Evil Dead: The Game review – Groovy asymmetrical horror is a love letter to the franchise
Evil Dead: The Game is a faithful addition to the franchise for die-hard fans of Ash Williams, his iconic catchphrases, and the campy mania of Sam Raimi’s horror — and what’s more, it’s an absolute blast. Now, where’s my Boomstick?
Since the early 1980s, the Evil Dead universe has had a whole host of film, TV, and video game media for fans to get stuck into. Now, fans can step right into the shoes of iconic characters like Henry the Red, Henrietta, and Kelly Maxwell from the original movies and the spin-off TV show.
What’s more, there’s plenty to do, with deep gameplay systems and completely chaotic-in-the-best-way-possible matches as you choose to be a Survivor or a Kandarian Demon in a slick, asymmetrical style.
Evil Dead: The Game key details
- Price: $39.99 / £34.99
- Developer: Saber Interactive
- Release Date: May 13, 2022
- Platforms: PlayStation, Xbox, PC. Nintendo Switch version coming soon.
Evil Dead: The Game trailer
The grooviest of survival games
Right from loading up Evil Dead: The Game and entering the menu screen, you’re presented with things that feel faithful to the iconic franchise. Whether that’s through the beautifully realized, detailed character models and stunning environments, to the quintessentially Evil Dead Oldsmobile, or the Necronomicon-esque menu elements that can be navigated through (complete with the overture of uneasy, foreboding music that haunts them), it’s all been done with the utmost care.
From the main menu, you’re presented with a plethora of options, both settings, and gameplay-wise. Whether you’re diving into a match as a Survivor with friends, strangers, or if you want to head into the game solo accompanied by a merry band of AI teammates — the choice is yours.
- Read More: All classes in Evil Dead: The Game
Fancy creating a private match? Go for it, and if that’s not for you right now, head on to one of the five excruciatingly difficult (soon to be six) missions to unlock characters like Amanda Fisher, Lord Arthur, and Pablo Simon Bolivar alongside extra recordings from Knowby to uncover more lore — the elusive voice on the tapes, first heard back in The Evil Dead.
While there’s a whole lot to do, I’d love to have seen some accessibility options here — which are otherwise pretty few and far between — but the game does give you extensive access to adjusting your keybinds, sensitivity, and graphic settings as needed. The previously mentioned missions are hard and to a fault. With a lack of checkpoints, it’s unfairly punishing to be forced to retread all of your previous ground for small mistakes.
For a game with so many mode types, I was disappointed to realize that in order to progress through the game and level up your characters, you’ll need to play multiplayer — as solo modes against AI don’t reward you with experience. This feels unfair, and without an incentive to play alone, this mode feels as if it’s more like it’s an extended tutorial than anything else.
Hooked from the very first tutorial
I have to say it: I really dislike tutorials. They’re one of my least favorite parts of any game, and I always eye-roll at the thought of having to sit through them (anyone else?), but in the case of Evil Dead: The Game, they’ve actually hit the nail on the head. Equal parts immersive and informative, I found myself (as a Survivor at least — more on Demons later) creeping my way through the map as slowly as I could to avoid any potential scares, despite being guided around by a bright red directional marker — I was playing into the late hours of the night, after all.
The main task of the game as a Survivor is to banish the Kandarian Demon (or, alternatively, to ensure your survival if you’re playing as one) by working as a team to collect pieces of a map within 30 minutes. These will eventually lead you to the location of the Kandarian Dagger and The Lost Pages of the Necronomicon, which will need to be collected and protected. Once that’s done, you’ll face off against the mysterious Dark Ones, culminating in one final fight as you attempt to banish the Demons once and for all with The Book of the Dead. Audio design is top-notch throughout all of this, providing immersive and equally unnerving soundscapes that beg to be listened to through a pair of headphones, providing enough stomach butterflies all on its own.
- Read More: How to unlock Evil Dead: The Game characters
During a match, there are plenty of different gameplay systems to be aware of: item and supply chest rarity (Common, Rare, Epic, and Legendary), cars that can be used to make a quick escape or to mow down some pesky Demons, different weapons and attacks (ranged and melee), maps to be tracked down, Necronomicon rituals and Pink 5 — the in-game upgrade system. While these upgrades only remain for the duration of the match, you’re able to boost six main stats to different levels to add bonuses to your character: Melee, Ranged, Health, Fear, Stamina, and Shield. For Demons, you’ll collect Infernal Upgrade Points to upgrade Infernal Energy, Possession, Portal: Basic, Portal: Elite, Boss, Demon Vision, and Trap stats.
While many of the stats themselves are relatively self-explanatory, Fear is a cool and somewhat unique one in which you need to find a light source and stick close to your teammates to mitigate it. Neglect this and you’ll open yourselves up to possession from a Kandarian Demon — and nobody wants that.
Outside of gameplay stats, each character is divided up into one of the seven different classes available, with each providing its own unique gameplay benefits. On the side of the Survivors, the four-side team that is tasked with banishing the Kandarian Demons, you have Leader, Warrior, Hunter, and Support. Their names are pretty self-explanatory, in truth, but the Leader takes a focus on buffing themselves and the surrounding team to increase their chances of Survival. Warriors can pack a punch up close, Hunters will be rewarded with taking down enemies from afar, and Supports can provide teammates with healing to help with their survival.
On the other side of the playing field, you’ve got the Kandarian Demon, divided up into three classes. While the Survivor classes have multiple characters that can be played in a particular role (though these are class-locked), Demons only have one main character — or ‘Boss’ — that can be played: Eligos, the Puppeteer (particularly skilled at possession), Evil Ash, the Necromancer (remember the skeleton flutist from Army of Darkness? Necromancers can summon those to provide damage benefits to your units), and Henrietta, the Warlord (also skilled at buffing units). To make things slightly more even across Survivor and Demon classes, in Evil Dead: The Game, Boss Demons also can summon and possess different units, each of which has unique skills that are essential to distract and maim enemies.
As you play multiplayer and emerge as the victor (or the loser) you’ll earn Skill Points and Spirit Points, both of which can go towards improving your character. Each character has their own abilities to unlock as you level them up with Spirit Points (which can be dumped into any player, regardless of who you’ve played as — think of Bloodpoints from Dead by Daylight) and a class-based skill tree. This skill tree is the same for each character within a particular class but needs to be progressed individually on each character.
While each character fits into a particular class, they are also all inherently unique themselves, with specific skills adding a slightly different flavor to a particular class’ gameplay style. Army of Darkness Ash, a Warrior, can become a whizz with the Chainsaw to improve its attack speed and dismemberment damage, whereas Henrietta’s Warlord passives can be upgraded to improve her units’ overall performance against those pesky humans.
Fantastically violent gameplay
What’s an Evil Dead video game without lashings of vibrant, crimson blood? Saber is inherently aware of this, and as such, Evil Dead: The Game has this in absolute excess. As Survivors shoot, whack, and pummel Deadites with a flurry of attacks and showy finishers, body parts will sever, flesh will melt into bone — turning enemies into nothing more than wandering skeletons — and blood will violently spray across the screen and onto Survivors themselves. It’s unashamedly gory — and it’s absolutely brilliant. Attacks feel weighty on both sides of the playing field as you learn to dodge and weave in order to land a well-timed attack, and teaming up with your fellow Survivors to take down a particularly tanky enemy always feels rewarding.
Featuring a large, open-world map (and another based on Castle Kandar from Army of Darkness on the way as free DLC) to explore, Saber have created an adrenaline-inducing world that’s begging to be explored. Full of points of interest to explore and collect the game’s loot, from weapons to consumables (Shemp’s Cola to restore health and amulets to restore your shield) and ammo, you’ll be turning over every stone in a crashed airplane site, abandoned homes, convenience stores, creepy cursed cabins, and even a spooky doll factory.
As a Survivor, the gameplay is rewarded by sticking together — and communication is essential. Voice chat is supported, but during my time I’ve heard few people utilize it at all, with many resorting to the emote system instead to ask people to aid, follow, or help them out. If someone’s being a little too unfocused, you can also give them a little slap on the wrist with a ‘stick to the objective’ type prompt.
Survivors in Evil Dead can also be resurrected upon death. After having their health bar depleted, Survivors will fall onto the ground in a downed state and will start to bleed out. They can be revived in this state, but if too much time passes, they’ll perish and turn into a spirit. Fellow players can then collect these spirits and carry them to an Altar, where a short ritual animation is played before bringing them back to the land of the living.
On the other side of the playing field is the Deadites. As a Kandarian Demon, you’ll start the game in first-person spirit form that mimics the camera work from the movie series. Executed to perfection, this weightless, floaty camera perspective allows you to glide around the map at high speed — but those who suffer from motion sickness will likely need to take things slowly.
As you travel, you’ll collect Infernal Energy, which will allow you to perform actions like possessing Survivors and Deadite units alongside trees and cars (yes, you read that right), all of which can be used to turn the fight in your favor. Possessing trees gives the game a prop-hunt-like feel, as you’re able to twist and flail its branches to attack unexpecting Survivors who pass beneath its boughs. You can also place traps in specific locations and in supply chests to scare Survivors silly, as well as being able to drop portals that spew out Demon units when triggered.
Evil Dead: The Game is a faithful and bloody horror that combines plenty of gameplay systems from across the multiplayer genre in tight, impactful gameplay. A variety of game modes and classes mean that there’s something for everyone, but it’s let down by quick-to-tire and repetitive finishing moves, limited accessibility features, and restrictions on earning experience.
That being said, I’m incredibly excited to see what Saber Interactive has got in-store in the future, as with such a well-designed, lightning-in-a-bottle type formula, Evil Dead: The Game will either survive the test of time or be banished to the deep recesses of player’s minds depending upon the quality of the game’s future updates and how many it receives over time.
Reviewed on PC.