Evil Dead: The Game Review (PS5)

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That groaning you heard when Evil Dead: The Game was revealed wasn’t actually the raspy wails of approaching Deadites. Indeed, the look of this Dead By Daylight adjunct licensed tie-in video game was exceptionally unpromising — we just want to “be” Ash and blast/chainsaw Deadites until the cows come home, zombified though those bovines may be. We had no interest in another “asymmetrical” horror experience like the former, failed Friday the 13th or the upcoming, potentially-failed Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Thankfully, in a surprise as shocking as that one bit with the cabin door in Evil Dead 2: Dead By DawnEvil Dead: The Game is lots and lots of scrappy, scrapey fun.

Taking control of either a heroic survivor as part of a team of four, or a lone Kandarian Demon out to murder the aforementioned quarter, Evil Dead is a title that delivers on being fun, even if you don’t normally care for this sort of thing. Source: this writer can’t stand Dead by Daylight, but is itching to get back on Evil Dead as soon as the review’s written. See, what Evil Dead gets right is — and you may want to sit down for this — making it enjoyable to play both as a survivor and as a demon. Yes, we know. You’d think this would be obvious, but apparently not.

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Let’s take the survivor team to begin with. Taking control of your chosen human (think various versions of Ash from across the series, characters such as Ed and Annie from Evil Dead 2: Dead By DawnPablo and Kelly from Ash vs Evil Dead, etc), you’ve got to hunt down four pieces of a map across one of the (currently) two enormous maps. Once these are found you’ve then got to acquire both the lost pages of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis and an ancient Kandarian dagger. Finally, it’s time to go and find the Necronomicon itself and banish the evil Dark Ones, thereby winning the match for the good guys. Of course, you can hardly expect to do this without any pushback, and the Demon player will be throwing everything they have at you to resist. Thankfully you’re able to fight back yourself, both with weaponry (shotguns and chainsaws are included) and various skills and buffs, each of which can be upgraded as you level up each character.

Meanwhile, the Demon player takes control of the evil “Force” as seen in the Evil Dead movies, flying around each map in first-person collecting Infernal Energy, which is then spent on summoning Deadite creatures, jump-scaring players, and creating scare traps by possessing the likes of trees, cars, and containers that survivors may be rifling through at the time. It’s chortlesome stuff, particularly when you possess a car that players are driving and send it off who knows where to waste their time. Brilliantly, too, you can also possess players who have become frightened enough (in-game, obviously) and have them attack their own friends — though we preferred sending them running away on a wild goose chase and wasting everybody’s time.

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There’s a Battle Royale-ish feel to the survivor gameplay, as the safe area shrinks the more objectives you complete. The pressure is also piled on as the Demon player levels up, gaining more and more power including the ability to transform into a devastating “boss” Deadite — Evil Ash from Army of Darkness being one of them — who hit harder than any summons and allow the Demon to deal devastating damage to players for as long as they’re active. The strategy on each side comes from planning and timing, with the odds generally stacked against the survivors thanks to the Demon’s ability to summon more and more Deadites as the game goes on, including gaining the ability to unleash more powerful creatures all the more often.

It’s pretty much an exclusively multiplayer affair, but there are single player missions to complete as well, in order to unlock more characters and variations. Unfortunately, they are comfortably the worst part of the game, so banal that we’d genuinely have preferred their removal. Honestly, less is more when the content is as weak as this, perfunctory run-arounds of the game’s maps that seem to have been thrown in out of obligation rather than the developers having any genuinely interesting ideas for them. Worse yet, they can be glitchy, too — and having the “safe zone” randomly flicker off and cause you to die twenty minutes into an already-unfun mission with no checkpoints? It’s a no from us. If there were no unlocks tied to this mode, we could just ignore it, but as it is? An unavoidable, but small black mark against an otherwise fun game.

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Of course, games like this live or die on their support going forward, and thankfully Evil Dead seems to be doing well. Another map, based on Army of Darknessis coming soon — and the already-available Season Pass (apparently the first of multiple, based on its being called Season Pass 1) promises four more DLC packs.

Conclusion

The best game of its kind that we’ve had the pleasure to play, Evil Dead: The Game is equivalent to its source material in being way more fun than you could reasonably expect it to be, and it’s faithful as hell to the movies and TV show in a way that’ll thrill fans. Post-launch support is a total roll of the dice — if the content ain’t there, nor is the audience, and if the audience isn’t there, there’s no game, because the single player content sure isn’t picking up the slack. Evil Dead, though, is more fun than having a chainsaw for an arm, delivering a pleasant bloody surprise at each turn. Shall we say it together? Groovy.

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