Sam Raimi’s classic horror The Evil Dead has influenced so much of horror gaming over the decades that it’s genuinely surprising that we’ve waited so long for a whole new game based on the misadventures of Ash Williams. Saber Interactive’s Evil Dead: The Game wants to make things groovy again.
Evil Dead: The Game aims to encompass everything fans have come to love about the series, from those lo-fi beginnings to the highly entertaining Starz TV show. It’s an often endearing homage to its source material and manages to be fun to play to boot.
At first glance, Saber Interactive has gone for the jugular of multiplayer horror icon Dead By Daylight. Evil Dead: The Game is a very different beast to Behaviour Interactive’s game, sharing an asymmetrical approach to online horror, but structurally, it’s a lot more involving. So while yes, it’s a 1vs4 setup with one player controlling the big bad, and the other four cast as plucky survivors, there’s far more tools at its disposal. In a roundabout way, it actually is going for Dead By Daylight’s throat because the way it incentivizes play on both sides makes that game seem a little backward.
As is tradition, you can possess Ash Williams
Playing as the Kandarian Demon (which comes in three flavours at present) is probably Evil Dead: The Game’s greatest strength. Firstly because it captures the mischievous violence of the Deadites from the source. A great blend of the silly and the sadistic. Secondly because even in defeat, it keeps that player in the fight throughout, able to mess with the four survivors in a variety of ways.
Played in first-person, the unseen demon player swoops around the map in the same manner as those famous POV moments from the films, searching for the survivors who mean to vanquish it from the world by securing the tools to close the portal to the Deadites world. They need to pick up red orbs that litter the map (and these maps are pretty sizable) in order to have the power to manifest itself in various forms, and crucially, terrifying the survivors so the demon’s power grows and opens up increasingly devastating ways to squash the survivors’ attempts at banishment. These range from summoning lowly Deadites via portal traps to player possession and the ability to bring a powerful boss unit into play. You can even hijack cars players are driving and run them over with it, which is always highly amusing I find.
Using these tools effectively scares the survivor characters and racks up points that allow the demon’s power to be upgraded as the match goes on. The longer things go and the more the demon terrifies the survivors, the stronger it will be by the time a climactic showdown comes around (if the survivors are fortunate enough to make it that far!). I like that these upgrades, both for demon and survivor, allow you to prioritize what you feel is needed most in the current fight. There’s more traditional upgrade trees for all characters outside of this, so this added wrinkle that only ever applies to the match you’re currently in throws up some varied scenarios.
Players can combat growing fear by keeping together and finding light sources, and to that end, Evil Dead: The Game supplies matches and torches to get out of tight dark spots. Survivors also drop into the match without a weapon, so it becomes crucial they both stick together and find some tools, guns and melee weapons (including the chainsaw of course) before things get too out of hand. There are legendary weapons to be found too, so it pays to keep searching whenever the chance arises, because it could be the difference between winning and losing when facing down the final demonic battle.
These are the bad boys you need to protect as the Demon
Melee tends to be the best way to deal with Deadites and other demonic underlings, as ammo is sparse, and getting off a shot in the heat of combat can be difficult. Saber Interactive has designed combat to be chaotic and scrappy, which can be overwhelming as the matches get more frantic towards the end. Survivors play like panicked humans, which they are, and that is a difficult thing to gel with at first, but it soon becomes apparent this is the way it’s meant to be, and it becomes easier to lean into the limitations.
Surprisingly, Evil Dead: The Game isn’t just about the multiplayer. The game comes with a series of single-player missions that replicate moments in the Evil Dead series or take fun diversions with them. Completing each of these gives you access to more and unlocks certain characters such as Pablo and Old Man Ash from Ash vs. Evil Dead. They offer pretty much the same mechanics as you get by playing survivor, but have the unenviable task of doing it alone. These missions are quite tough as a result, and they aren’t made much easier by the fact you don’t have checkpoints, and if your connection to the servers should sputter and die, you get kicked off and have to start over. What starts as a fun set of Evil Dead single-player missions became something I wanted to see the back of so I could return to the meat of the game. A nice idea, and very welcome to have single-player content, but it shouldn’t be reliant on a network connection to play it.
Remarkably, Saber Interactive has once again shown its natural affinity for creating a licensed online title. To a fault, Evil Dead: The Game is designed around the subject matter first, and is far less interested in trying to squeeze the player for their time with manipulative practices. For that it deserves respect, and is a far more enjoyable game for it.
The basics are covered, so key binding changes, subtitles, etc. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary beyond that sadly.
The game itself ran pretty well considering it’s an online multiplayer title in its launch state. It’s often too chaotic and dark to notice the glitches that occasionally crop up. Playing as the Kandarian demon sees you going across the map at speed, and this did lead to some stuttery frame rate moments. As expected for launch, getting a match was hit and miss for a while, but I found it to be increasingly smooth sailing as the days went by.
EVIL DEAD: THE GAME VERDICT
Saber Interactive has crafted a highly entertaining asymmetrical multiplayer game in Evil Dead: The Game, and a lot of that is down to an understanding of how best to implement the quirks of the source material into game form. With possession, slapstick, gore, violence, chainsaws, and malevolent trees, Evil Dead: The Game is as Evil Dead as it could be.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Possessing a survivor and blasting their pals with a good old boomstick and chainsaw combo.
Understands its source and uses it well
Kandarian Demon mode is great fun
Fear Mechanic works nicely
Bonus single-player missions
Fairly slim package at launch
Network connection needed for single-player