As far as movies go, The Evil Dead series has a track record of being way better than it should be, low budget warts and all – and Evil Dead: The Game is right in the same boat now. While it’s filled with things that irritate me, like gentle inclines my weak survivor could helplessly negotiate, tricky command prompts, and more, it’s also overwhelmingly successful at being a balanced, compelling battle of wits and reflexes that spurs my attention more than 20 hours – and that’s no easy task. Clunkiness aside, playing as a survivor absolutely nails the horror movie feel of working together with a group to overcome an overwhelming evil menace, while playing as a menacing demon is a fiendishly funny mishap that fulfills the malevolent mastermind fantasy.
Yes, Evil Dead: The Game is an asymmetric multiplayer game in the same vein as Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th, but it’s presented here with a goofy, Bruce Campbell-smothered flair that’s just as weird and campy as the cult classic movies. Mechanically, there isn’t much originality: in each game, four playable survivors work as a team to avoid being mutilated long enough to perform a ritual that will banish all evil from the land while enduring the true horror that is geometry the card is. At the same time, an evil player will do whatever it takes to slay the survivors with an army of undead soldiers and a series of sneaky tricks so viciously satisfying it’s hard to feel sorry for the poor souls who succumb to your terrifying power. This cat-and-mouse game is an absolute blast no matter which side you’re on, even if its rough edges make me scream louder than any jump scare.
It differs somewhat from its genre peers in that humans are able to defend themselves. Playing as a survivor feels like a familiar, squad-based third-person shooter that borrows a lot from the battle royale style, where you run around as a squad, scavenging for loot and killing enemies while steadily progressing turn on. Only here your goal is not just survival but completing objectives like finding map pieces and defending areas to claim relics needed for the purification ritual. With plenty of melee and ranged weapons to find and 13 characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities and skill trees to level up, its progression system drew me in early on with all the different ways things can go banned. For example, the Hunter class characters excel at using ranged weapons and have abilities that make them a major thorn in the side of the demon player, such as a particularly awesome character that can exorcise the demon from bodies that he has owned. Alternatively, you might want to play as a Leader-class character like the hilarious Lord Arthur, an ancient knight who wields a sword and can empower the team with effects that make them deadlier in battle.
The worst part about playing as a survivor, however, is that you’re much more prone to experiencing some of Evil Dead’s trademark clunkiness as you move around the map. There’s no jump button to be found and the environments are often bumpy, meaning you’ll get stuck on a tiny rock or other small obstacle the whole time – even at the worst of times, when a demon is trying to rip your face off, for example. Sometimes a prompt will allow you to climb over small obstacles, but more often than not you’ll have to go around even something as trivial as a low hedge wall. The demon, on the other hand, can fly over all of that and make the glitches as asymmetric as the gameplay design.
Aside from engaging you in a life-and-death struggle with small pebbles, you’ll also struggle with the lack of a lock-on system when fighting undead mobs, tricky interaction prompts, for things like lighting a campfire or reviving a fallen teammate that often doesn’t register at crucial moments, your character will freeze in place for several seconds without any foreseeable reason, and much more. My biggest annoyance, however, is probably the really obnoxious safe zone system, which confines your squad to an increasingly narrow range as the end of the game approaches. If you’ve played a battle royale game before, you’ll be familiar with the concept, but Evil Dead implements it in the worst possible way, making the safe zone changes unpredictable, almost instantly deadly if you’re caught out of bounds become, and incredibly contradictory. I’ve screwed up entire matches while my team completed an objective, only for the safe zone to jump to a different part of the map a few seconds later, catching half the team in an inevitable kill zone and ending any hope of victory. This is just frustrating.
Luckily, the experience as one of the three playable demons has fewer sticking points, mostly because you’re playing as a floating orb of evil that can quickly hover across the map and mess with the survivors with god-like powers, and that’s a goal that never will stops being funny. That’s in large part due to how many ways Evil Dead gives you to accomplish this devious objective: you can summon hordes of computer-controlled enemies for the survivors to fight, set traps that spawn enemies and increase their fear when they jump, or even own undead characters to control them directly, making them even more powerful and difficult to handle.
Not only that, by scaring the human team with traps or demonic abilities and separating them from each other, you gain the ability to possess the survivors themselves for a limited time and turn them against their own allies, which can be absolutely devastating. Another fun way to win is to just waste the survivors’ time doing things like owning the car they’re driving and steering it off a cliff so they have to spend valuable time walking wandering around, or by owning a tree and slapping people in the face while trying to rest around a campfire. All the while you level up and gain ever more powerful demonic abilities until only the most determined and skillful players have any hope of defeating you, and it just feels so gloriously evil. Normally with this playstyle, I prefer to side with the survivors rather than face their combined attempts to kill me as a monster, but Evil Dead captured my heart almost immediately – it’s easily the best monster mode I’ve seen i have ever seen
Of course, once you’ve got the hang of both Survival and Demon modes, there’s not much left to do besides gaining XP and leveling up your characters. And while I’ve easily lost myself in over 25 hours of matches, the pack feels a bit light in content in some respects, especially when it comes to maps. There’s only two, and while they’re both fairly large and each have a few interesting areas, after a dozen or so matches I kept seeing many of the same locations, and that increasingly wore down the novelty of Evil Dead the longer I’ve played. I mean, you can only hang around a rundown doll factory so many times before you feel like you’ve seen everything a rundown doll factory has to offer and wish you could visit other types of failed businesses, you know?
Evil Dead: The Game – April 2022 Screenshots
Evil Dead: The Game also features some single player missions required to unlock some of the best characters including Pablo from Ash vs The Evil Dead or the legendary King Arthur himself but unfortunately these missions are without a doubt the worst part of the game package. While they attempt to serve as palette cleaners for the multiplayer-centric experience, they end up becoming arduous slogs through the same map areas as in multiplayer, where you complete a few fetch quests, fight a few enemies, and get snippets of history through still images that pop up to pause your game time. Not only are they totally uninspired, but they also don’t have any checkpoints – so you can die and lose 20 minutes of progress and have to do it all over again.
And because you’re playing solo as a survivor in a mode that feels like it’s been pinned, the issues with polish are amplified exponentially, including the aforementioned awful safe zone feature that has ruined multiple runs by pushing safe zones into different parts of the map were moved without warning and killed me instantly. They even have the audacity to try stealth mechanics in one of the missions, which went as well as you’d expect and made me wonder if the unlockable characters were worth the agony. The good news is that there are only five missions, and once you complete them you’ll never have to do them again, but completing them all is quite a painful experience.
https://www.ign.com/articles/evil-dead-the-game-review Evil Dead: The Match Report