I am a huge, massive Evil Dead fan. I even did an Evil Dead game retrospective last year. I ended that article mentioning this game and saying how I’ve actually had a review code request in for quite some time. Well, I got a review code and this is that review. From developer Saber Interactive and publisher Boss Team Games comes Evil Dead: The Game… a game based on Evil Dead.
“Step into the shoes of Ash Williams or his friends from the iconic Evil Dead franchise and work together in a game loaded with over-the-top co-op and PVP multiplayer action! Play as a team of four survivors, exploring, looting, managing your fear, and finding key items to seal the breach between worlds in a game inspired by all three original Evil Dead films as well as the STARZ original Ash vs Evil Dead television series.”
So yeah, this is a game that I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while. However, Evil Dead: The Game is of a genre that I don’t have a particular fondness for. This is one of those asymmetrical multiplayer titles. Think something along the lines of Dead by Daylight or Friday the 13th: The Game. You know the kind of thing, you team up with some friends (or strangers) and go up against another player on the opposing side to do battle, in what is basically a good vs evil fight to win.
With Evil Dead: The Game the two playable sides are the Kandarian demon and of course, the survivors and the game uses characters and assets from all three of the Evil Dead films, as well as the Ash vs Evil Dead TV show.
So then, this is how the basics of the game work. Playing as the survivors, you have to first find three pieces of a map. Once completed, that map will reveal the location of pages from the Necronomicon and the Kandarian dagger, from the films. Here, as the survivors, you have to collect those pages and dagger in a ‘King of the HIll’ type mechanic. You have to stay within range of the pages/dagger while Deadites continually attack you for a set amount of time. Then, once you have both the pages and the dagger secured, you can take on the Dark Ones who are guarding the Necronomicon. Once they are dealt with, you then have to destroy the Necronomicon itself to win the game. All while Deadites attack.
Playing as the survivors, you have a fairly decent sized map to explore. Buildings to search for loot, outside areas to discover, driveable cars and more. Weapons and items are out there to find but getting to them can be hindered by the many Deadites that you will face. There is also a fear mechanic. Here, the longer you stay in the dark and are attacked, the more your fear will increase. When your fear is too high, you become an easier target for the Kandarian demon and Deadites. Staying in well-lit areas will cause that fear bar to drop, you can even light fires in certain spots… as long as you have some matches. There’s a healing item called Shemp Cola (reference) to top up your health. With the numerous weapons, you have your basic common to legendary type grading. So getting the best weapons really does require some searching and luck. All of this is done against the clock and you have to destroy the Necronomicon before dawn, which is a 30-minute per-round playtime.
Then, if you play as the Kandarian demon, the basic idea is to stop the survivors from completing their mission. Here, you control ‘the force’ that you see (well, don’t see) in the films and yes, you can fly around the place just like in the movies. It’s really satisfying too. Anyway, as the demon, you can summon and possess Deadites using Infernal Orbs, which can be collected on the map to top up your meter. Every time you summon and/or possess a Deadite, you use up some of that Infernal Orbs meter, so you’ll need to keep topping it up. You also have a few other demonic tricks up your sleeve. You can lay traps, such as hide Ash’s possessed hand from Evil Dead II or the mini-Ashes from Army of Darkness in loot boxes. See, these loot boxes are all over the map and the survivors can open them to find new weapons and items. But if they open one that has been trapped, they will end up being attacked instead of getting some loot. As the demon, you can also possess the tress in the game (just like in the first film… but no tree rape here) and take over the cars that the survivors can use to get around. Plus, if the fear level of a survivor is high enough, you can possess them too.
Both sides, survivors and demons, have their various strengths and weakness. Both have multiple characters to play as, with different roles to perform. With the survivors, you have leader, warrior, hunter and support classes and each class has its own unique special ability. Win games, earn XP, level up and unlock new skills via a skill tree, costumes and so on. Evil Dead: The Game really is a bog-standard asymmetrical multiplayer game. It does offer a little variety with how you go about winning the game but really, it doesn’t do anything that has not already been done before… many times over too. See, this is my issue with this sub-genre of games. There really is very little here in terms of interesting gameplay mechanics. That is not necessarily a bad thing, if you are a fan of these types of games, then you’ll feel right at home here with Evil Dead: The Game.
So yeah, this is a very typical PvP/co-op multiplayer experience. However, Evil Dead: The Game does feature some single-player content too. Just in case you don’t feel like putting up with idiotic 14-year-olds continually calling your mom ‘fat’, while ignoring the objective of the game and screaming down the mic. You can play the standard multiplayer mode but solo and using AI for the other characters. This is actually a great way to play to get used to everything before you do decide to go online. However, you can’t earn XP here. So you can’t level up and unlock new skills and so on. But the best piece of single-player content comes in the form of missions. There are six missions here (technically five with the sixth coming soon), only is one unlocked at the start though. What you do in these missions is recreate moments from the films and TV show but with a few added twists.
For instance, the first mission has you playing as Evil Dead II’s Ash and having to deal with his girlfriend, Linda. The action picks up post her being possessed and Ash cutting off her head and burying her, as in the film. You have to leave the cabin and find Linda’s necklace, while being attacked by Deadites, of course. Much like the multiplayer aspect, you can search the map for loot, weapons and items. Unlike the multiplayer aspect, there is no time limit, so you can go as slow or fast as you like. Anyway, once you find Linda’s necklace, you then have to find a shovel so you can dig up her buried head. You then take the head to the workshed and deal with it once and for all, just like in Evil Dead II. See, these single-player missions kind of follow events of the films and TV show but they also add several other issues with you to deal with along the way to mix things up and add to the gameplay.
Play through these missions, unlock more missions, characters and other bonuses. Apparently, there will be even more single-player missions added later via DLC too. I actually had a lot of fun with this part of the game. It’s not exactly a full-on single-player Evil Dead gaming experience. But it is a great little mode to play if you get a bit bored (or annoyed) with the multiplayer part though.
If there is one thing that Evil Dead: The Game does really damn well, that thing is the use of the licence. As an Evil Dead fan, I was giddy with excitement over just how much Saber Interactive has crammed into the game for fans like me. Things like being able to play as any version of Ash from the very first film, right up to the TV show. Then you have numerous supporting characters too. You can play as Ash’s sister, Cheryl. Perhaps you’ll favour Annie Knowbury, Lord Arthur, Kelly Maxwell or even the ‘powerful vagina’ that is Pablo, just to name a few. The demons and Deadites even have their own playable character list. Of course, you’ve got to have Evil Ash but you also have Henrietta, the skeletons from Army of Darkness, those Eligos demons from Ash Vs Evil Dead and plenty more. Oh and all of the characters are fully voiced by the original actors too. So yeah, there are plenty of trademark Bruce Campbell one-liners for you to enjoy.
Outside of the characters, Evil Dead: The Game gives you some recognisable locations. There is only one map in the game (another map, Castle Kandar, will be added via DLC for free later) and that map is the woods, inspired by the first film. It is a fairly decent sized map with several locations to explore. Yeah, you’ve got rundown cabins but you can also find places inspired by the films and TV show along the way. There are so many nods and references to the entire Evil Dead franchise (sans the 2013 remake) that even the biggest fan, like me, can’t help but smile. What could’ve been a lazy and cheap cash-in is actually a wonderful love letter to fans of the franchise. Saber Interactive really have done an amazing job of making everything look and feel very, very Evil Dead. I raise my chainsaw to them in respect.
Speaking of which, in terms of graphics, Evil Dead: The Game is really quite stunning to look at. I’ve been playing on the Xbox Series X and it does look glorious. The detailed character models look great. Each of the different Ash characters from the franchise really does look like they have fallen right out of the films, from young Ash in The Evil Dead to older and ‘wiser’ Ash from the Ash Vs Evil Dead TV show. The environments are equally as gorgeous too and the woods do look very ‘Sam Raimi’, as the moonlight cuts through the tress. The map comes with a variety of weather, it can rain, snow or it can just be a nice and Deadite filled evening as the sun rises on the horizon.
So then, time to pass judgement on Evil Dead: The Game and ponder if it is worth the asking price. Coming in two flavours, a standard version priced at around £34 or a deluxe edition at £50. The deluxe edition gets you two extra Ash character skins and Season Pass 1 (how many season passes they will be, I don’t know) that will give you four future DLCs. As I have already confessed to not being a fan of this genre of game, £50 for the deluxe edition sounds rather high to me. Bearing in mind that you do only get one map here… even with the deluxe edition. The two skins are hardly worth it and the future DLC hasn’t been announced yet either. It could be crap for all we know. In terms of the deluxe edition, I say avoid it, even as a big Evil Dead fan. Or just wait for it to drop in price in a few months.
As for the base game with its £34 price tag. That does seem more ‘reasonable’ and if you do enjoy these asymmetrical multiplayer titles (I don’t), then I think you should go for this version. As long as the devs do keep their word with the adding of the Castle Kandar map for free. Which does bring me to another point…
I do think that, even though the only map here is a decent enough size… it is still only one map and you could get a bit tired of it pretty damn fast. What do the devs have planned for the future and if the Castle Kandar map is going to be free, as suggested, does that mean other maps won’t? See, just the one map, with the possibility of having to buy more, is off-putting for the price you are paying for the game. Having titles offer more maps via DLC is okay and all, but not when you’re charging £34 for the base game with only one map, to begin with. So yeah, I’m a bit wary of what is going to happen with the game moving forwards.
If the business model for this game is paid for maps, then I think that the base game should be free, or at least a lot cheaper than it is. Or the base game should contain multiple maps and game modes from the start, not the one you do get and the possibility of another sometime in the future. It’s all a bit cloudy right now as to what the plan is for this game. So perhaps, you may want to wait to pull the trigger on your boomstick for this one until that plan is a bit clearer (and the price drops). Because, when you think about it, you’re being expected to pay £34 (standard edition) for a multiplayer title with one map and only one game mode (demon vs survivors) right now. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, for a multiplayer-centric game like this, that’s not a lot of content, is it?
The single-player missions really are great fun though, but they are short-lived and are more of a nice bonus over dedicated single-player content. They also feel massively unbalanced right now, as if the devs just used the same difficulty setting as if you were playing the four-player co-op mode… but in single-player. I mean, this is a multiplayer game first and foremost, with a bit of single-player content tacked on. So I didn’t think I could recommend this if you only want a single-player Evil Dead experience.
Still, Evil Dead: The Game is a decent entry to the PvP/co-op multiplayer genre, it is fully cross-platform play too, so you should find a game with ease and can play with anyone regardless of system. The Evil Dead licence is the icing on the cake that has been handled very well indeed. I’d even say that this is, by far, the best use of the IP in a game. The issue is that, just because you are an Evil Dead fan, that doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the game. But fans of the asymmetrical multiplayer genre will definitely get a kick out of this, Evil Dead fans or not. If you’re a fan of both, then you’re in for a good time. But I really don’t think the game is worth the asking price right now. I guess you’ll have to ask yourself if the coin is really worth the single map and the one game mode that you do get?
I personally can’t recommend that you buy this one… at least not yet. And it pains me to say this too because, there is nothing wrong with the game on a base level. It plays perfectly fine and all, the Evil Dead IP is utilised brilliantly and this has clearly really been a real passion project from Saber Interactive. But I don’t think we gamers should be buying incomplete games, with the possibility that it’ll get better or have more content later. Because, what if that future content isn’t good, what if it never comes? Remember Friday the 13th The Game? That had a load of content planned that never came because of a legal wrangling. I have to review this game on what it is now and not what it could possibly be in the future. In a year’s time Evil Dead: The Game could be one of the best multiplayer titles around. Right now though? It’s pretty far from that.
What you get here with Evil Dead: The Game is a really, really, really promising demo of what could be if it had more maps and game modes to play, which it really should’ve had at launch. So my advice, just wait a while. But by then though, would the player-base have dropped off as they got bored playing the same one map and same one game mode over and over? I’ve been playing over the weekend and I’m bored already.
I played the Beta of this a few weeks back and I got sent the deluxe edition for this review. It still feels like I’m playing the Beta though. I spent several minutes looking around on the main menu for where the rest of the game was, trying to work how why the version I was sent was deluxe, but there was nothing. The game even had multiple server issues when trying to connect to a game or even when in a game. Evil Dead: The Game just does not feel like it has been finished yet (despite the delays), as if we are being used as testers. This certainly is not a £34 (or £50 for the deluxe edition) game, not even close. It is, as I said, a really promising demo for what could be.
Just to finish, review code for this was not sent out until release day. This is usually a bit of a tactic that publishers use to keep collateral damage down to a minimum, to avoid negative reviews. As people would’ve already purchased the game before the reviews hit the Internet. Just before I pressed publish on this, I thought I’d look around for other reviews. I couldn’t find any of note except for a couple of ‘reviews in progress’ things. Plus, this game was released on Friday and a lot of reviewers don’t work weekends. I’ll let you make of that what you will.
Anyway, now that I have reviewed this game, I have now covered every (official) Evil Dead game ever!