When speaking of cult classics, the Evil Dead franchise has one of the strongest fanbases around. Since its humble beginnings, the franchise has managed to attract numerous fans with more only being added in the last decade. Starting out in 1981 by Sam Raimi, the series was your typical B-horror movie. In the years since, it has gone through two sequels, a remake in 2013, a TV series, and even comic books. Of course, this also includes Evil Dead: The Game too!
Not only did this franchise kickstart Bruce Campbell’s career, but it also brought in the popularity of chainsaws and shotguns in horror movies and even video games. Seriously, look at Doom and say that isn’t true.
The question for many has been: why not make a video game based on this great movie franchise?
To be fair, there have been multiple attempts to bring Ash Williams into the gaming world. Many were given mediocre or bad reviews and really didn’t seem to capture that combination of action comedy and horror that fans wanted. However, Evil Dead: The Game may finally have done our favorite protagonist justice.
What Kind Of Game Is This?
Developed by Sabre Interactive, Evil Dead: The Game is an asymmetric survival horror co-op game that plays similar to games like Dead by Daylight and Left 4 Dead. The cast of characters ranges from multiple movies and the STARZ series of both characters and survivors.
One group of players is the survivors, trying to survive and find the infamous Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Then one player takes control of the evil entity to summon demons and traps to prevent the survivors from succeeding.
The gameplay hinges on being a combination between a hack and slash and a third-person shooter. Though it really limits the use of resources and supplies to keep players on their toes. At its current state, it will be clear that the game is lacking certain content that should be present.
You can certainly see what the developers are going for and why this tops some of the other games before it.
What Was Ash Like Before This?
The first game was Evil Dead: Hail To The King, released for Playstation and Dreamcast in 2000. Taking place after Army of Darkness, Ash returns to Knowby Cabin with his new girlfriend only to unleash the Evil Spirit once more.
The game itself was made with the same tank controls as the original Resident Evil games. However, this decision didn’t translate well with the type of game it was going for. While it’s survival horror by genre, the game feels more like hack and slash. Enemies popped up constantly and you never had enough resources.
The Second Time Was Much Better
Then later in 2002, Evil Dead: Fistful of Boomstick came out for the Playstation 2 and Xbox as a sequel to Hail to the King. Ash ends up having to deal with the Necronomicon once more after Dr. Eldrich played the tape and starts creating time rips all over the world.
This was a huge change and turned into a more traditional third-person shooter, making combat feel smooth and responsive as it should have been. The weapons had actual weight and impact when using them and it wasn’t a frustrating Resident Evil clone.
Third Time Was a Stumble
Finally, there was Evil Dead: Regeneration, released again for the PS2 and Xbox in 2005 by Cranky Pants Games. It separates itself from the first two games, taking place in an alternate timeline where the events of Army of Darkness never existed.
In this story, Ash is escaping from an insane asylum after an evil doctor reads from the book. He’s guided by Professor Knowby and a new deadite character, Sam, to save the world. You can see a pattern here, right?
As for gameplay, the best way to put it is that it’s a Devil May Cry clone, but not in a good way. First off, there is infinite ammo for your guns. That may not sound that big of a deal until you realize that the combo system is not that great and enemies spawn endlessly.
There’s a lack of challenge while also being very frustrating. Finally, you have mind-numbing escort quests that repeat multiple times through each level. Just the fact it disregards Army of Darkness is a big slap to the face.
As expected, Ash Williams is a playable character in this game. However, you get not one, not two, but four different versions of Ash to play as! It’s crazy to have this many options, but the more the merrier. Other characters are people that were either part of the movies or the show.
Cheryl from The Evil Dead is present. Pablo and Kelly from Ash vs. Evil Dead are also involved. Even Lord Arthur and Henry from Army of Darkness appear, along with many others.
Each playable character has its own role and abilities that can be put to good use. Leaders have well-rounded stats and abilities to buff their party. Warriors are great in melee combat, Hunters are great at ranged combat, and Support can heal teammates or remove negative effects.
The role of the survivors is to gather map pieces that will lead to the locations of the Necronomicon’s pages and Kandarian Dagger. Both of these are needed for banishing the “Dark Ones” who are guarding the book. Many deadites and traps will be placed to keep the survivors from accomplishing their tasks. This means teamwork and item management are vital.
On the flip side, say you want a change of pace, there’s the option to play as the “Evil Spirit” that was released by the Necronomicon. Even though you will be going alone from there, you have a large Army of the Undead and some tricks at your disposal.
There are three armies that you can control, which also have their own special abilities and perks. The Warlords are your basic deadites who have been iconic throughout the series. They can buff their units to increase damage and reduce any damage they receive.
On top of this, you also have the Puppeteers, who take the form of Eligos from Ash vs. Evil Dead. They are great at possessions and increasing the fear of survivors. Finally, you have the Necromancer, being led by Evil Ash and the Army of Darkness. It’s not only able to take more damage but also can summon a flutist that can buff the people around them so long as the music keeps playing.
The gameplay with Evil is very different for two main reasons. First, the perspective is first-person rather than third-person, giving you a look at what it’s like being the demonic force that haunted Ash and his friends in the forest. You can use your dark powers to summon more deadites, possess creatures or survivors for a brief time, set up traps, and induce jumpscares.
Second, this is more of a tactical style of gameplay, making you have to plan your attack accordingly and successfully. You might be able to summon a boss character, but you may need more grunts and elites to keep the players busy.
Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart
Regardless of which team you’re playing as there is a lot to contend with when actually playing the game. Each survivor has their own preference and talents making them better in what they do. Some prefer melee weapons, others ranged, and then some are in between or more healers than fighters.
There’s a variety of weapons with their own stats as well, each color-coded to their rarity. The game has a variety of pistols, shotguns, rifles, crossbows, and more. You even have access to a blunderbuss and saw-gun. On the melee side of things, there are knives, axes, hammers, spears, swords, and chainsaws.
Weapons and items can be found scattered around the map, as well as crates that hold rare weapons and Pink Fs. These can be used to improve your character’s stats during the match, having a bit of a roleplaying game mechanic built into the gameplay. Each weapon can be used to increase health and shields and even improve combat stats.
After every game, you rack up experience points that can be used to level up your character’s abilities. This can give you improved combat, carry extra items, or even add new buffs to you and your party. It does take a while to get to that point since you have to play multiple times, but it does feel like a natural progression.
Early Issues To Go Over
Let’s just get all of the negative issues out of the way. Since it is a pretty early release, there might be some improvements down the road.
Maps can usually have you going to the same place over and over with minor weather changes. It feels like there should be more, but there isn’t. The same goes for choices of enemies, with only three armies to choose from. Considering how many monsters there are in the series, you’d expect there to be more.
Cars are available to survivors, though they might as well be tubs of butter. The controls are so stiff and going off-road with them is a horrible idea.
Melee combat feels awkward at times with the game’s subpar combo system. Lock-on and parrying are nonexistent, meaning your only strategy is to hit and dodge at the right time. However, dodging costs stamina which means you can’t dodge forever. Shooting feels pretty solid for the most part, though some enemies can take bullets better than others.
Finally, the progression and online play are a bit poor. You can only progress and earn experience points through online play. Even though there’s an option to play solo and against bots, you won’t get any experience.
Cheaters Already on The Scene
The icing on this cake is that there have been multiple reports of PC gamers hacking into the game to gain an unfair advantage. There hasn’t been much to fix this yet, as it seems like this was expected. The only solution to this so far is to turn off crossplay if you are on consoles. As for PC players, the only option they have is to be careful who they play with.
Cheating and using trainers is very frowned upon in multiplayer games, causing many to quit very easily. Hopefully, the developers will find a way to patch this up so that it’s a more enjoyable experience.
Doing Great In All the Right Places
Now that we got all the bad stuff out of the way, let’s get to what this game does right. The technical graphics look pretty decent feeling as close to the movies as they can get. All the characters, the settings, and the voice work feel like great attention to detail.
There are also some single-player missions that are available that feel like their own mini-campaign. They are difficult for sure but also a great way to unlock characters and extra content. Definitely, a good way to get characters as opposed to hiding them behind a paywall.
The controls are very easy to get into making this easy for anyone to pick up and play. The game is even generous enough to give you refreshers on what you learned in the tutorials to keep you from forgetting. Although it’s survival horror by design, Evil Dead: The Game really feels like a pretty solid third-person shooter.
Just the idea of taking on an army of demons with your friends really feels fulfilling.
What Could Make This Even Better?
Looking back on this game, it is easy to write it off as a bare-bones game at times. After all, the Left 4 Dead and World War Z games are thought to have much more addicting gameplay and a variety of characters and locations to play. The developers are still adding new content to the game, with talk of DLC in the near future.
Let’s hope they really hold up to their promise.
The roster for the survivors is pretty good so far, but adding in more demon characters to operate would really benefit those who want to play as the deadites. Callbacks to some of the older games like A Fistful of Boomstick or Hail to the King would be neat as well.
Although those two games would really benefit from a remake. Still, some more fanservice to the series never hurt anyone. Improving the controls and fixing the bugs would also be a huge way to improve the game. Driving feels so clunky, it’s almost like ice skating and combat is a bit of a mixed bag.
Ultimately, Evil Dead: The Game is a very fun time when everything clicks. If you have friends that could join you, it makes the game that much better. That said, rev up your chainsaws, load up your boomsticks, and come get some.