As discussed in my piece about the history of licensed horror games based on film or TV franchises, the Evil Dead series has already had several attempts at being realized in video game form since the 1980s. Now that PvP and asymmetrical multiplayer horror games are all the rage these days, the Evil Dead franchise is next in line for this treatment.
After the rather successful Friday the 13th multiplayer game launched back in 2017, it set a broad standard for similar games to be measured. I’m personally still waiting for another game to capture the same playability and excitement that Friday‘s gameplay managed to capture. This new Evil Dead game was the next one I thought might finally get close to or match what Friday had to offer.
We’ll take a deeper look here to see how it fares against past and present multiplayer horror games and see if it’s worth checking out as a whole.
First off, this is going to be a difficult game to review, since when you get into the woods (pun intended) with this constantly-updated type of “live service” model, it’s hard to ever judge where a game will end up, as new content and changes will constantly be made for as long as it’s supported. It’s also hard to tackle because these games are designed to be shared experiences with friends or other players, and many people already have an inclination to not want to rely on the social aspect of a game to enjoy it. Yet another caveat is that these types of games only really remain fun and playable as long as other people are still online and playing it, which can always dip or drop off at any time, so it’ll be a mixed bag based on many factors.
Caveats aside, I’ll just assess the game for what it is in its current state and how I personally felt about it as someone who typically prefers single-player experiences, but will still jump at co-op or multiplayer experiences that call my attention.
Having said that, let’s take a look at what Evil Dead: The Game has to offer.
The gameplay loop of Evil Dead is a fairly complex one. It has a lot to offer and several unique elements to set it apart from other asymmetrical horror games. Even if many of its elements are taken from different places, the sum of all its parts feels fresh and satisfying.
The setup of the game involves two sides, one being the survivors, where Ash Williams and friends band together as a team of four to battle the other side, the evil Deadites, who are controlled by one player. A full match consists of a total of 5 players, similar to Dead By Daylight. This is a great number for an asymmetrical horror game, and one that works a little better than the 7-player setup of Friday the 13th or The Last Day, and it uses this player count to its advantage much better than Dead By Daylight does.
Playing on the side of the survivors, you’re able to choose from a total of nine characters at the start (with 4 more unlockable through the single-player challenge mode) with characters ranging from across the entire Evil Dead series, including the newest TV show, Ash vs Evil Dead. Characters are grouped into 4 “classes” that determine what kinds of general stats they specialize in and what the focus of their ability layout revolves around, which include Leader, Warrior, Hunter, and Support.
Each character within that class has unique abilities and stats, but the game also features unlockable permanent upgrades for each character via a skill tree in the Collection menu. This is a fairly unique trait for this type of game, with most leaning on the side of very little in permanent upgrades, so as to keep the game balance intact, but Evil Dead takes a slightly different approach.
Characters on both the side of the survivors and the Deadites have access to permanent unlockable upgrades, so if you plan on playing as both, you’re encouraged to invest some of your unlockable skill points to upgrade both sides of the field to stand a better chance regardless of the side you choose, or how many upgrades your opponents have unlocked. It’s hard to say how this will play out in the long run as more players continue to max out their character’s upgrades, but it does provide some motivation to keep playing, since the grind to unlock these points will definitely take a very long time to max everything out; easily hundreds of hours.
I found it best to find the character you like most and start with upgrading them, just to make the path to continued enjoyment of the game more feasible and attainable overall. Once you’ve nailed down what character or side you want, it’s time to start a game, which next leads to the option of which mode to play, as there are several to choose from.
There’s a fairly quick tutorial system that’s required to be played before jumping into any online game, which is also a great inclusion, and it teaches you the basics on both sides of the game. After that, you can choose if you want to jump into the multiplayer-type games or tackle some of the single-player challenges to unlock more characters and content first.
The single-player mission mode sets you on missions that are mostly attempts at re-creating storylines from the movies or TV show in a playable form, which is a nice touch, and due to their fairly extreme difficulty, they can also teach you a lot about actual gameplay strategies if you can manage to persevere through them. They’re all fairly short and can be completed quickly, and there are only five of them total at launch, though the menu has clear indications that more will be on their way soon through free updates or DLC in the future.
There are even some elements in the single-player game that don’t appear in the multiplayer modes, like some light stealth gameplay and the lack of a timer on some missions, plus the obvious story beats to go with them. It would’ve been nice if the stealth-type gameplay could’ve been properly worked into the multiplayer to function a little bit more like Friday the 13th from time to time, but it’s likely just going to remain tied to the single-player content.
While it’s nice that they included this mode for people who really wanted some kind of true offline content to enjoy, the fact that they can be completed in around 3-5 hours realistically (including many deaths and retries) it’s definitely not enough to warrant buying the game if you only plan to experience the offline content.
Moving on to the multiplayer modes, the choices are playing a fully online game (choosing which side you want,) playing an online game where all survivors are played by humans and the Deadites are all controlled by AI, play a solo game where all teammates and Deadites are controlled by AI, or play a fully private game with all live players and no matchmaking. Playing with your friends in the mode against AI Deadites is a great way to learn the game flow and strategy without having to deal with quite as advanced of an enemy and is where most people may want to start out.
Once in a game, the survivors are tasked with recovering several puzzle pieces and items in order to vanquish the Deadites, and at each step along the way, there will be enemies spawning all over the place, whether they’re made by a human Deadite player or AI, and this is where the game sets itself apart from most similar experiences. While a human Deadite player can possess and control any of the spawned enemies on the field one at a time, all other spawned enemies are controlled by AI, mixing the gameplay up a lot and keeping the action high throughout.
This adds a strong element of cooperation to the gameplay when you have to constantly be fending off AI enemies, making it feel closer to something like Titanfall or Left 4 Dead than an asymmetrical cat-and-mouse game. Action is a big focus from start to finish, where players usually can’t go more than thirty seconds of a match without encountering an enemy of some kind.
There is also a good sense of exploration throughout the survivors’ gameplay, since you don’t get obvious map markers for the first three objectives you need to complete, and there will always be a general sense of exploration since you’ll also need to procure supplies to stay alive and be able to fight off the Deadite attacks. Using the vehicles is a fantastic way to up your traversal throughout the sprawling map, and becomes a great tool for survival and saving time to get to your objectives sooner than later.
There are only two maps to play on, and while the location of objectives is always randomized, the nature of the objectives is always the same throughout every playthrough and goes in the same order. The maps are big enough that it can still add some variety through the randomization that it does have, but some more randomness in the objective types would also be nice. While this might be changed later, for now, this is one thing that adds a little bit of fatigue compared to the randomized nature of objectives in some other similar games.
When playing as a Deadite, the name of the game becomes timing and resource management, as you have the power to seek out the survivors from afar and inflict various types of attacks to impede their progress towards the objectives, including trapping chests, summoning AI grunts, possessing vehicles or trees, causing jumpscares to appear on-screen, and summoning a boss character to wreak havoc across the map. There are three different classes of Deadites to choose from, with different abilities and skill trees, including Warlord (from Evil Dead 2,) Puppeteer (from Ash vs. Evil Dead,) and Necromancer (from Army of Darkness.) The gameplay is fairly similar between them, with just a bit of variance in the abilities overall.
Deadite gameplay can be a pretty fun and rewarding experience if you’re into the constant resource management and jumping around the map, but it doesn’t feel as personally satisfying to me as it was to play Jason in Friday the 13th. However, I’ve heard many other players say they prefer the Deadite gameplay to the survivors by a long shot, so your mileage may vary greatly here.
The gameplay mostly all takes place in 3rd person, besides the general movement parts of the Deadite gameplay, and the aesthetics are great, featuring music from the series composer and the visual likenesses of the characters, enemies, and locations from the entire Evil Dead series, which is sure to delight any fan of the series without a doubt. The locations and visual details are all very well-presented here and really do feel like stepping into the world of the series a lot of the time, but some more maps would go a long way.
There are also, very importantly, boatloads of gore throughout all the gameplay, as it should be in an Evil Dead game, and it all looks glorious. There’s also a good amount of original artwork done specifically for the game’s loading screens, and every one of them is gorgeous and definitely fills the (quite short) loading times between gameplay or menus.
Naturally, there’s tons of fanservice and non-stop quips from Bruce Campbell and the other actors going on constantly, including plenty of lines directly from the movies and show, which have still managed to be entertaining after a good 12-15 hours with the game so far, but mileage with the fanservice may vary from person to person.
The game runs at a very crisp, snappy, and consistent 60FPS on the Xbox Series consoles, which is a great thing compared to many other games of this type. The servers also seem to be more than adequate to handle the load of the game most of the time, as I rarely experienced any kind of latency/lag issues throughout all my hours with the game, which is certainly a lot more than can be said for other similar experiences, especially in its launch window. There were a small handful of times where I got a message saying there were too many games open at once, but that was always resolved within a minute or two.
The controls generally feel very natural on a controller and feel like they may have been designed with a controller in mind, and that’s a great thing for a game that’s so action-packed. The camera itself could use a little work, as it’s constantly getting caught on walls or trees, which is somewhat expected given the nature of the game, since you’ll be going from wide-open outdoor spaces to cramped interiors fairly often, but this could be worked on in the future through some updates as well. An option to turn off the auto-aim feature for firearms would also be nice, and would be something very easy to implement in the future.
The $40 price tag seems about right for what you get here if you enjoy the Evil Dead universe and asymmetrical multiplayer games, though non-Evil Dead fans may not feel it’s worth it for the content in its current state. The fact that it also features full cross-play support across Xbox, PlayStation, and PC is a fantastic feature that makes it even easier to find friends to play with since they won’t have to be tied to a certain platform in order to play together.
At the end of the day, while it has a leg up in a few ways over what Friday the 13th was able to accomplish, it feels like it falls just a little bit short. The matches can get a little repetitive after a while, due to the lack of maps and the sameness of the objectives and match flow, even if the gameplay from moment to moment will still be a lot of fun, especially with friends.
If you’re not a fan of multiplayer games, this certainly isn’t going to change your mind or sway you away from your single-player preferences, unless maybe you’re the world’s biggest Evil Dead fan. If you’re open to giving asymmetrical horror games a chance, this is a pretty solid one to start with, even though that may hinge on whether you’ve got some friends to play it with.
Saber Interactive has managed to capture the Evil Dead world better than any previous video game attempt, even if it’s done in a niche style of gameplay that may not appeal to everyone. You should definitely check it out if you’re a big fan of the series or asymmetrical horror games. If you’re not quite so sure, you may want to find some friends and do some research first before jumping in.
(8.5 / 10)
A review code for Xbox Series was provided by the publisher.