Saber Interactive’s Evil Dead The Game is as camp as you’d expect, a treat for fans, and one of the best asymmetrical action-horror games out there right now
As a relative late-comer to the Evil Dead fandom, I had a short – but very intense – period of excitement prior to the release of Saber Interactive’s asymmetrical action-horror: Evil Dead The Game. It’s a game I have been keen to try for a little while, after falling in love with Sam Raimi’s direction of the movie trilogy and the development of Ash Williams’ character from mild-mannered college kid to heroic demon-slaying badass, and I am pleased to share that this game does not disappoint.
Evil Dead The Game really is a treat for fans of the Evil Dead franchise – as well as being a treat for general fans of the horror genre or asymmetrical multiplayer games. It ticks all the boxes you’d expect from a game like this, and then ticks a few more that you didn’t know existed. It’s clear that this was a game made by fans, for fans, as much as it was made for a wider audience. It’s one of the few asymmetrical multiplayer games that has full single-player support too, in the form of a short Evil Dead The Game Missions list and AI-controlled Survivors and Demons.
But, of course, having AI companions is only part and parcel of what makes this a fantastic offering from Saber Interactive. I had the chance to review Evil Dead The Game on PS5 and, although I do have some concerns about certain aspects of the game, I am finding this to be a wholly enjoyable experience that I can see being a firm favourite for some time.
When I first jumped into the game, the first thing that struck me was just how good everything looked. I know I’m playing it on a next-gen console, so the graphics were never going to look that bad, but the game is a feast for the eyes beyond its detailed textures and smooth frame rates.
The in-game artwork is truly exceptional
The in-game artwork is truly exceptional. Whether you’re trawling through the menus looking at the game’s impressive array of unlockable skills and upgrades, or deciding which Mission to tackle next, you’ll find Ash Williams and his buddies beautifully illustrated. The artwork showcases the Survivors using in-game items, battling Deadites, or facing off against a terrifying Kandarian Demon.
Then, when you come to actually playing Evil Dead The Game, you’re met with an intensely atmospheric action-horror experience that evokes the emotions brought about by Sam Raimi’s movies with unexpected accuracy. It’s overly graphic, in a campy way, with its intense blood-splattering finishing moves and shotgun blasts that quite-literally blow the face off of the Deadites you’re up against. And, more importantly, it’s isolating, despite the fact that you’re playing within a team of four, with its sparsely-lit open spaces and impressive weather effects.
This feeling of isolation is only intensified by the absence of enemies from the game’s minimap and the interesting Fear system.
When you’re running around in the darkness as Ash – or one of his buddies – you need to keep an eye on your Fear level. This increases whenever you’re alone, under attack, or in the darkness – adding an important survival game-like aspect to this already action-packed experience. There are ways for you to reduce this level, mainly by standing in the light and taking a breather, but Evil Dead The Game doesn’t make that easy.
So, it ultimately feels inevitable that you’ll max out your Fear level at some point during a game – sometimes, you just can’t find the Matchsticks you need to start a campfire.
When your Survivor is scared, it’s like having tunnel vision
If you’re unlucky enough to have your Fear level climb above your character’s threshold, then you’re in for a bad time – but also the most exciting time when it comes to playing as a Survivor. When your Survivor is scared, it’s like having tunnel vision. Your in-game sound and the edge of your screen are both distorted, making it even harder to avoid attacks from the Deadites and Demons around you, and you quickly find yourself frantically running for your life. Like with all horror games, the thrill of the chase is the best part.
Without this mechanic, which might seem like a superficial addition to the game at first, I fear Evil Dead The Game would be more hack-and-slash than horror. It helps to keep you on your toes and forces you to think much more strategically about how you use the limited loot items you have. Healing items and Matchsticks – used for lighting fires – are few and far between in this game; you don’t want to waste what little you have when you’re fighting against a Kandarian Demon.
I have spent most of my time playing Evil Dead The Game, so far, as a Survivor. However, I did dip my toes into the horrors of the Necronomicon to play as a Demon a few times – and that’s a wholly different experience.
You really do feel like you’re in a Sam Raimi movie in the best possible way
When you’re playing as a Demon, you’re primarily orchestrating the Army of Darkness in Spirit Form. The erratic movement controls do take a bit of getting used to compared to controlling a Survivor, but when you’re playing in this mode you really do feel like you’re in a Sam Raimi movie in the best possible way.
I will say that the lack of sensitivity options, and accessibility options as a whole, are troubling – if you’re struggling to play, there aren’t any concessions available. I hope these are features that will be available in the future, but it doesn’t quite make sense why they’re not available now.
That being said, once you get your head around the controls, playing as a Demon is a fantastic – and much more rewarding – experience than other asymmetrical multiplayer games, like Dead By Daylight and Predator Hunting Grounds. Why? Because you’re not just playing as one Kandarian Demon, really; you’re playing as the whole Army of Darkness.
Boss units are by-far the most exciting way to play as a Demon
Using Infernal Energy, you can possess roaming Deadites and attack the Survivors yourself, summon powerful elite enemies to further disrupt their attempts at banishing you, and even set traps in supply boxes and evil trees (something which always takes you by surprise as a Survivor.)
With enough of this energy, you can even summon a boss unit, which takes the form of whichever Kandarian Demon you’re playing as – be that Evil Ash, Henrietta, or Eligos. These boss units are by-far the most exciting way to play as a Demon and, in the right hands, make short work of Ash Williams and his friends. With Evil Dead The Game, you get all the fun of playing as a killer in Dead By Daylight and the enjoyment of strategically dismantling your opponents plan of attack with well-placed traps and proximity-based portals (that, of course, spawn more enemies).
Whether you’re playing with your friends against the forces of evil, or taking control of those forces of evil yourself, you’re in for a fun time with Evil Dead The Game. I haven’t played enough of it yet to talk about the depth of its upgrade system and the decent variety of weaponry on offer, but my first impressions are that this game could, with the right post-launch support, be around for a long time. It’s action-packed, frightening when it needs to be, and full of charm. Of course, the gameplay loop could get repetitive – as with any asymmetrical multiplayer game – but I don’t see that happening for quite some time.