Evil Dead: The Game first impressions: Raising hell now, but banishment is a concern

By Tom West,

Ash Williams and his band of Deadite-slaughtering compatriots offer a groovy experience in Saber Interactive's asymmetrical multiplayer action-horror title, Evil Dead: The Game, but the risk of banishment is real.

This weekend, I've been wreaking havoc as the Kandarian Demon, as well as attempting to dodge its chaotic minions as a Survivor in Evil Dead: The Game. It launched last week on Friday, May 13th, which is the perfect coincidence considering the similarities between this and Gun Interactive's Friday the 13th: The Game, which famously died due to licensing issues and a fairly botched launch. It doesn't look like Saber Interactive will have the same issues with this, though, and its launch is a far cry from being botched. I've sunk around 14 hours into the game so far and can definitely say that it is so much more than Gun's offering, and the foundations are in place to allow it to flourish in the asymmetrical multiplayer space. Whether it has the ability to thrive in the same space as the horror behemoth that is Dead by Daylight is yet to be seen, though, and it'll take a ton of commitment from the developers to keep players engaged for any meaningful length of time. Read on to find out if I think Evil Dead: The Game will be banished to the pages of the Necronomicon like other games of its ilk, or if it possesses the ability to evolve into Evil Dead by Daylight.

Evil Dead: The Game launch trailer

Evil Dead: The Game is definitely a fantastic video game for fans of Sam Raimi's demon-filled universe and throws in a ton of characters from The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, and the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. I know many of you will be super disappointed that the extremely successful and best series entry, 2013's Evil Dead reboot, hasn't been included, but nothing is perfect. It's an asymmetrical co-op action-horror game from seasoned developer Saber Interactive, which previously developed another co-op shooter based on a popular franchise, World War Z. Sure, WWZ is definitely a great game in its own right, but it doesn't come close to offering players an experience dripping in so much source material like Evil Dead: The Game — and for a franchise as beloved as this, that's a damned good place to start.

Gameplay elements aside, Evil Dead: The Game is a beautiful example of a game inspired by the titular franchise, and it's probably worth a play just for that alone. The moment you boot up the game you're thrust into the Evil Dead universe thanks to the fantastic menu track, which was co-written with the original film score composer, Jo LoDuca. It's a perfect homage to the films and could easily be mistaken for one of the films' title screens. The entire soundtrack is fantastic, to be honest, and if you didn't quite get along with Method Man's recent 'Come Get Some' track, fear not, because it's nowhere to be seen, except in the launch trailer, which works well as a pretty good hype building track.

Of course, the game stays true to its source material in far more ways than just the soundtrack and sees many of the series' most iconic characters become playable, such as Ash, Cheryl, Scotty, Kelly, and more, all voiced by their original actors. Let's be honest, that's an impressive feat itself, and one we very rarely see in video game adaptions — additionally, and an important note to make; although many of the actors have lent their voices to Evil Dead: The Game, their lines are fairly consistent with their original character personalities and don't spend the whole time chatting rubbish just to prove that they're there. It's a small thing, but something I definitely appreciate.

The characters are factored into different classes which embody the usual video game tropes you'd expect in a co-op game: Leader, Warrior, Hunter, and Support. There are a few characters per class and a couple are locked behind the single-player missions, but I'll discuss that in a moment. The bread and butter of Evil Dead: The Game is Survivors vs Demon, which can be played as 4v1, 4vAI or Solo with a team of AI. You can choose whether you want to queue as a Survivor or Demon, so you can play the way you want to. As it stands, there are three Demon characters available: the Warlord Demon uses Henrietta from Evil Dead II and Ash vs Evil Dead, the Puppeteer Demon uses Eligos from Ash vs Evil Dead, and my personal favourite, the Necromancer Demon, which uses Evil Ash from Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Each of the Survivors and Demons can be customised with various unlockable costumes (that are currently very limited) as well as their own skill trees, character-levelling, and special abilities.

The aim of the game is for the Survivors to locate three pieces of a map that, once found, will reveal the location of some lost pages of the Necronomicon and the Kandarian Dagger. Once they've collected both of those, they can then attempt to banish the Dark Ones and seal the breach between worlds. It's a fairly simple affair and one that doesn't change at all, aside from each item's location and the proficiency of the team you're playing with. Of course, while the Survivors are attempting to do that, the Demon player is having a good go at stopping them, and that's where the game's fun factor really does shine. While the objectives are the same, depending on who you're playing with, things can become ridiculously chaotic — and who doesn't like that?

evil dead the game first impressions

Playing as a Survivor requires teamwork if you hope to survive and win the game, but you're given a ton of tools that can be used to fight back against the enemy player that's dogging you. Sure, the Demon will become more powerful as the game goes on by increasing its match-based level, but so will the Survivors. The survivors growing in power have the ability to throw a match into absolute carnage if the Survivors aren't dealt with quickly. One awesome feature of the survivors is their ability to perform special moves and finishers on enemy minions by using melee weapons. All of the moves are unique to each weapon and make the player invulnerable while they're performing them. It's a fantastic feature and a ton of fun to use in the heat of combat, not just because they look badass, but because they're a handy survival mechanic if you're being overwhelmed.

Demons have the ability to summon Deadite minions themed to each of the three class types, set traps, and even possess vehicles, trees, and player-controlled characters. The main mechanic in play is the Survivor's fear levels, which begin to rise when they're away from teammates or light sources, engaged in combat with minions, scared by traps — like a bunch of mini-Ashes placed in a loot box — and various other spooky things. For the Survivors, the key to defeating the Kandarian Demon lies in continuously finding light sources to manage their fear levels because if it gets too high, they'll be highlighted on the Demon's mini-map, and they become open to possession. By possessing a Survivor, the Demon has the ability to drain the ammo out of their ranged weapons and attack their teammates, which in the early stages of a match, can be devastating to a team. The Demon's hope for victory lies completely in their ability to scare the living crap out of the other players and stop them from collecting the items they need. Once they've collected their items, the Survivors pose a real threat to the Demon and the hunter swiftly becomes the hunted, so it pays to harass them as early as possible.

evil dead the game first impressions

As I said, that's the bread and butter of Evil Dead: The Game, because that's all you've really got to play here. There is a single-player mode in the way of five Missions, but they're more difficult challenge modes that focus on particular scenes and plot lines from the films and the TV show. They're good fun and come with the added bonus of providing you with a few playable multiplayer characters, costumes, and lore collectables in the way of tape recordings. You need to actually beat the missions to get your rewards, though, and that's no easy feat. There is a coming soon message within the Mission selection screen, so it looks like Saber plans on fleshing it out with additional stories. The Missions definitely have the ability to be an entertaining jaunt on the side of the game's main multiplayer mode, if Saber continues to support the feature well in the future.

Everything takes place on two large maps, which feature a ton of locations that many Evil Dead fans will know of, and there are a few different seasonal and time of day changes that happen to change the general feel of them. To be honest, they're stunning, and each set piece is well crafted, so I don't have any concerns that either of them will overstay their welcome at all. Hell, the likes of Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone prove that you can keep the same maps in play for a serious length of time by only giving them slight changes. I will have my fingers crossed that an Army of Darkness map will come in the future, though, because it would make a fantastic Season 2 location. No pressure or anything, Saber...

evil dead the game first impressions

That's it, the five Missions and the Survivor versus Demon mode, but it doesn't really need to be much more than that, and other games in the genre have proved that. Saber Interactive is going to need to keep additional content flowing if the game has any chance of surviving, though, such as fresh characters, costumes, Missions, locales, and the like. Personally, I feel everything is in place for a lucrative future if the devs play their cards right, due to Evil Dead as a franchise having a ton of content that could help keep the game alive for a number of years. The content would need regular drops, though, as I feel like player retention will begin to slip without it.

This would be a perfect time to discuss the game's achievements because, in the, admittedly short, length of time I've spent playing, it's only the achievement list that has presented any form of bugs or inconsistencies. That's it for me, just a few bugged trackers, which is a pretty rare thing to say. But again, in the scheme of things, I've not dived too deep into the game's full experience to truly give it any meaningful analysis.

The Evil Dead: The Game achievements look to offer completionists a fairly simple romp, and in my time so far, I've collected 17 of them. It'll take a while to find out just how much of a grind fest the 'Groovy' achievement will be, which tasks you with reaching the highest user level. I'm 15 hours in and level nine, but I might just be rubbish. There are a fair number of playful challenges on offer too, such as running over survivors with a possessed car, hitting players while possessing a tree, and a varying number of others, as well as the usual cumulative achievements you'd expect to see in this type of game.

evil dead the game first impressions

So far, I'm having a ridiculously good time playing Evil Dead: The Game, and not just because I'm a fan of the franchise as a whole. The gameplay is extremely satisfying to experience and offers enough player-controlled variety that matches can easily feel unique if you're matched with the right players. I've not given this as a review purely on the fact that it has only just come out, and it's going to be the high-level players with full skills and upgrades that determine whether the game will continue to be a fun time. Right now, I'd definitely recommend it, and for its current price tag, you're definitely getting plenty of bang for your buck. If you do decide to play and wind up as a Demon playing against me, I have one thing to say to you, dear fellow: Come get some!
Tom West
Written by Tom West
Tom has been playing video games since he was old enough to hold a controller, experimenting with systems like the Nintendo 64 and Playstation until he eventually fell in love with the Xbox 360. With a passion for the platform, he decided to make a career out of it, and now happily spends his days writing about that which he loves. If he’s not achievement hunting, you’ll likely find him somewhere in The Elder Scrolls Online.