Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up. This is Evil Dead the Game. S-Mart’s top of the line. You can find this in the video game section. That’s right, this sweet baby was developed by Saber Interactive. Retails for about forty nine ninety-nine Canadian. It’s got four playable classes, a deep skill tree system, full crossplay, a single-player mode and four different versions of Bruce Campbell. That’s right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?
Evil Dead the Game is latest horror based asymmetrical multiplayer game to treat us to some 4v1 action, following the likes of Dead By Daylight and Friday the 13th. Where Evil Dead differs from those games is the reason I think it successfully surpasses them in terms of fun factor. Unlike those other games, in Evil Dead you do not play as a helpless survivor trying to escape. Being based on the Evil Dead film series as well as the television show Ash vs Evil Dead, all the playable survivors in the game are capable warriors working as a team to defeat evil not to escape from it. As a survivor you’ll explore the map to complete objectives to ultimately dispel the forces of the Kandarian Demon, taking down A.I. fodder in addition to the player controlled demon.
Survivor gameplay sees you take control of 1 of 13 characters from the franchise (including 4 versions of Ash) split-up into four classes. Each character has their own passive abilities as well as an active ability that functions on a cooldown. Leveling up gives you skill points to invest in a skill tree for each individual survivor that you can use to upgrade them to your playstyle (in a nice touch, you can reset this skill tree at anytime for no cost). In game you’re tasked with collecting map pieces which will lead you to the Kandarian dagger that you’ll then use to defeat the Dark Ones and make a final stand to protect the Necronomicon from the demon player and A.I. units. As you do this you’ll explore to loot weapons of different rarities, health pickups, ammo and amulets to use as a shield. There are also pickups that are used for gaining upgrades mid-match to increase stats for things like health, weapon damage and stamina. This adds a bit more strategy to matches than a typical game like this and combined with it’s other unique systems makes for a nice risk reward style of game. It also adds a good sense of progress to each match as you upgrade yourself more and more by the final showdown.
The game differs from it’s peers in a number of ways. For one, each match has a time limit of 30 minutes. If you can’t complete all the objectives in time, you lose. So you have to balance being able to effectively explore for supplies while heading to the objective. The demon also can upgrade it’s stats during a match so trying to complete objectives and finish the match quickly might end up leaving you up against a demon player who’s upgraded their stats more than you. The most interesting mechanic that Evil Dead adds to this genre is the fear meter. If you spend too much time alone or in the dark, you’re fear meter increases. If it gets too high then you start to freak out, your accuracy worsens and you become susceptible to being possessed by the demon player which can wreck havoc on your team and your own health. Staying together slows down the fear meter but the only way to lower it is to enter a building or light a fire using matches that you’ve found.
The fear meter adds a lot of tension to games. The game is way more action oriented than it’s closet competitor Dead By Daylight and the fear meter makes sure you never feel too capable of taking on the army of darkness. Looking for loot and heading for objectives could have easily just been made to be simple down time before big showdowns but the fear meter makes them more than that. It becomes a game of wondering if you can make it to a light source before you get possessed. It makes you question whether you should keep looking for a better weapon or just high tail it to the next building. Losing track of how high your fear meter is can introduce a genuine sense of panic in a game that so often makes you feel like a badass. It’s a great balance because the combat genuinely does feel cool. Hacking, shooting and pulling off gnarly finishing moves on enemies feels incredible empowering but that fear meter is always there as an existential threat. It’s always there to remind you that you are not an invincible hero, you are still a horror victim.
Playing as the Kandarian Demon going up against a group of survivors also provides a more varied experience than other asymmetrical multiplayer games. In the other games of this ilk, playing as killer limits you to just lumbering around to hunt the survivors. In Evil Dead, that’s only part of it. Playing as the killer in Evil Dead puts you in control of the entire army of darkness. You zip around the map in first person as if you’re Sam Raimi manning the camera in a way only he can. It’s very cool. As you roam around the map, you pick up orbs that you spend in order to do things like set traps to scare survivors, spawn A.I. units and possess not just frightened survivors but you can also possess trees to attack them, cars and the A.I. units. With enough points you can also spawn and take control of the boss unit you pick at the beginning of the match.
Evil Dead makes something that seems as daunting as taking on a team of 4 all by yourself incredible easy to pick up and do fairly well at. Because there are multiple ways you can play and win as the demon. You could play without ever taking direct control of any deadite or boss unit and just take out survivors with traps and A.I. spawns. Because of that time limit, you don’t have to worry about being good enough to kill other players in order to win, you can simply use the tools at your disposal to waste their time. In one game as the demon, I was successful because I possessed the car the survivors were using to get to the final objective and destroyed it causing them to waste the rest of their time. In another game I barely interacted with the survivors at all. I simply went around the map and set traps at the objective sites, spent the rest of my time leveling up and by the final objective, I was strong enough and my traps left the survivors weak enough that I was able to take them out without much trouble. It was incredible satisfying.
Giving you so many options to mess with survivors makes playing as the demon a fun and rewarding experience whether you win or not. In fact I think that’s the biggest trump card that Evil Dead has over other asymmetrical games. It’s almost always fun whether you win or lose. Because playing as survivor has you up against A.I. as well, there’s always something to kill and make you feel cool but the unpredictability of how a demon player might mess with you will always keeps you on your toes. No matter how a game goes as a survivor, you’re always guaranteed at least some fun deadite killing. Likewise for the demon player. No matter if you’re able to beat the survivors or not, playing evil dungeon master is fun.
For as much fun as I’ve been having, Evil Dead is not without it’s faults. For starters, it is a bit janky. I usually have no problem with some jank and while that’s true most of the time here, there are some things that mildly got on my nerves a bit. For starters, as a survivor you can’t jump at all and there’s a lot of small obstacles you’ll get stuck on and have to walk all the way around. You can vault over some objects but most of them you can’t, even when it seems like you should be able to. It’s a slight inconvenience but it can cost you if you’re being overwhelmed or have to run to a building to lower your fear meter and are stopped by the undefeatable evil that is an ankle high rock. While melee combat is weighty, there’s no lock-on and when things get really hectic, it’s easy to swing at nothing but air. The game also doesn’t do a great job of communicating everything to you. There’s a basic tutorial for both survivor and demon and the demon tutorial in particular barely scratches the surfaces of everything you can do. The survivor tutorial is a little better and the game lets you play against an A.I. demon to further learn how to play. Inexplicably, there is no mode to play as a demon against A.I. survivors so you’re stuck with a barebones tutorial before having to learn the ropes against a team of 4 real players.
My biggest complaint about the game is it’s dreadful single player mode. There are five single player missions that are all a complete slog to get through. They have you take control of a character and work through a series of simple objectives before fighting a boss. These missions have little in common with the multiplayer mode as you don’t have your character’s abilities, you are forced to play them solo and there’s a pitiful lack of any supplies. In multiplayer, you work as a team, you explore, in the single player you are alone and exploring too much is almost guaranteed to yield you nothing but a swift death. Each mission pretty much has a set path to be successful and if you deviate from that path even a little bit, you’re dead. Not helping matters is the fact that there are no checkpoints so if you die then you have to drudge through the entire joyless chore again and again.
You might think that you can just avoid that mode altogether and just get to the multiplayer fun but in one of the most baffling decisions I’ve ever witnessed, the devs have locked 4 multiplayer characters behind these missions. You can’t even pick and choose which character you want to try and unlock because you have to complete the previous mission to do the next one. So if you want to play as Army of Darkness’ Lord Arthur for instance, you have to force yourself to play and complete all 5 missions. Why they would lock multiplayer characters behind a single player mode that plays nothing like the multiplayer is beyond me but it is the worst thing they could have done. It exasperated the frustration of these poorly designed mission tenfold because I had to complete them to unlock the characters for the mode I actually wanted to play.
Once I got past that torturous road block though I was back to having a blast in multiplayer. Yes there is jank but it’s minor enough that it doesn’t really affect the experience. Whether you’re a survivor or a demon, you’re going to have a great time. It gives you all the tools to have fun smashing demons faces with an assortment of weapons or to mess with survivors on your way to victory as a demon. It’s also a love letter to Evil Dead packed with references, lore and homages that will make any fan blush. It also has 4 versions of Bruce Campbell and since they’re all in their own class, you can have a team of just Bruce and that’s something no other game can claim. Totally groovy. Even if you aren’t a fan of Evil Dead or are new to the franchise, this is still an extremely fun multiplayer. Obviously, your fun will vary based on whether you’re playing with friends or if the randoms on your team know what they’re doing but it’s easy to just pick this up and have a great time. The combat feels good, the characters are all distinct and allow for unique team compositions and the skill tree system lets you tailor each character to your playstyle. It’s time for the asymmetrical multiplayer genre to hail to the king baby.
Evil Dead the Game is available now on PS4/PS5, Xbox and PC via Epic Games Store.
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