Evil Dead: The Game Review

Dust off your boomstick.

by J.R. Waugh

Evil Dead is a 40-year-old franchise that, along with being one of the greatest indie horror success stories, has become a beloved part of the pop culture zeitgeist and still spawns media to this day.  There are hardly any other franchises that start as a campy horror-comedy with critical acclaim, box office success, and even an off-broadway musical.  It’s bloody, it’s fun, and exceptionally quotable while also producing instant stars from the likes of Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi.  To add to this legacy, numerous games have been made for the franchise, none memorable, so to name this one Evil Dead: The Game, it has to do the franchise justice, and Saber Interactive was up to the task, so read on for our review.

What Kind of Game is Evil Dead: The Game?

Evil-Dead-Survivors

Evil Dead: The Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer survival horror game, which is always a bit of a word-soup genre but is joined by the likes of heavy-hitter Dead by Daylight and other lesser titles like Friday the 13th.  Evil Dead’s main task in standing out among these games is rather simple – be as robust and fun as Dead by Daylight, while using its franchise roots to create a unique, layered experience that doesn’t appear to be a cash-grab.

The game features melee and ranged combat in equal measures with characters and roles best suited to either, as well as supplies and support abilities.  The objective is simple – for Survivors, secure the Necronomicon and Kandarian Dagger, defeat the Dark Ones and banish the Demon player; for Demons, don’t let the Survivors complete their objective.  Demons can achieve their goals either by killing all the players, or holding them off until the timer runs out.  The Demon player can also possess Survivors if their fear meter is high enough, which goes up when they encounter traps or are in dark places, especially when separated from the group.

The Evil Dead franchise has plenty to enjoy if adapted to a video game, with lots of gory fun, one-liners, and the main character who is incredibly iconic and is essentially Duke Nukem and Doomguy but hunts Deadites instead of aliens or demons.  He even loses his hand and grafts on a chainsaw while wielding a sawed-off shotgun in the other, making for a perfect video game action hero.  It also helps that there’s a variety of memorable, quotable supporting characters on top of star Ash Williams.  On paper, an Evil Dead game should be…groovy.

Hail to the King, Baby

The game has no central plot, but rather a Missions mode that allows players to enjoy the game solo while getting used to various mechanics and tactics when playing online.  It even features story elements and characters spread across almost all of the Evil Dead movies and the show, including abridged retellings of Ash decapitating his possessed former girlfriend Linda, and a reverse Army of Darkness plot where it’s Lord Arthur brought to the present, looking to return home.  These are memorable in themselves and unlock all of Ash Williams’ versions from across the franchise, as well as other key characters for use in multiplayer.

Dead Before Dawn

Evil-Dead-Pablo-and-Kelly

But, much like with Ash, perhaps the best stories are the ones you tell your friends about how you got out alive, even if they come across as tall tales.  The structure of the central PvP combat that forms in the multiplayer, whether with other players or bots, follows that of the series in which you must locate and secure the Kandarian Dagger and Necronomicon, defeat the Dark Ones, and banish the Demons.  It’s quite thrilling to see how quickly advantages can be formed, and how desperate the situation can be for the Survivors when faced with a skilled Demon player.  But is this enough of an experience to set itself from other asymmetrical horror games?

What helps this experience set itself apart from similar games in this subgenre is how it taps into its franchise roots.  Evil Dead has always been gratuitously gory and has the imprint of one of American cinema’s most celebrated minds in horror, Sam Raimi.  His influence is on strong display even in this game, such as when you’re playing as a Demon but have yet to possess any deadites or lay any traps, where you move about freely across the map in a rapid fashion, able to whip crazy quick turns and smash through obstacles.  It feels incredibly rewarding even just playing this, as you can essentially create your version of the chase camera sequences from the films and tv show.

Playing as Survivors is fun too, as in addition to collecting the objectives, you’ll be facing waves of deadites unleashed by the Demon player, and you’ll be armed with ranged or melee weapons you can find across the map.  The combat is gory, responsive, and satisfying. It’s focused on pistols, shotguns, and special weapons like the crossbow and sawgun, and the melee weapons are rather equally viable in a pinch.  They have the typical rarity and power scaling structure of multiplayer games these days – gray is common, blue is rare, purple is epic, and orange is legendary.  When you’ve got that legendary chainsaw, it’s incredibly satisfying to cut down formidable opponents faster than you can say “Fort Ticonderoga”.

The game could have been a cash-grab, but it feels highly authentic while still falling into the genre nicely.  It leans nicely into the action elements allowing for more active, chaotic moments akin more to Resident Evil: Resistance as opposed to Dead by Daylight, although with a much more stable online experience than the former, as long as you’re able to join a session.  As you build up your favorite character and face players who have similarly invested, the experience grows deeper and presents a greater challenge on either side, such as increased survivability or combat capabilities.

The Visuals

Evil-Dead-Deadites

Evil Dead: The Game feels visually like what you’d expect of the franchise, with gloomy lighting and mimicking of Raimi’s signature cinematic style, and the enemy designs in particular pop.  Unfortunately, due to this being a horror game, some of the comedic visual aspects are a bit lost in translation, but there are some genuine easter eggs to remind longtime fans that this game is for them too.  This includes convincing renditions of the Knowby Cabin and other locations from the franchise and little things like the Mini-Ashes from Army of Darkness that might occasionally burst out of supply chests.

Additionally, if you’re fighting deadites spawned by the Warlord in particular, the gore effects are pretty great, to the point at which you can shoot up elite enemies, and chunks of flesh will just be blown away over time.  It doesn’t have the same satisfying moments as a critical headshot from Resident Evil 4, but if you nail one of the Finishing Attacks, you’re in for some gory, imaginative fun, especially if you like to use the meat cleaver or chainsaw.

Evil-Dead-Cabin

The map of the game is varied in its locations, inspired by spots from the franchise, and filled with a great atmosphere, running butter-smooth on the next-gen consoles.  It’s easy to get quickly familiar with the map, but it’s also a relief that the objectives change locations randomly each time they’re played, otherwise sessions would start to feel repetitive.

There are particular shortcomings in the visuals department though.  The most glaring issue can be found in the character models for the Survivors, who despite having voice lines, don’t have moving mouths to sync up with the audio, thus resulting in creepy doll faces on otherwise well-designed models.  This is a shame too because they look rather convincingly like the characters from the franchise.  It just feels weird not seeing Ash smirk while saying a dated one-liner, or more life in Kelly’s eyes.  That being said, the deadites look great, with all three armies looking rather close to how they were portrayed originally, with shouts out to the originals with those exaggerated white eyes, and the Eligos from Ash Vs. Evil Dead.

The Sound

Evil Dead: The Game renders atmosphere quite well, and again the voice lines are among its strongest contributions.  The looping music from the main menu is nothing short of annoying at times, but you’ll forget all about it once you’re in a game session.  You’ll often find yourself sold on the tension and dread, and be excited to fight off the deadites as you hear that classic, distorted scream.  The sound effects are effective and convincing, again best demonstrated when you’re performing a violent, gory kill.

Particular moments that enhance the experience are scare traps laid by devious Demon players, including possessing trees to make you jolt in your seat as you run by, only to be whipped at by its sentient branches while hearing a ferocious growl.

The Issues

Evil-Dead-Online

The main issues found in Evil Dead: The Game lies not in the design of the game – it feels pretty great to play, missions are fun yet challenging and reasonably replayable, and it seems like a fun experience to level your favorite characters to their greatest potential.  The problems lie largely in an overburdened network often turning eager players away, saying there are no servers available, or Demon players encountering the usual problem with these sorts of games, too many people wanting to take the role, with only one slot per session.  It can result in some unbearably long waiting periods but it’s the type of issue that doesn’t fundamentally break the game as long as it’s addressed with greater accessibility to more players.

Again, while the game is largely a fitting tribute to the long-running franchise, some of its spirit of it is lost in making the game.  It’s simply not as funny as it is action-packed, which in itself is not terrible, but it feels slightly less authentic as a result.  The one-liners uttered by the voice actors are true to Evil Dead, but oftentimes the energy plays more like a prettier Dead By Daylight with oddly Fortnite elements in the map layout and storm radius functions such as in Homecoming King.  But it’s important to consider that this is the price of adapting the franchise into a game, and it still feels distinctive thanks to its roots and clever throwbacks, even if Shemp’s is supposed to be beer, not cola.

The Verdict

Evil-Dead-Ash

Evil Dead: The Game is a fun, varied horror experience with plenty of challenges and depth, even if you choose not to play as any of the 4 Ash variants.  The online service is frustrating at times when it’s busy or overburdened, but if you get in on either side, you’ll be treated to a wild world that smacks of Sam Raimi’s style and atmosphere, even if it leans more on the horror side than the comedy.  But if you play as the Demon, you can turn it into a comedic experience, with antics such as possessing cars used by Survivors in an attempt to escape, leaving them stranded, while you drive the stolen car into a ditch.

It’s truly great teaming up characters like the late Cheryl Williams, Lord Arthur, and Amanda Fisher in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, and it’s a session truly best enjoyed with friends, with promises of more content on the horizon.  For the base retail cost, that’s half of what a typical game goes for these days, Evil Dead: The Game is plenty of bang for your buck, so shop smart.  And for players everywhere looking for a fun survival horror title, this one’s pretty groovy.

Evil Dead: The Game is available now for PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Series X|S.  A Nintendo Switch version has been announced and will release at a later date.  Be sure to check out our guides on the game!

"loved"
loved

Evil Dead: The Game

  • Score: 4.5 / 5
  • Available On: PlayStation, Xbox, PC
  • Published By: Boss Team Games
  • Developed By: Saber Interactive
  • Genre: Survival Horror
  • US Release Date: May 13th, 2022
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
  • Quote: "Evil Dead: The Game is a fun, varied horror experience with plenty of challenges and depth, even if you choose not to play as any of the 4 Ash variants."
Review Policy
Trending on AOTF