaves plenty of hope for that to be the case. 

Like Friday the 13th: The Game, Evil Dead chucks in a couple of solo missions as well to flesh out the experience a little more. Even though they are mostly just objectives placed around the multiplayer map, they are a welcome touch allowing players to enact their favourite sequences from the films and series. The first mission, for example, has you guiding Ash through needing to dig up and saw apart his dead girlfriend Linda while her chattering head creepily mocks and pleads with him. It’s done well enough, plus the missions themselves do present a pretty scary and stressful challenge in their own right. Plus, with Bruce Campbell quipping away throughout each mission, and a soundtrack reminiscent of Evil Dead’s score wheeling away through each moment of chaos you end up with an experience to really love. The difficulty of these missions is quite high, but since there is only a handful of them you can forgive needing to attempt them a couple of times. 

All in all I couldn’t ask for much more from an Evil Dead game quite honestly. It has its low budget jankiness to it for sure, and perhaps doesn’t have the smoothness and strength of a Dead by Daylight, but it is a successful translation of the Evil Dead films to gaming in its own right. It harnesses their irreverence and overt personality and does its utmost to lovingly recreate them as a playable form. 

For a game to go after one of the more irreverent, unique and frankly wild horror films of the slasher era and hope to capture its charismatic essence in video game form is no small order, but Evil Dead: The Game, in its clear adoration for its source text, does manage to recreate the films’ personality in what is one of its strongest and most defining attributes. It would be the highest compliment I could afford Evil Dead: The Game to say that it will certainly get you into the mood to watch Sam Raimi’s iconic cult trilogy again. 


About Author

Lawrence Rennie

Lawrence is a Scottish-born writer with a love of games and films that he fortunately turned into a career grumbling about online. When not firing away the hours buried in a game or film he also co-writes 'Mechastopheles', an original comic series published by the UK’s leading comic magazine 2000AD as a naturally born-grumpy Scot; however, he asks that you don’t ask him too much about it though! Lawrence’s other musings include podcasts, fitness, his cat, and one day developing his own screenplay.

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