Horror fans are living in a golden age. It seems like a few major horror franchises are adapted into games every year, most often in the asymmetrical multiplayer genre. Making a group of friends hapless survivors against another player hunting them down as a supernatural enemy is a great idea on paper every time, though the end results can vary widely. Evil Dead: The Game does not stray from this fundamental premise. However, it smartly leans on its B-movie hijinx to give fans something worthy of being in their horror game rotation, even if it doesn’t have the soul to swallow all their time at only him.
While Evil Dead: The Game is its official title, you can aptly call it Fan Service: The Game instead. Drawing inspiration from the original three films and the Starz series – sorry, reboot fans – Evil Dead radiates pride and fandom from its developers, bringing together all sorts of weapons, easter eggs, locations and cheesy one-liners that made the series famous. The original actors are brought back in most cases, including the all-important Bruce Campbell, whose many versions of Ash Williams make up a good portion of the character roster.
Wandering the game’s several large maps can feel like a museum visit through one of horror’s favorite cult franchises. The audio and visuals also lend themselves to that glowing first impression. Straight-from-the-series music and faithful character models, including the nauseatingly detailed Deadites, make Evil Dead: The Game feel as well crafted as the movies.
I wish the characters had After vocal lines, however. There’s only a limited number of times I hear Ash make the same joke about his flashlight before the B-movie hero loses his luster. Thankfully, much of the game’s other overt fanservice creates a nice scene to play through. Stepping into the Knowby cabin fills me with the same kind of wonder a child might feel when they first step through the threshold of Disneyland. While the woods of Evil Dead are notches under iconic settings like Elm Street or Camp Crystal Lake, the swirling winds give each map a recognizable sense of unease and oppression, even if it’s all still mixed with the strange monsters. wielding a campy series hatchet wearing baggy vests.
This skin makes Evil Dead a game that is faithful to its source material, but trying to be so faithful, the gameplay sometimes suffers. The central mode of the game is Survivors versus Demons, and while the four survivors are played by humans, the monster opposing them can be fought in PvE or asymmetric PvP. Cleverly, the demon player doesn’t control a single Deadite, but instead acts as each turn’s director of chaos.
As a Demon, you can float around the map unseen by Survivors, set traps, spawn enemies, or briefly possess the bodies of Deadites or even Survivors if you scare them enough. Playing as a monster is unpredictable as you are tasked with hunting down survivors first and then ruining their chances of winning, but as survivors the objectives are much more routine and as a result can get boring.
Because the movies focus so much on the Book of the Dead and a very specific ritual to exorcise the Deadite infestation, multiplayer objectives never deviate from this canon route. In a game like Friday the 13th, part of the excitement is the number of ways survivors can win: call the cops, kill Jason, escape in a vehicle, etc. But in Evil Dead, the exact same steps must be followed to win each round: find three map fragments, survive two short horde waves, then kill the Dark Ones – which tends to seem too easy – before protecting the Necronomicon while a final two-minute countdown unfolds. It is a formula at the service of its source. Of course, the location of key items like Map Fragments will vary from turn to turn, but it starts to feel by heart after just a few hours.
A refreshing change that Evil Dead brings to the genre is survivors who can fend for themselves. In similar games, Survivor choices essentially boil down to run or die, but those seeking the Necronomicon can equip weapons found as tiered loot, upgrade their abilities both during and between rounds, and, when working closely together, leaving the daemon or AI player with very little room for error.
Class-based heroes each have special abilities that promote organized teamwork, such as a healing ability for support characters and a calming effect that game leaders can apply so the rest of the party keeps their blood -coldness in the face of danger – without this, characters’ fear meter may increase, leaving them vulnerable to possession. Survivors can sever and smash the heads of monsters and apply amulets like body armor, going face-to-face with hordes of Deadites at once.
Melee animations can be a bit goofy, as finishers will lock you into kill animations while your allies can still cut and shoot the same enemy for a while afterwards, but an easy to dodge mechanic learning and rather small health bars give fight some much-needed tension even during mundane enemy encounters. It looks messy in practice, but it’s as reliable as you need it to be.
Outside the gate, the game actually seems slightly skewed in favor of survivors, as demon ability cooldowns can be long and unforgiving. In a round where both teams are playing at a high level, it feels like the early objectives are geared towards the Demon, while the later objectives favor the Survivors, meaning any Demon player who is struggling to find the group quickly is likely to box. of a victory. It’s fun to be able to possess survivors as a demon, relentlessly taking control of their bodies for a short time, allowing you to hack their friends or steer them away from objectives and other isolated dangers, but a bunch of survivors playing like a well-oiled machine is basically insurmountable, even for an adept demon player.
Like many games of this nature, Evil Dead is best played with a group of friends, and the experience often degrades when played with strangers online. Worse still, those who want to play the game totally on their own will find Evil Dead unfriendly in preference. Playing in PvE lobbies solo doesn’t earn you any experience points, so you can’t unlock new character abilities, and the game’s short series of campaign missions don’t add much to the experience. Each is inspired by storylines from the show, such as Ash having to bury his girlfriend Linda’s severed head while the demon within him oscillates between mocking him and begging for mercy.
It’s a fun nod to the first two films, but it’s also hard to see each of the game’s five missions (a sixth mission is planned for a later release) as anything more than a 20-minute detour from to the real mode of the game, which actually distributes XP and progress.
The show’s focus on Ash Williams means that roughly a third of the class-based roster is just different versions of the protagonist from the last 40 years. It’s nice to see different versions of Ash being assigned different classes, such as Hunter, Support, or Leader, to reflect his character growth over the years, but when I load up a game and the whole team is one different version of Bruce Campbell, it’s a reminder that this franchise doesn’t really have a lot of characters and isn’t as suited to a game like this as other series.
At least no matter who you play with, the XP system is welcoming. There is both Character XP and Account XP, and you can spend the latter on any character you choose. This is very useful, as it means that even if your favorite survivor is claimed by another player for a turn, you can end the match and commit your XP account to your favorite character. Alternatively, you can min-max one hero or villain at a time and double down by shifting all XP gains into a single character.
XP rewards are slow and take a long time to max out even a single character, but like the aforementioned demon cooldowns, this is an issue that could presumably be fixed with a base patch. It’s by no means revolutionary, but in its current state it certainly needs some work.
Evil Dead: The Game is faithful, but sometimes at fault. If there were more game modes or even more varied objectives in its one engaging game mode, it would feel more like a game for horror fans to play for a long time, maybe even displacing competitors like Dead By Daylight or Hunt Showdown from their vaunted pedestals. As it stands at launch, Evil Dead only achieves anything good enough when played with a tight-knit group of Evil Dead fans. Fans of general horror or co-op can get some benefit from this, but Ash and his boomstick burst into a crowded field of competitors and can’t quite overcome the horde of similar games already out there.