Evil Dead: The Game, Saber Interactive’s new asymmetric horror game based on the cult-classic horror franchise Sam Raimi has a lot of love for its source material. The game conjures up the difficult balancing act between blood-soaked horror and sardonic humor of the original trilogy, which is no easy feat. But just like the protagonists of the titular franchise, having a few friends helps if you’re going to make it out alive.
Combining elements from survival horror games such as Dead by daylight and action horror games like left 4 Dead, Evil Dead: The GameThe main mode of is called Survivor vs. Demon. In it you play either in a team of four survivors or as a killer trying to take them down one by one. You can play this mode in PvP or PvE depending on how patient you are with online play. PvE options include playing with human teammates against an AI killer, or with AI teammates against an AI killer. In any case, you need an online connection.
Survivor vs. Demon features nine starting Survivors across four classes: the team-oriented Leader and Support classes, as well as the more offensive Hunter (the ranged specialist) and Warrior (a melee-focused option). All four classes feature an Ash Williams: Ash evil Dead is a support, Ash out Army of Darkness is a warrior and so on. All Ashes is voiced by Bruce Campbell, who brings his usual inimitable charm to the franchise in many different versions of the character (including Evil Ash and Tiny Ashes). And Bruce is not alone; The voice cast is filled with actors from the movies and shows. All of which go a long way towards immersing players in the Evil Dead universe.
As a survivor, your goal is to traverse one of the two large maps that the game has at launch, finding the scattered pieces of a map in the game while also searching for weapons and other useful loot. After finding the pieces of the map, you must conquer the Necronomicon Pages and the Kandarian Dagger in two separate King-of-the-Hill sequences before protecting the completed Necronomicon from hordes of enemies. It boils down to using your map to scout for targets and communicating as a team to ensure no one gets caught alone. The game’s fear mechanics (those used in Excellent phasmophobia), making players who are alone and/or in the dark more vulnerable to the demon, further encourages sticking together. The map is big and it takes time to find everything; There are cars on the map, but using them will alert the demon to your location.
The experience of playing as a survivor is different from many other games in the genre. For one, you can actually fight back, adding both a sense of agency and dynamism to your attempts to get out alive. Additionally, you’ll need to make time for the looting and leveling mechanics between completing your various objectives.
As one person on a team of four, playing as a survivor encounters a problem that has plagued online multiplayer games for as long as they have existed: trust and communication with other people. If you have a group of friends to play with, hopefully that won’t be a problem for you; The game lets you party and queue together or set up a private lobby.
If you don’t have a group of people to play with, Evil Dead: The Game still has options to support communicative multiplayer. The game has voice chat (although no push-to-talk option as far as I could tell), but nobody used it in the matches I played with randoms. Instead, players relied heavily on the game’s ping system as well as the overall safety-in-numbers approach. We were able to achieve our goals together, but it was hard to imagine how much more fun a group voice call would be with the whole group in one place.
On the other hand, as a demon, your goal is simple: kill the survivors before they reach their goals, or destroy the Necronomicon if they manage to find it. Each of the three playable Kandarian Demons has unique abilities, but all can own and control Deadites (essentially zombie minions spawned around the map), Survivors, cars, or even trees (which can attack nearby Survivors). They can all also spawn portals that summon more Deadites, place traps in locations around the map, and summon a boss. Demons earn the resources to use these abilities by collecting red orbs around the map, which they can only do when they don’t inhabit a body. In their soul form, they can zoom around the map at high speed and remember how the Camera shows the movement of the demons in the Evil Dead movies.
The gameplay on both sides of Demon vs. Survivor has enough depth to reward experimentation. The engaging atmosphere, straightforward objectives, and satisfyingly bloody combat provide just enough context to keep things accessible to all skill levels, while the inherent horror of the situation does the rest of the work. If you have a group of friends or you don’t mind queuing up with randos, it can be a blast.
But pure single-player content is also included Evil Dead: The Game beyond the PvE version of the online game mode. It comes in the form of missions, which are discrete scenarios that play out as more action-packed versions of scenes from the movies and shows (the first one has you digging up Ash’s girlfriend’s decapitated head). Playing these missions will unlock characters that you can use in the online game mode.
The mission select screen shows each of these scenarios as VHS covers like you would see in a rental video store (remember those?). It fits great and is a lot of fun to tie into moments from the movies. But the missions are just long and difficult enough to make you wish there was some kind of checkpoint system (too many times I’ve struggled through 15-20 minutes only to die in the last encounter and start over too have to). As it stands, the missions feel more like add-on content meant for unlocking characters, rather than the pieces of an extensive campaign mode in and of themselves.
All in all, Evil Dead: The Game is a solid addition to the asymmetrical horror genre, bringing elements from neighboring genres to create an exciting and fun group experience. It also has the gore and guts and spooky atmosphere you’d expect from the source material – one of the demons has a mechanic that scares a player like this old prank internet videos. When you play as a survivor, you always get the feeling that the demon is lurking just around the corner (and the game’s audio certainly reflects that).
Crucially, the game captures the unique tone of the cult classics. Bringing back many of the actors (Campbell in particular) goes a long way, but the game’s sounds and sights are instantly reminiscent of the movies, right down to the eerie details in the infamous cabin in the woods (that basement door!) or how the characters function mechanically (the necromancer can summon a skeleton flautist to boost attacks, as in Army of Darkness). But before you dive in, double check you have a crew to help you get out alive.