A celebration of all things Evil Dead and a fun asymmetrical multiplayer game in its own right, Evil Dead: The Game is a spookily good time. The Finger Guns Review.
When Evil Dead: The Game was announced, I wondered to myself why this was going to be a standalone game. The existing crop of asymmetrical multiplayer horror games had managed to incorporate many different movie and game franchises quite successfully. Ash had even appeared in Dead by Daylight as a Survivor. Did this game need to be its own entity? Or could it have simply been a new chapter in a different game’s story? It didn’t take long for me to find an answer to that question.
My first clue was the number of company logos that are displayed when you boot up Evil Dead: The Game. There’s seven of them. It’s obvious that a lot of parties had to be involved in creating this game, from Starz to Renaissance Pictures, Lionsgate Games, Studio Canal and MGM. Thankfully, this collaboration results in a collection of content that pulls from every aspect of the Evil Dead’s storied history. Content from all 3 movies as well as the TV show are present and correct in all of its gory, blood soaked glory.
Well, Hello Mr. Fancy Pants
Right from the first time you see the main menu, you know Evil Dead: The Game isn’t just another asymmetrical multiplayer game. This isn’t generic horror. This is very specifically an Evil Dead game. On my first play, floating before me was Henrietta Knowby, her guts and fleshy bits hanging out. It was enough to furrow my brow. You might get Evil Ash or Eligos too. Fans of the series are likely to feel right at home.
It might seem from the trailers that Evil Dead: The Game is similar to Dead by Daylight or Friday The 13th: The Game. On paper, it is. It’s a 4 vs 1 asymmetrical multiplayer game with a horror theme. That’s pretty well trodden territory by this point. This game doesn’t break the mould but it does tailor the experience around Ash, the Deadites, the movies and TV show to feel like its own thing. In fact, when playing as the Kandarian Demon (i.e. the 1 vs the 4), Evil Dead: The Game actually feels much more like the cancelled Fable Legends than the other asymmetrical horrors. The game’s first brownie point comes from the fact that you can choose which side of the game you want to play as – the Survivors or the Kandarian Demon – from the main menu. There’s no random allocation here.
Without good, there is no evil
When playing as the 4 survivors, you’ve got a few simple goals. Spawned into a large playable area full of iconic Evil Dead locations, you first have to find 3 parts of a map. You’ll be directed to each in turn and it’s up to your team to collect them. If you manage to collect all of these map pieces, the location of the Kandarian dagger and the loose pages of the Necronomicon will be revealed to your team. Both of these are capture-the-flag area defence style rounds. Reach their location and ‘activate’ them and you and your team will have to stay close by, within an ghostly illuminated ring, until a gauge is filled and you pick them up. Once you’ve got both the dagger and the book pages, it’s time to take on ” The Dark Ones”. After travelling to their location (which is usually way off at the other side of the map), you’ll get the chance to fight the old ones and, if you succeed, seal the Necronomicon. You only have half an hour to achieve all of this – and you’ll have to survive long enough to do it too.
That’s a task that’s much easier said than done. Even without the opposing demon player’s intervention (more on that in a second), each map has a number of NPC enemies that lurk around, waiting for you to get close enough for them to attack. To beat them back, you’ll need to make use of the 25 different weapons available in the game. These can be found simply lying around in the iconic Evil Dead locations or from loot boxes dotted around the place.
While you’re trying to survive, you’ve also got to manage your fear level. Your characters will get more afraid in the dark and when they’re alone. It’s important to keep this gauge under control, using sources of light to reduce it, because when it hits a certain level, it informs the Kandarian Demon player where you are. When you’re above 75% fear, you can also be possessed should the demon be in close proximity, giving the opposing player control of your character for a short time.
Via exploration, you can increase your resistance to fear, as well as many other stats, by finding bottles of “Pink F” (y’know, like “Pink F**k from the second season of Ash vs. Evil Dead). Collecting these bottles gives you a single skill point which can be used to improve attributes like ranged damage, health, stamina and more. If you’re taking on an experienced Demon player, these can make the difference between life and death.
You’re all going to die tonight
If you’re playing from the other perspective – as the solitary demon – it’s your goal to prevent the survivor team from completing their goals. Rather than playing as a standard character in third party though, like you do in most of these asymmetrical horror games, you play as an invisible, haunting presence. For Evil Dead fans: that tell-tale camera angle that’s used throughout the franchise when the evil presence is swooping around? That’s how the demon is controlled. You glide through the map quickly and silently. The 4 survivors can’t see you gliding around around them but they’ll certainly feel your influence if you’re playing correctly.
From the demons perspective, the map looks slightly different. All of the same landmarks are present but there are lots of different interactive elements that the survivors can’t see. The most frequent are little balls of burning Infernal Energy. These are basically your evil currency which you can spend once you’ve collected them by floating on by them. There’s tonnes of these all over the map and they’ll all accumulate in a gauge.
These can then be spent on ways to harass the players. To give this game its credit, all of these powers have been designed around iconic Evil Dead moments and embody the mischievous, almost playful ways the villains of the series torment Ash and his friends. It’s not just the terrorised Survivor that has succumb to their fear that can be possessed. You can take control of cars, just like in the second season of the TV show, and trees, just like in the first 2 movies. You can set traps on loot boxes or in open ground and open portals for demonic beings to spring out from. With some demonic skills, you can cause jump scares on the survivors, scaring both the player and the heavily denting the characters fear gauge.
Unlike the player upgrades via “Pink F”, the Kandarian Demon levels up based on performance. The more infernal energy you collect, the more actions you complete, the longer the match goes on, the higher the demon’s level becomes. With each new level, you can increase the power of your possessions, portals or your boss.
This boss character is an elite spawn which acts very much like a traditional asymmetrical horror game character. At its highest upgrade, you can spawn in a Warlord (Henrietta), a Puppeteer (Eligos) or a Necromancer (Evil Ash). The type of demon is chosen at the start of the match and defines what style of NPC villains will spawn on the map as well as the lesser bosses that can also be controlled. These boss characters can do massive damage and are tricky to kill from a survivor perspective so it’s often best to try and avoid them or team up to take them down.
Hail to the King, baby
In my opinion, Evil Dead: The Game manages to strike a great balance between being tactically deep yet easily approachable. There’s strategic choices you can make that’s informed by some interesting design. As matches go on, the demons get stronger – so do you split up to find the map pieces quicker? Or do you stay together because of the safety in numbers and risk a higher challenge later? With a group of players who are willing to communicate, and character strengths chosen to complement each other, team work can overcome even the better Demon players. There’s fun to be had here even if you’re jumping in with a bunch of silent randomers too, just less so.
Even if you’re an unskilled player, there’s ground to be made in the progression system. There’s 9 survivor characters to choose from right from the start, with an additional 4 to unlock. These are grouped into 4 classes – Leader, Warrior, Hunter, and Support – each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses. As you use these characters repeatedly, they’ll get experience and unlock spirit points that can be used to unlock skills. These play into the character’s unique attributes as well as their class. For example, the Ash Williams version from Ash Vs Evil Dead can unlock the “El Jefe” skill that buffs the fear and and damage output from surrounding survivors. The same set up exists for the demon characters too. There’s some game changing skills here, like the “Hemophobia” skill from that Warlord class that increases the fear of Survivors each time they get splattered with blood. Given this is an Evil Dead game, as you might expect, that’s a regular occurrence. For players looking for longevity, that’s certainly here in abundance.
Outside of the core 4 vs 1 multiplayer, Evil Dead: The Game also has some single player missions. These are recreations of some of the iconic movie and TV arcs within the game, guiding you through the famous landmarks to fight AI deadites and the like. These can be a little bit of a challenge but the reward for tackling them are 4 iconic characters you’ll want to have at your disposal. None of these are worth picking up the game for on their own but they certainly sweeten the deal.
You can also play Evil Dead: The Game against an AI Demon with AI Survivor team mates. In this mode, your team become much more of a supporting cast compared to the experience alongside human players. The AI team stick close to you, jump in a car when you do and generally mill around you. These AI team mates are not the brightest bunch however. They don’t heal themselves any where near as much as you’d hope and because they stay close to you, you’re always picking through the same loot which can make for slim pickings. If you’re simply not in the mood to deal with other humans, this mode is worth a look but it’s a poor imitation of the centralised game mode. Currently, there’s no way to play as an Demon against an AI team either, which is a disappointment. It would be great to have this, even as a training arena.
I began this review by questioning why Evil Dead: The Game wasn’t just an expansion to any of the existing asymmetrical multiplayer horror games. 2 weeks after launch, I can see very clearly why it isn’t. Sure, on the outside it might look like the other games in the genre but this is undeniably a game designed specifically around the aspects of the Evil Dead franchise that make it so special. The violence is over the top, the abilities of every character shows a deep respect for the movies & TV show and there’s a constant air of mischief and humour to the game, despite the scary vibes.
An essential purchase for fans of Ash Williams and the unique blend of gore and comedy that the Evil Dead series has created, this asymmetrical horror game builds on the foundation that games like Dead by Daylight have laid. It might not innovate but there’s a surprising amount of content and replayability in Evil Dead: The Game that raids 40 years of film and television for ideas and puts them to excellent use.
Evil Dead: The Game is available now on PS5 (review version), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Developer: Saber Interactive / Boss Team Games
Publisher: Saber Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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