REVIEW: ‘Evil Dead: The Game’ is Just Groovy (XSX)

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Evil Dead the Game - But Why Tho

Horror and asymmetrical video games go hand-in-hand and that’s extremely true for Saber Interactive’s Evil Dead: The Game. Taking notable inspiration from the iconic franchise, Evil Dead: The Game manages to capture the horror, humor, and surprises that Deadites have come to know and love. Here, Saber Interactive brings the series’ biggest characters together against the forces of darkness. But the best part? The best final girl is back, Ash is here in all the King’s glory with a voiceover from groovy Bruce Campbell.

In addition to Ash, players get the chance to play as Kelly Maxwell, Pablo Simon Bolivar, Annie Knowby, Scotty, and Lord Arthur to name a few – with 13 survivors to unlock and play as. Like other asymmetrical horror games before it, you work as a team of four survivors to kick Deadite butt and banish the vile Kandarian Demon. Or you can wind up as the Demon yourself, using its powers of possession to stop the good guys. And let’s be real, possession is the real fun to have. You can attack other survivors, waste their ammo, separate them from the group, and some other things that are better left unspoiled.

In order to win against the demon, players must collect pages of the Necronomicon and then the Kandarian dagger and use it to defeat the Dark Ones who are protecting the Book of the Dead. You’ll have to close the portal all while fighting the Kandarian Demon and the Deadites that pop up along the way. With 13 different survivors across four different classes, there are quite a bit of ways to play the game. Each survivor has an active ability—crafting amulets that work as shields, buffing teammates, or having unlimited ammo. Plus they also have a passive ability. This allows you to mix and match team compositions for chaos or for strategy.

The four classes are Leader, Warrior, Hunter, and Support. Leaders are focused on buffing the team with their auras and come resistant to fear (a gage you definitely need to be worried about). Warriors are focused on melee combat and tanking the enemy with higher health (this was me). Hunters specialize in ranged weapon damage, carry more ammo, and have more stamina. And finally, the Support class has the ability to remove negative status effects and is able to provide more shields to help the team make it through the night. Plus, you can upgrade powers with Spirit Points which allows you to build your character’s skill tree.

That said, the good guys don’t have all the fun. If you choose to play as the Demon you can be one of three classes: Warlord, Necromance, or Puppeteer. Warlords cause direct damage to the players and can increase the damage dealt and reduce how much damage you take. Necromancers summon skeletons, which help you overwhelm the survivors. And finally, the most fun to play is the Puppeteer, which allows you to possess Evil united which allows you to reinforce their threat to the players. Once you reach Level 10 as the demon you also get the chance to unlock a boss character like Henrietta, Eligos, or even Evil Ash to come out to play with the survivors.

When it comes to level design, there is beauty in the darkness that Saber Interactive has managed to capture with the landscape design, the caves, and the buildings you can enter. Nestled in these environments are many elements of lore that work perfectly in immersing you into the world of Evil Dead. Trying to take a shortcut? Well, be careful of the trees that will knock you back. Looking for a weapon? There are more than 25 to choose from, each with its own special nods to the franchise.

Evil Dead: The Game also offers up a solid single-player experience as well with difficult missions that immerse Deadites into the world of Evil Dead. Sure you can play in a 4v1 match as a survivor or Demon (rolling into whichever one you would like by selecting the mode) but you can also play as a group of survivors against an AI Demon, play solo with an all AI party, host private matches with your friends, or play Mission, which allows you to play solo as Ash and friends in short side missions based on iconic moments in Evil Dead history, unlocking characters and The Knowby Tapes along the way. It’s here that Evil Dead: The Game thrives. It’s where the lore comes out in full force, where you get to test your grit and have the most fun. It’s also where the game’s humor taps in clearly to the world of Evil Dead in a perfect way. I mean who doesn’t want to take damage while motorboating a reanimated and bloated Henrietta Knowby?

Evil Dead the Game - But Why Tho

By crafting a vast world to fight and survive in, Saber Interactive has also kept replayability at the core. Even on single-player Missions, I had to run the multiple times to even feel like I had some sense of the landscape, and just when I did a tree would wack me out of nowhere and I’d feel lost again. The ability to play a map over and over while still discovering new elements adds to the game’s ability to keep you interested.  Plus, the game’s gore and violence nail the camp and blood that the franchise is known for. When attacking enemies, you’ll get the option to do a pretty gnarly sometimes-finisher that has different animations for different weapons, and a couple per weapon as well. While this doesn’t kill the Deadite all of the time, they are really fun to watch play out—particularly a chainsaw animation that has Ash walking off to the side after like the cool guy he is.

That said, a lot of the confusion I felt is what fueled the game’s difficulty. There are a lot of elements to take into consideration while playing, and while the bulk of my playtime was spent working through the Missions—which are hard—these elements still factor in when playing multiplayer. Balancing health, shields, and fear is a difficult dance on their own, throw in scarce resources and the management aspect adds in anxiety while playing. The hardest gauge for me to focus on continuously was the Fear Level.

While managing your meters and your supplies is important, using dodge is essential to making it through alive (as well as stealth in the multiplayer). Health never seems like enough, regardless of class making dodge essential to even surviving for a small amount of time. Additionally, with no difficulty levels what you see is what you get and the learning curve is fairly steep. That said, the game does offer up a killer tutorial and pop-ups that are seamlessly integrated into the landscape that it’s relatively easy to at least know what you’re supposed to do. Executing what you’re supposed to do on the other hand is where it gets hard. Aiming with melee or ranged can go horribly wrong and when in close quarters, it’s beyond easy to get yourself in a bing that you can’t get out of.

At first, I was beyond preoccupied with making sure I wasn’t losing health, downing Cola to keep it up, and sprinting to the next point. But then the Fear set in. Constantly rising in different levels when you encounter Deadites, light drives the fear down, combat drives it up, and in multiplayer so does venturing alone. If the Fear level gets too high so does your vulnerability, warping your screen, adding distracting noise that makes it hard to hear where enemies are, revealing your location, and letting you get possessed by the Demon. This makes it necessary to ration and use the matches you find. Lighting fires can make a large difference when facing mobs.

Evil Dead the Game - But Why Tho

The only large issue I have with the game is how ridiculously stupid the AI is, particularly in the all AI mode. This leaves you with only two options, Missions or the classic 4v1 multiplayer, for a more interesting time. This isn’t really a terrible thing, and something that can easily be patched with time, but the constant grouping of survivor AI and lack of challenge from the Demon makes the all AI sessions more of a “meh” than “groovy.” That said, a minor element is the game’s HUD which is not adjustable in size and relatively hard to read at first, at least until you’ve played enough to just keep track of everything on your own.

I know that people will be coming to Evil Dead: The Game for the multiplayer aspect, but the most fun I had was in the solo missions. They’re challenging, fun, and packed with lore for Evil Dead fans to eat up. This is a pleasant surprise as a mostly solo player myself. The ability to pack in fun to be had with both friends and alone is something that isn’t always easily done, but Saber Interactive nails it.

So, if the multiplayer aspect was keeping you away from a purchase, I can attest that there is a lot of fun to be had while playing alone – however most missions depending on how competent you are with resource management can be cleared in about a 45-minutes to an hour – I am very bad at resource management and using dodge, so this time is a little inflated for me. However, at only $39.99 USD for the standard edition, I can definitely recommend this experience to every Deadite out there.

When all is said and done though, Evil Dead: The Game is a blast. It’s fun to play, difficult in spots, and something I can see myself returning to again and again just to keep exploring and learning, as well as unlocking new things, as I’m sure they’ll become available over the games’ lifespan. Plus, for Deadites out there, it’s beyond a great buy with lore plugged into just about every design choice, line of dialogue, and piece of the landscape. So pick it up and all the king baby.

Evil Dead: The Game is out May 13, 2022 on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, and PC via the Epic Games Store and NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW.


Evil Dead: The Game
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Evil Dead: The Game is a blast. It’s fun to play, difficult in spots, and something I can see myself returning to again and again just to keep exploring and learning, as well as unlocking new things as I’m sure they’ll become available over the games’ lifespan. Plus, for Deadites out there, it’s beyond a great buy with lore plugged into just about every design choice, line of dialogue, and piece of the landscape. So pick it up and all the king baby.