I can’t hide it. I absolutely love The Evil Dead. I was especially delighted when I not only discovered the TV series, Ash vs Evil Dead, but found it to be well and truly excellent. In theory the franchise fits the medium of video games perfectly , and there have been plenty of attempts over the years. But just how groovy is the latest entry?
Well, my initial reaction was one of surprise which I did not expect. This is because Evil Dead: The Game is squarely aimed at multiplayer, both co-op and PVP. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was quite looking forward to getting stuck into an immersive single player battle for survival.
To be blunt, instead, the solo experience is lacklustre. Each mission throws you into a familiar scenario from one of Ash’s past adventures. You are able to explore a fairly large open area littered with famous landmarks from the series.
Alongside the obvious dangers is your fear meter. Regularly hovering around bright lights keeps you from being possessed by demons, and you can use matchsticks you find to light the many beacons around the map. Otherwise, despite your objectives and a few other pickups the environment feels largely empty. I know it’s supposed to be desolate, but scavenging for supplies can only be entertaining for so long.
If you head straight for your objective it won’t take you much time to complete your mission. That is provided you aren’t killed of course. You can find health and amulets (which provide you with a shield), alongside varying tiers of weapons which range from common to legendary. Fending off regular deadites isn’t too tricky but if a tougher enemy turns up (and they will do so more often than you may like) it can be a tricky encounter to survive.
The frustration of getting killed is compounded by a couple of things. Firstly, there are no save points. As a result, you may have to replay a mission several times from the beginning before completing it. Secondly, the combat system is pretty basic but not particularly intuitive. Essentially, you can use a firearm or a melee weapon to attack, as well as dodge out of the way. You can also execute some pretty brutal finisher moves when a deadite is nearly dead again, which are very entertaining to pull off.
Your stamina bar is tiny though, so a short sprint or pulling off two dodge moves will deplete it. However your dodge doesn’t kick in when reloading, and unfortunately you‘ll be doing this a lot. Dodging also doesn’t guarantee you won’t be hit by an attack, mainly because enemies tend to stick to you like glue and their strike tracks you far too well. As a result, if a more powerful enemy pops up it will often take you down after a few well timed swipes. There’s no difficulty to fiddle with either, and with little flex in the combat system, surviving is a lottery. That may be what Evil Dead: The Game is aiming for, but it isn’t much fun for the player.
There are five missions in total along with a little tease to signal that more are “coming soon” (assumed via the season pass). You can pick this up as part of the deluxe edition if you wish, but it will set you back a rather steep £50.
Unfortunately, I found the single player experience to be far short of what I was hoping for. All it really had me doing was killing deadites, which sounds fun but became monotonous before too long. It was a linear, repetitive and often frustrating experience, which played second fiddle to the multiplayer and felt like an afterthought.
Thankfully, multiplayer is a lot more fun. This is because you can play as part of a team of survivors, or as a Kandarian Demon whose sole purpose is to kill the humans before they can use the necronomicon to banish it.
You can play as various characters from the franchise, each with their own passive abilities. For example, Ash from Army of Darkness has an ability that triggers an explosion to damage nearby enemies every time he loses a bar from his shield. You can also pick up bottles of “Pink F” which give you skill points that allow you to upgrade your stats. Doing so will increase your chances of winning as the match progresses.
There are numerous stages in every battle which will guarantee victory for the survivors if they are all completed. To kick off, they need to find three pieces of a map to locate the lost pages of the necronomicon. Once this has been defended, the team will move on to the Kandarian Dagger, before taking down three demons. Finally, they need to open the necronomicon and defend it from the demons to secure the win.
Survivors can communicate by using a simple command wheel as well as marking areas of interest. That’s assuming you choose the safe way to communicate and don’t want to risk voice chat with any old random person online.
In an attempt to stop the survivors, the demon can set traps, attack, summon minions and even possess players if their fear level is high enough. The really cool thing is that when playing as the demon, you move in exactly the same way as Sam Raimi’s famous swooping camera from the films. I must say, playing the baddie is always more fun, and is so in Evil Dead: The Game.
However, beyond playing both sides (or playing matches with and or against bots) there isn’t really anything else to do in Evil Dead: The Game. Both good and evil characters can be levelled up by playing multiplayer matches, and new abilities and versions will be unlocked. Unfortunately it doesn’t soften up the grind that’s needed to get there though.
Given the base title has not launched on Game Pass, and will cost you £33.49, this makes Evil Dead: The Game really expensive for what you get. It’s fair to say that it’s light on content, and the linear gameplay may wash with fans of the franchise, but will do little to win over casual gamers.
The good news is that there is plenty of fan service, given the characters and locations available to the player. Evil Dead: The Game looks and sounds brilliant, and includes new voice acting from Bruce Campbell and others. Environments from the series are really well realised, genuinely creepy and packed with effective jump scares. It’s just a shame that you spend relatively little time in a world which has clearly been created with authenticity and a great passion for the source material.
Put simply, Evil Dead: The Game feels like a missed opportunity from Saber Interactive, which is especially disappointing after the excellent World War Z. There’s frighteningly little content for the price and despite the multiplayer being good fun, overall it feels like style over substance.
Evil Dead: The Game is available from the Xbox Store