Shaun Munro reviews Evil Dead: The Game…
Asymmetric survival horror games Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th: The Game may have been rough around the edges – very rough, in the latter’s case – but each nevertheless creatively adapted classic horror movie IP to a medium they’ve traditionally struggled with. And now we have Evil Dead: The Game from Saber Interactive (World War Z), which while not without its own share of jank is a largely successful translation of Sam Raimi’s gonzo campy horror franchise.
In a similar vein to its spiritual forebears, the gameplay loop pits four survivors – consisting of classic Evil Dead characters such as Ash, his sister Cheryl, and Ash vs. Evil Dead’s Kelly and Pablo – against one player who commands the demons. The tutorial, which is sensibly mandatory before going online, walks you through the basic beats.
The survivors must complete a five-part ritual which involves collecting three pieces of a map randomly scattered around the game world, finding the Necronomicon and Kandarian Dagger, then using both to banish the Dark Ones, and finally protecting the Necronomicon from an impending demonic assault. Survivors will have to fend off fleets of deadites while completing these steps, combining their might, smarts, and unique character abilities.
In a clever effort to encourage players to stick together, each has a fear meter which rises when they’re alone or in the dark. This can be counter-acted by staying in a group, using your flashlight, or if that runs out, finding a well-lit area or lighting a fire.
The result is a challenging experience where you shouldn’t expect to win often, especially if playing with randoms where your mileage will unavoidably vary (you can play with AIs if you really want, but won’t earn any progression). Thankfully being downed isn’t the end, though; other players can revive you for a limited time, and even if you die “for real,” they can take your soul to an altar for resurrection. Yet when you do eventually win, the satisfaction is palpable.
As a demon, then, there’s an almost overwhelming number of options at your disposal; you’re able to set “scare traps” for the survivors that’ll make their fear meters skyrocket and let you possess them, set deadites on them, and build your demon level high enough to unleash powerful bosses before they can complete the ritual.
It’s a simple loop with most rounds lasting 15-30 minutes, depending on your team. It may seem fairly basic but is rendered more meaningful through a solid progression system; each character has their own skill tree, allowing you to power up and create more potent builds. It’ll be interesting in the weeks to come to observe whether the progression affects the game’s balancing much. Though the demons have their own skill trees, one suspects most players are spending far more of their time as the survivors.
In an attempt at “added value” there is also a single-player component, with five inspired-by-the-movies missions to play through, though they’re ultimately rather low-effort, bite-sized quests blatantly adapted from the multiplayer portion.
Their solo nature also makes some of them incredibly difficult, which wouldn’t be a problem if not that fan favourite character Pablo is locked behind one of the missions. It feels like a short-sighted decision given that casual-minded players will likely bounce off this meagre campaign offering relatively quickly. And so, if you were interested in the game solely for its single-player suite, it’s not nearly substantial enough to make this a worthwhile purchase.
Like Friday the 13th: The Game this isn’t the most technically finessed thing you’ll ever play; combat feels loose in a way that can’t entirely be excused by the survivors’ fear. You may miss melee attacks far more than you deem reasonable, while shooting is incredibly floaty, and let’s not even get started on the straight-up janky controls for driving cars around the map.
There are also camera issues in some of the more confined interiors, the UI doesn’t feel massively intuitive, and there are ongoing problems with resolution on PC. To play in 4K I had to change to windowed mode and drop Windows’ resolution scaling down to 100%; a mildly annoying wrinkle that’s been reported by many players on launch.
And yet there’s a chest-beating charm dripping from this game that makes it compulsively replayable all the same. It impressively captures the go-for-broke tone of the movies and TV show, and doesn’t remotely feel like a cheap, loveless cash-in on a classic IP. Fans are sure to smile at the many Easter eggs peppered throughout – most obviously the wink-wink names of the various areas of the map, and of course the health-regenerating Shemp’s Cola.
Visually Saber has also nailed the series’ aesthetic mood exceptionally well. Beyond its spot-on art direction, few needed this game to be a looker but it’s actually surprisingly handsome; dynamic weather looks great and moonlight seeping through jagged branches casts some legitimately gorgeous ambient light. Matching the visuals is a solid aural package, particularly the fantastic voice acting from Bruce Campbell and Dana DeLorenzo.
Overall there’s certainly room for improvement – adding players’ names above their heads, an FOV slider, and host migration options would all be nice – but Evil Dead: The Game is still a mightily fun experience right out of the gate. Multiplayer matchmaking has been mostly quick and easy on launch weekend bar a few hiccups, and so hopefully between the crossplay functionality and enticing progression options, it’s a game that’ll manage to survive long-term.
If you can accept its unvarnished edges, Evil Dead: The Game is a fiendishly addictive asymmetric multiplayer game, crafted with a clear love for Sam Raimi’s iconic horror franchise.
+ Addictive multiplayer loop with meaningful progression.
+ Captures the tone of the Evil Dead movies extremely well.
+ Crisp graphics and faithful art style.
+ Dynamic sound design and terrific voice acting.
– Single-player feels like an afterthought.
– Gameplay contains a fair amount of jank.
– Locking characters behind campaign missions.
– UI could be better.
Reviewed on PC (also available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch at a later date).
A review code was provided by the publisher.