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Evil Dead: The Game

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Boss Team Games
Developer: Saber Interactive
Release Date: May 13, 2022

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PC Review - 'Evil Dead: The Game'

by Andreas Salmen on Aug. 3, 2022 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Evil Dead: The Game is a co-op and PvP multiplayer title based on the Evil Dead franchise starring Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams.

"Asynchronous multiplayer" has been the buzz phrase for horror-themed games in the last few years. Dead by Daylight, Evolve, Friday the 13th and Predator: Hunting Grounds have been around for years, with varying amounts of success and quality. Evil Dead: The Game comes in at the tail end of this trend, with the similar approach of one evil entity fighting against a group of survivors. This is an often-recycled gameplay mechanic that many may have burned out on years ago. While noticeably limited in scope, Evil Dead: The Game has a few neat ideas and mixes several familiar game mechanics into one. Is that enough to prevail in an oversaturated market?

I'm a fan of the "Evil Dead" movies and show. They're incredibly fun from start to finish, even if I were skeptical of a game that essentially looks similar to Dead by Daylight with an Evil Dead skin thrown on top. That's probably still the best way to describe it, butg it does do a few things differently. It makes the smart choice of taking the established asynchronous setup, the demon and its Deadite army controlled by one player against four survivors who try to make it out alive. It features a potpourri of mechanics that are usually not found in a game of this caliber.

As a survivor, your objective is to find several objects in the environment, like map pieces and relics, to perform a ritual and banish evil from the lands. In practice, that means that you and three players scour the map for those items while collecting a ton of loot for self-defense. Similar to a battle royale, there are randomized weapons and ammo sprinkled across the map, encouraging some exploration to be best equipped once the invasion catches you on the wrong foot.

Survivors in Evil Dead aren't fragile beings. The game can feel somewhat similar to Left 4 Dead, since you're facing off cooperatively against swarms of undead enemies. You'll be constantly engaged in removing the head of an undead monster, finding objectives, or looting for better damage output. Killing Deadites also grants XP that you can spend within the match to improve your attributes until the end of the match.

There is either close combat with blunt and sharp utensils, or ranged combat with firearms. Both feel clunky, especially melee combat. On the flip side, the game has some neat and brutal kill animations to finish off stunned enemies. That doesn't completely detract from the clunkiness, but it makes it a lot more enjoyable. The maps are quite extensive, so vehicles are available, but they control poorly at times and can easily get stuck on anything that isn't smoothed over in the geometry.

Apart from your health, there is a fright meter to keep an eye on. If you stay in the dark and isolated from the rest of your team for too long, your character gets scared, which opens up a window to get possessed and turn against your team. (More on that later.)

Variety is a bit of an issue in Evil Dead: The Game. There aren't many main cast members in the "Evil Dead" movies, and the stories take place in a limited number of environments. The result is a limited selection of two large maps and 13 characters, which already include four different versions of protagonist Ash.

Furthermore, some of the characters are locked at the beginning of the game and can only be unlocked by playing all of the single-player missions. The relatively short single-player missions are closely related to the main movie storylines, so they're overly long, uninspired, unforgiving, and without any checkpoints. Essentially, it's like playing against bots but without any allies. The missions are so bad that I contemplated not unlocking certain characters so I could get back to the fun part: multiplayer matches.

The characters you control are useful. There are four different classes with different pros and cons; depending on the team composition, the characters can help out tremendously. The hunter is especially good with firearms, and one can even exorcize possessed players. On the other hand, one of the funnier characters is King Arthur, a leader-class character, with a good sword in his hand and the ability to buff the team.

The map selection doesn't feel as bad, since both of the available maps are relatively huge, but once you reach a certain playtime, you'll know them by heart. Here's hope that we'll see additional characters and maps in the future, or else content scarcity will affect the title's staying power. Thankfully, a free update on July 13 added a couple of costumes, weapons, and an additional map. We don't know how much more free additional content we can expect in the future.

On the other end of the fight are the demons. The enjoyment of playing as a demon comes primarily from the variety of available options. First of all, a demon is a bodiless entity floating in the familiar style of Sam Raimi's tracking shots in the movies. In this state, your job is to primarily put roadblocks in the way of the survivors rather than killing them. As a demon, you can place portals that spawn minion Deadites or trap portals that spring when survivors are in the vicinity.

Eventually, you'll be able to possess things including your minions, scared human players, the survivors' vehicles, and inconspicuous trees. There's a learning curve to get behind all of these mechanics and to use them to great effect, but once you do, it's incredibly fun to torment a few innocent survivors in the deep woods.

Possession is not the only way you can interact with the world as a demon, though. If the survivors reach the end and approach the banishing ritual, the demon can transform into a physical form for some in-person punishment. There is a selection of nine demons across six classes. The necromancer class is capable of summoning the dead and overwhelming players with attacks. The warlord demons are most deadly in a direct confrontation, while puppeteer demons are masters of possession. They all play similarly, but the different skills lend themselves to finding your preferred play style, similar to the balanced classes of the survivors.

If you put everything together, the matches are quite fun and engaging. In the early phase, the survivors stumble around and try to get an advantage by finding the correct map or relic, while the demon explores and scares its enemies. The drama begins when the demon finds its footing, actively disrupts the survivors, and causes some jump-scares.

It really hits the quintessential "Evil Dead" feeling, the fun tug of war between mortal survivors and this dead entity throwing wrenches in the gears at every opportunity. While this cumulates in a very flashy final phase, the finale of the round can sometimes feel too similar and unexciting, since you're running around a big pile of evil dudes.

This all is very solid and fun to play, but there aren't enough environments and not enough alternative ways to play the title than repeating online matches. If you have a few friends, then this is going to be a very fun game to compete in, but without a regular team of players, this can quickly get bland. Let's hope there is more in the pipeline to flesh out the lifespan of Evil Dead: The Game with further updates beyond its planned paid DLC.

On a technical level, I didn't have any aggravating technical issues while playing on the PC, but the title isn't a stunner. It works well with the grungy look of the reference material, but it's not breathtaking. That isn't helped by the fact that the initial two maps look relatively similar in color scheme and appearance. It looks boring at times, but there are some moments when visual elements come together quite nicely as you decapitate a Deadite and evade a possessed tree branch.

As for bugs, there were quite a few. Cars and characters getting stuck in the terrain is probably the most frequent one that happened to me. There was a myriad of other little bugs, like invincible and unresponsive characters or the car glitching out. They are still somewhat "funny" issues if you encounter them sometimes, but Evil Dead: The Game launched with way too many of them. Things have gotten better after several patches, but it's still buggy.

Evil Dead: The Game is clunky but loveable. It's a very good movie-to-video game adaptation, and it's likely as close as we're going to get to a proper and decent "Evil Dead" video game. I had a good deal of fun with it, both as a fan of the movies and as a gamer. It twists a familiar game concept just enough and bolsters it with additional mechanics so that it feels fresh again. Longevity is definitely a concern in terms of content, but at least console cross-play ensures that its player base will stay healthy for a little while.

Score: 7.4/10

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