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Evil Dead: The Game Review

Evil Dead: The Game

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Release: / 2022/May 13
Publisher: Saber Interactive
Developer: Saber Interactive
Genre: PS5 Reviews, ReviewsXBox One ReviewsXbox Series X Reviews
PEGI: 18+
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There have been a few attempts at Evil Dead games over the last few decades and as many asynchronous horror-related multiplayer games too. The stakes are high with the originally-named Evil Dead: The Game.

Luckily, it’s an incredible time. It captures the feel of the films while also providing an enjoyable gameplay loop. Neither of those things were guaranteed.

That doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect game by any means. This close to launch, there are a handful of issues that need ironing out. And that’s before you even get to the ever-present problem of playing with randoms.

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But if you’ve ever fancied strapping a chainsaw to your stump and cutting down endless monsters, this is an awesome approximation. Hail to the king, baby.

Reviving The Evil Dead

If you’re an Evil Dead fan, the best thing about it is how well represented the entire franchise is. Rights issues plague bits of the franchise almost as much as the deadites, and yet here is a game that brings absolutely everything together. That runs from the original film right through to Ash Vs The Evil Dead.

Characters from across each era make an appearance and, naturally, you have your choices of Bruce Campbell’s Ash to pick from too. Most have multiple costumes, although some are locked behind a paywall. It’s never a nice experience to buy a game, try to change costume and be sent to the store.

The feel of the world is just right too. A little bit creepy, a little bit kooky – it’s the Addam’s Family with geysers of blood. You’ll laugh, you’ll jump out of your skin, you’ll kill demons. What’s not to like?

And actually, the atmosphere sometimes does a lot of heavy lifting. Evil Dead is your standard asynchronous horror game. A team of survivors must arm themselves with the best weapons they can find while seeking out a map. The map leads to two items needed to destroy the big bad. The big bad is destroyed. Rinse and repeat.

Meanwhile, another player is trying to halt your progress using a series of supernatural powers to scare and ultimately kill you.

Along the way, you’ll level up your skills and kill plenty of demons. And it feels pretty amazing.

Cabin in the Woods

This is naturally a review of the game as it stands at four-days-old. Online games are famously changeable, and there are parts of the game, such as the leveling system, that I feel could have long-term implications that I just can’t fully critique yet. There are still unknowns.

So first and foremost, all the problems you can imagine from this kind of game still exist here. Playing online with strangers is a chore. Even if my wife and I team up for a game, the other half of the team will almost definitely want to go and do their own thing. And that means the demon will destroy us. Every single time.

The randomness of each level may be a joy for some, but can also be pretty annoying. There will be times where you’re approaching the final boss without really levelling up your skills and without decent weapons, just because. This ties a little bit into the above, because bad players want to rush. But it’s also down to the locations of the map pieces, the dagger and the Necronomicon pages. Sometimes where you have to go just doesn’t have the stuff you need. And that goes doubly true for ammo. You can gain ammo by doing finishers or finding it just lying around, and there will be times where that just won’t happen.

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But these aren’t necessarily problems with the game itself, more baked in by design. It’s not made to play with randoms, and it’s made to be played by players who care enough to search out what they need. And on both those counts it is excellent. Under perfect conditions, it’s a blast. Even without, you’ll still have a good time.

As much fun as the game is, it’s still buggy. Usually not in a game-breaking way, but in a way that’ll make all your friends comment. For example, one of our party was marked as “needing revival” despite the fact he was running around doing just fine. Minor but annoying things like that are not uncommon.

Digging the Demon

If you don’t fancy playing with randoms, you can also jump into the demon mode. This is like a completely different game.

You fly around the map, picking up energy, laying traps, summoning monsters and possessing humans in the hopes of stopping them from completing the level. This is harder than it sounds.

But in all that strategy, there’s still an awful lot of fun to be had. And it replicates what you would expect from the Evil Dead monsters really well – complete with floaty POV camera angles. It’s a joy to play, although don’t be hurt if even the shakiest teams hold off for most, if not all the map. It takes some getting used to.

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All this creates an interesting game of two halves that it’ll take a lot to master. You can level up your characters and demons to have a higher advantage, and I wonder how this will impact on new players going forward. Already, since Friday, I’ve seen skill levels rise rapidly among more hardened players. How is that going to be in six months time? How about in a year?

This wouldn’t be a problem if it was free-to-play but as sales drop off, it may become harder to be a new Evil Dead player. The developer’s efforts at balance will be put to the test, and I hope they come out looking good.

If online isn’t your thing, there’s not a lot of reasons to buy Evil Dead: The Game. You can play the online mode against the AI, which is fair enough but not exactly the experience as it should be. Or there are missions, which are basically just slices of online play, played offline, with story cards separating objectives. It’s fine, but not a replacement for a full-on single-player experience.  It would have been nice to see more.

Graphics and Sound

This is a well-designed game, and at times it looks amazing. But it’s probably not the thing you’re going to chuck on to show off your new OLED.

Areas look good, but tight, and dark. Unsurprisingly you’re faced with open fields, woods or abandoned mansions, treehouses or cabins. And the graphics do all of this justice. While online, too, which is a nice surprise.

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Character models are great, especially considering we know the characters so well. In that regard, the sound is pretty great as well. Along with Bruce Campbell playing the various incarnations of Ash, most of the cast of the original Evil Dead return. The two co-stars of Ash Vs The Evil Dead make a welcome return as well. It’s great that such attention to detail has been put into place and, actually, that’s where this game shines overall. It has been made by people who seem to love the franchise, and as fans we totally appreciate that.

Sound effects are brilliantly visceral. Music is hit and miss. It does the job, but that tricky element of randomness means you’re sometimes getting overhyped for nothing. Whatever triggered the scary music comes and goes, and you’re left with a terrifying soundtrack to just looting boxes. What’s there is fine.

Evil Dead: The Game Review – Conclusion

Evil Dead: The Game is brilliant. It is not perfect. Mileage is going to vary. And, more than that, the long-term impact is interesting.

But right now, it is hard not to recommend this. If you enjoy online games and you enjoy the Evil Dead, you will enjoy this. Gather some friends and get ready for a hell of an experience.

I have questions about where we go from here. Those questions may put off potential buyers. That said, there is no better time to jump in than now.

This is a love letter to a cult classic – and the best example of an Evil Dead video game. That, in some ways, is enough.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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