Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Boss Team Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X (Reviewed), Switch
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $39.99 USD – Available Here $69.95 AUD – Available Here
There have been many types of asymmetrical multiplayer games out there but for the most part, they focus on giving players very few options to actually defend themselves. Coincidentally, many of these happen to focus around horror themes and what better collection of horror films and tv series than the Evil Dead to put a new spin on things. The Evil Dead series has remained a mainstay for many when it comes to classic horror with the charisma of Bruce Cambell and wit of Sam Raimi coming together to create something truly special, to the point that the surprise TV series nearly three decades after the first film came as a pleasant one despite lasting only three seasons. So with Bruce Campbell returning as the iconic Ash as well as many familiar faces ready to take on the Deadites, is Evil Dead: The Game a worthwhile take on asymmetrical multiplayer?
Depending on how players want to play the game, they will find that there are two options for them every match. Either take part as one of four survivors trying to gather materials scattered across the map while surviving against enemies, traps, and more in an effort to purge evil from the area or as the Kandarian demon trying to put a stop to the survivors with a whole slew of tricks up your sleeve. Perhaps thanks to the way matches are designed to progress, even ending up on the losing side of a match rarely feels like a bad thing outside of when the game’s rougher edges rear their ugly head.
When playing as a survivor, players will have thirteen characters (four of which need to be unlocked) available to them from across the series spread across four different classes. These character classes offer various different bonuses with each character having unique skills of their own, though it is a bit rough that players cannot double-up on a character so if their favorite main character is chosen, be ready to select a secondary character. Once a match starts the team is told to gather three pieces of a map scattered around the area which will then point them to the location to both the Kandarian dagger as well as missing Necronomicon pages. Gathering either of these items triggers a wave battle against Deadites but once both are obtained players must defeat the “old ones” using the dagger before defending the Necronomicon from incoming Deadite hordes in an attempt to win a match by sealing it away for good. If all of this sounds a bit complicated, it really isn’t as the title not only requires players play through the tutorial at least once before starting any matches.
All of this happens while players search the map, equipping different types of firearms and melee weapons of various rarities, something of an oddity that can cause balance issues later into matches depending on how poor a player’s luck is, picking up amulets that can provide shields, “Shemp’s Cola” that serves as healing items, ammo, and even matches to drive away the fear of the dark. In fact, there are even upgrade items that provide permanent upgrades for that match such as increased health, dealing more damage, increased resistance, and more. These elements of actually being able to fight back against the Deadites and the demon that are coming for the player’s head keep every match interesting and rarely do things feel like a complete blowout as a result. It also helps that various elements such as being able to revive dead companions at special sites around the maps as well as automatically reviving fallen allies at the end of page or dagger retrieval can help swing things in the survivors’ favor.
That being said, playing as a human also results in some of the rougher edges of the game coming into play. Physics during driving vehicles can occasionally be a bit rough around the edges with cars randomly flipping on their sides, not caused by demons, or the complete inability to climb most ledges or even slight bumps in the terrain. There is no jump button in Evil Dead: The Game and while some ledges/windows/fences can pull up a climb prompt these are few and far between. Multiple times I’ve had characters end up completely stuck in the map since they could not climb any of the terrain around them, leading to an inevitable death. Along these same lines, some interaction prompts for picking up weaponry, healing or helping revive allies, and more will occasionally not appear depending on the way items are laying which can often be frustrating.
On the demon side of things not only are there less issues when it comes to moving around the map, especially since they mimic movement similar to the movies by zooming around formlessly above the ground, but there are many tricks in each toolbox. There are three playable demon types at the moment to make use of, with each having various strengths and weaknesses, though many focus heavily on the Necromancer at the moment. Demons float around gathering orbs of energy and gain levels by scaring, damaging, and just straight up being a nuisance to the survivors. This can range from placing spawn traps that summon a few Deadites out of a rift in space in certain locations, causing a tree to swing wildly and terrify a survivor, trap a chest with a variety of humorous and powerfully fearful effects, and even trigger jump scares.
The more the demon does and the more they can trigger fear in the survivors, not only will they grow in level and gain various improved abilities such as the ability to possess lesser Deadites to give them a buff or even summon and control the boss demon, the more afraid the survivors are the easier they are to find on the map and even possess. A possessed survivor can be controlled at will and can deal plenty of damage or waste the resources of a potentially tapped team, or in a few quite evil feeling instances, force them to run away from reviving their last standing ally.
Whether players win or lose a match they will be awarded both XP for the character that they used as well as overall XP. This can then be used to help level up a character and try to unlock additional permanent bonuses that will persist through every match. These unlocks are a nice touch and help keep players feeling rewarded for sticking out with their favorite characters without truly breaking the game with any unbalanced characters. On the single player side of things the game does offer the aforementioned “Missions” that provide a bit of storyline and require players to complete tasks solo. Unfortunately these missions lack any form of checkpoint and can be rather difficult so a failure means restarting an entire level from scratch which can be quite frustrating thanks to some of the aforementioned map issues.
It is nice to note that players can choose to play completely with bots if they feel like it as well, though unfortunately players cannot unlock any achievements nor can they actually upgrade characters or demons as a result of these matches. This means that while the game will always have some life to it even should the crossplay thin out, gaining at least some small amounts of XP would be a nice touch here.
Visuals & Audio
It is quite clear that Saber Interactive has put a lot of effort into making sure that Evil Dead: The Game looks as impressive as possible while still delivering as many Evil Dead references. Characters are nicely detailed and feature a variety of signature weapons and finishing moves, a few of which are quite stupendous looking, and there are many locations scattered across the sparse two maps on offer that will be familiar to any longtime fan of the series. One can also say that, in many cases, this can be an incredibly bloody and violent looking game that matches the Evil Dead aesthetic perfectly.
As far as the soundtrack goes the game features a number of fitting tracks that will appear authentic to longtime fans while all of the voice actors, including the man himself Bruce Campbell, have returned to reprise their roles and offer signature catchphrases throughout the fights.
Evil Dead: The Game usually feels like a complete blast to play and it may be one of the best asymmetrical multiplayer games out there thanks to the fact that players can actually fight back. Between every match feeling like a worthwhile one, some absolutely great melee combat and flashy finishers, and more fan service for fans of the Evil Dead franchise than you can shake a boomstick at. Sadly some rough navigation, a bit of repetition for now due to low map variety, and some janky elements do rear their ugly heads from time to time but those looking for some great multiplayer will find that Evil Dead: The Game delivers.
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