Evil Dead: The Game feels like a remarkably respectful nod to the original horror-comedy franchise, combining elements from the films and TV series with a variety of gaming genres to create one truly unique masterpiece.
While the most common parallel being made for Evil Dead is one with Dead by Daylight, there is so much more to this asymmetrical horror. There are certainly elements of DBD gameplay – most obviously, a team of four survivors going up against one killer – but each team needs to master a bunch of additional features never really before combined in a 4V1 game. These mechanics, combined with an ethereal soundtrack and respectfully recreated characters and surroundings, makes Evil Dead: The Game a real game-changer for the genre.
Evil Dead: The Game — Basic gameplay
What makes this 4V1 great is the multiple aspects within each standard match. This isn’t just a chase or be chased situation. Instead, survivors must get from A to B on the map, fulfilling specific requirements along the way. You must collect pieces of a map that will lead you to the Necronomicon and Kandarian Dagger. Then, locate said items. There is no game without these milestones.
As a Kandarian Demon, you make the same journey, hidden from your Survivor counterparts until the end. On your journey through the map, your goal is to frighten and injure the Survivors, even kill them, if possible, before they reach the Kandarian Dagger. As you roam the map, you can possess all kinds of things, from trees, to cars, to Deadites themselves.
All of this additional gameplay certainly brings new life to the 4V1 genre and sets Evil Dead: The Game out as a new breed of asymmetrical horror.
Playing as a survivor in Evil Dead: The Game
So, let’s get into a bit more detail than above. Yes, your overall goal is to get from the start of the level to the end and stay alive, picking up pieces of a map as you go. But there’s even more to it than that. For a start, there are the hordes of Deadites waiting for you all throughout the sprawling maps. The slightly off-centre, third-person view makes this even trickier, and if you get attacked from behind – or even flanked – well, good luck.
To help with your survival out in the open, there are lootable buildings and chests, where you’ll find amulets for protection and Shemp’s Cola for getting back up to full health. Activate an Amulet whenever you find one, as it doesn’t deteriorate until you’re attacked, and save up to three Cola cans in your inventory, ready for when you need it. But that still won’t be enough to defend against Deadite attacks. For that, you’ll want weapons.
Yep, in true Evil Dead style, of course, you’ll be attacking back, adding yet another level to the 4V1 not seen before in the likes of Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th. For starters, you can carry one melee weapon of choice, found in varying rarities across the map (unless you’re playing with Level 25 Ash Williams from Army of Darkness, in which case you’ll, of course, “carry” a chainsaw). You’ll also be able to carry one Boomstick or another such ranged weapon. Ammo for your guns will also be found scattered around the houses, sheds, and garages across the map.
The only way to make it to the end of the map is to ensure you’re well-equipped and to regularly upgrade your weapons and abilities. This is where Pink F comes in. (Told you it was more complex than the genre’s other games.) By collecting Pink F from crates, you can upgrade certain character traits which last for that match alone. This, however, combined with the separate ability to level up your Characters overall (which I’ll get to later), feels a little convoluted and unnecessary.
And another thing. Cars. Yep, there are also drivable vehicles, too. While this is a mechanic we’ve experienced before, namely in Friday the 13th, it’s another string to the already very well-strung bow of Evil Dead: The Game. Since the maps are pretty large, you’ll likely need to hop in a car at some point or other through the trial, but they also provide an outlet for that looming Kandarian Demon, as well…
Finally, fear. I don’t know about you, but if I was running around a dark forest being chased by Deadites, I’d be pretty terrified. So it’s nice to see that human aspect coming into play. An additional HUD bar shows your fear level, which, when it gets too high, leaves you open to possession. This is a fantastic feature it has to be said. However, it can sometimes be a little hard to keep down. The only way to keep fear at bay is with light – not including your already equipped flashlight. This means you have to find matches and start a fire, which you can only do in specific locations. No matches, or no fire site? Welp, there’s nothing you can do about it, I’m afraid. From my own experience, at least, there could perhaps be a few more matches scattered around the map.
Becoming a Kandarian Demon in Evil Dead: The Game
Now, if being controlled by fear and constantly looking over your shoulder isn’t your thing, then perhaps you’d be better suited to Kandarian Demon gameplay. Not one to prefer killer over survivor gameplay in other 4V1s, I have to say, playing the killer in Evil Dead: The Game can be hilariously fun.
For the bulk of the trial, your main job will be possessing. And this also happens to be where most of the fun lies. While you will also be placing traps and Deadite portals to injure Survivors – and that is crucial – you’ll also get to possess Deadites, and finally, get to do some of the attacking yourself. In order to carry out actions as a Demon, you will need to collect Infernal Energy, so do make sure you pick up plenty of it to really maximize your possessing enjoyment.
It doesn’t start and end with possessing Deadites, though. Oh, no. As hinted at earlier, you can possess cars, confusing any Survivor at the wheel or simply running them over. But the best ability of the Kandarian Demon by far is the ability to possess trees. As a Survivor, this is where the jump scares come in. I’ve let out a scream or two in the office already when spooked by a moving tree, seamlessly bringing that classic Evil Dead comedy into the game.
Take out the Necronomicon
If you fail to take out the team of Survivors before they reach the Kandarian Dagger – and, let’s be honest, there’ll likely be at least one or two left – you’ll have to come out of Spirit mode, manifesting yourself in order to destroy the Necronomicon. While the Survivors harness the power of the Kandarian Dagger to defeat the Dark Ones, you’ll be trying to destroy the Necronomicon right under their noses.
Other features and Missions
As I’ll mention later on, it does feel like there’s a lack of variation in Evil Dead: The Game, with a relatively repetitive gameplay experience. However, you’ll have access to a handful of Missions once you’ve completed just one tutorial. And, as well, there is also the option to play Solo matches against AI, or online matches against AI Demons, so there are options if matchmaking is slow, or if you just want some “offline” practice. While this still doesn’t do much to change the limitations of the maps and overall gameplay, it is a nice option to have.
The five, soon to be six, Missions do offer alternative gameplay and story, though. For example, you head off in search of Linda’s precious necklace in Mission 1, If You Love Someone, Set Them Free… With a Chainsaw. But, while you may have a different goal in mind, the overall map and mechanics remain mainly the same. The biggest gameplay change comes from It’s Not Gonna Let Us Go, in which, as Pablo, you follow Ash’s dismembered hand around the map.
Finally, there is another aspect that at least brings some sense of achievement to the otherwise repetitive missions, and that’s the ability to – quite heavily – level up your characters. Both Survivors and Demons alike can be levelled up with Spirit Points in order to improve or gain new, unique abilities.
The look and feel of Evil Dead: The Game
One of the best aspects of Evil Dead: The Game is its dark, retro look and authentically replicated characters. You know this game has been created by fans of the franchise, for fans of the franchise. Each main character, both Survivor and Demon, is detailed and realistic, but even every individual Deadite roaming the forest has its own design and style, with some pretty neat fashion items spotted out in the wild. I kind of wish there was a mechanic to loot the awesome leather and letterman jackets that feel somewhat wasted on the ill-fated AI undead.
The soundtrack and voice overs stay true to the franchise’s originals, as well, with Bruce Campbell and Betsy Baker’s own voices bringing the characters to life.
Yes, sadly, there are some. And they’re significant enough to make a serious dent in what otherwise would have been a far higher score. However, they’re not things that couldn’t be changed in time – so this is not the be-all-and-end-all.
The main pitfall in Evil Dead: The Game is the lack of variation. While the gameplay is new and exciting – and features almost too many mechanics – you might feel like you’re playing the same game over and over again. And, yes, in theory, you can argue that this is the same for any 4V1, but the lack of an actual “chase” aspect leaves every killer player feeling the same. The killer abilities and differences in other asymmetrical horrors like DBD allow for a real variation from game to game, depending on how good the other player is. In Evil Dead, the moving tree jump scares and possessed Deadites provide the same experience match after match after match.
With that, you’d think the Missions would provide a nice counterbalance to that, adding an additional gameplay aspect for when you’re feeling tired of online games. And while, to an extent, that’s true, the Missions are not only wildly different in difficulty to a standard match, but having only five (with a sixth to come), means some players will finish with them quite quickly. Hopefully, there will be more Missions and unlockables to come past number six.
A simple way to counteract the repetitive nature of Evil Dead: The Game might simply be to add some daily challenges – a glaring omission in an otherwise pretty complete game. “Possess X number of trees” or “Drink X number of Shemp’s Cola”, for example, might just give each match that little something extra.
Yo, she-bitch, let’s go
All-in-all, Evil Dead: The Game is a great game for the short term and hopefully the first of many asymmetrical horrors to shake up the format we’re getting used to. There are so many positives – not limited to the eerie, immersive aesthetic – but perhaps needs something more to keep players coming back in the long-term. Sadly, as it stands, I can’t see Evil Dead: The Game having the same legacy as Dead by Daylight, now heading into its seventh year, what with it being based on a single franchise.