Just as Sam Raimi makes his long-awaited return to cinemas with Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the cult classic Evil Dead films that made him a household name amongst horror fans have been resurrected in gaming form. It’s fortunate timing – despite ironically having suffered multiple delays on the path to release.
It’s far from the series’ first licensed video game adaptation, which included several action platformers and even a tank-control Resident Evil clone, back when those were a thing. But Evil Dead: The Game is the first to see all the films (and the Ash vs Evil Dead TV show) brought together as one gory package.
Not that this is a story-based game that just re-enacts the events from the big and small screens. Instead, it sets out to carve (or chainsaw) a piece of the horror multiplayer space that’s become popular with the likes of Dead By Daylight – which incidentally includes Evil Dead DLC.
Do the results have us shouting ‘Hail to the king, baby’ or is it a deadite on arrival?
Do the monster mash-up
Evil Dead: The Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer survival horror, with a 1 vs 4 set-up that’ll definitely have you thinking of Dead By Daylight. It also takes inspiration from the classic Left 4 Dead, as you’re not just helpless survivors trying to escape the clutches of a serial killer. Instead you’re banding together to defeat the forces of evil with whatever melee or ranged weapon you can get hold of, or dying trying.
Each 30-minute match follows the same structure. Played in third person, four survivors are tasked with locating three pieces of a map, which reveals where to find the pages of the Necronomicon and the Kandarian Dagger required to defeat the Dark Ones and destroy the book of the dead once and for all (or at least until you queue up for another match).
A fifth player will be making their lives hell by embodying evil incarnate, playing mostly in first-person god mode (well, demon mode) but occasionally switching to third-person to take direct control of a deadite, or even possessing a member of the other team to wreak havoc.
Playing the evil side is devilishly satisfying, especially as you grow more powerful the longer the match goes on. The survivors are required to find better supplies in order to stand a chance, although they have quite a few second chances, like being revived in a bleed-out state, or having their soul resurrected by another player after death. Naturally teamwork is paramount, so matching up with random players who don’t communicate becomes a huge handicap.
Fortunately, new players getting to grips with the mechanics can also play solo against AI bots, which is a lot more manageable than a sadistic human player. That said, your AI companions are an even greater liability, which can quickly get frustrating.
Evil Dead: The Game isn’t especially scary, but is certainly very gory, living up to the schlocky violence of the films. It looks disgustingly beautiful on current-gen platforms. Even if you don’t get the willies, the survivor characters will: fear has its own gauge you have to try to keep control of, ideally by sticking together as a team but also by staying in well-lit areas, or carrying matchsticks to activate temporary light sources.
If your fear gauge gets too high, it restricts your in-game vision, and makes your location known to the demon player, who can then stalk you from the shadows and create even more traps to catch you out.
Think creating portals that send in more deadites or bringing trees to life. One delicious move takes time to charge, but once unleashed sends the demon flying into a survivor for an effective onscreen jump scare.
Players with high fear levels are also more susceptible to being possessed. The demon player can then use them to attack other players, waste precious ammo, or lure the possessed player in a random direction.
While ruining someone else’s day is all part of the fun, some annoying control issues and janky close-quarters combat animations make things a little unfair on the survivors. A vaulting mechanic is meant for hopping over fences, but it won’t let you get over other environments that are barely knee-high. Less fear, more frustrating.
Hail to the kings
There’s a decent character roster, all based on ones from the original films and TV series, and comprising different classes with unique abilities such as leader, warrior or support. With four versions of Ash (five, if you count Evil Ash on the demon’s side) you won’t have to fight over who gets to play the hero. Each one takes on a different class, and all are voiced by Bruce Campbell himself.
Solo content is limited to a series of missions, which have scenarios based on plot points from the films and TV show. This isn’t just great fanservice, but also unlocks new content for the multiplayer mode, like new playable characters. Since you’re facing these on your lonesome, with no-one to revive you, they pose more of a challenge – but the handful of missions on offer aren’t enough to justify a purchase for anyone with no interest in multiplayer.
That’s Evil Dead: The Game’s biggest concern right now: whether it can sustain itself in the long run. The action at launch is limited to just one large map, so once you’ve got a handle on how the core gameplay works, all that’s left is to level up your characters in order to unlock new skills.
Like so many games right now we’re talking live service support, with Season 1 promising to freshen things up. Currently, Evil Dead: The Game‘s take on asymmetrical horror multiplayer isn’t quite distinct enough and the moment-to-moment gameplay not quite satisfying enough unless you’re a hardcore series fan.
Evil Dead: The Game verdict
This twisted twist on asymmetrical multiplayer horror is lovingly faithful to the Evil Dead’s universe and characters, and appropriately gory. It’s at its best when you’re reaping souls in the role of the sadistic demon.
But what’s here at launch is also quite limited. Unless you’re a fan of the franchise, with like-minded friends who want to actively work together, there’s more fun to be found elsewhere. If you’re a Game Pass subscriber
Back 4 Blood can scratch your horror shooter itch, and the lower-priced Dead by Daylight has the flexibility of multiple horror franchises, plus a significant head start in terms of content.
A gory online multiplayer splatfest that’ll delight Evil Dead fans – even if it’s not quite the return of the king.
Gory as hell
Faithful to the franchise
Being a menacing demon is ace
Just one map and game mode at launch
Janky combat and traversal as survivors
Playing alone with bad AI or randoms online