Dead By Deadite
HIGH Great fan service and solid combat.
LOW Repetition after a few matches.
WTF Why didn’t the devs of World War Z make a World War Z with this property instead?
With the recent release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and the 20th anniversary of the film Spider-Man, it seems like a good time to revisit the career of filmmaker Sam Raimi. The cult icon has made some serious bangers like The Quick and the Dead, Darkman, and Drag Me to Hell. His eccentric style and meshing of comedy and horror have made him an undeniable legend, which all started with 1981’s The Evil Dead. As a seminal horror film, it spawned two sequels, a reboot, a TV series on Starz, and even propelled Bruce Campbell to stardom.
Coincidentally, during this celebration of all things Raimi, Saber Interactive (World War Z) put out Evil Dead: The Game.
In this asymmetrical online multiplayer game, players group up in teams of four to fight against a single player who controls the main enemy. It’s a formula used before in titles like Friday the 13th and Evolve, though this system didn’t make many waves until the release of Dead by Daylight, which largely cemented the style of this kind of online experience. In that game, a group of survivors tries to survive against a single player controlling a killer, usually based on an existing property like Nightmare of Elm Street, Saw, or even Evil Dead.
Evil Dead: The Game takes that formula and sands off the rough edges to create something more polished and enjoyable, and it starts with the gameplay.
When a survivor, players control their character in a third-person perspective. The main goal is to find pages of the Necronomicon while surviving against an onslaught of enemies, culminating in trying to use the book against a boss enemy. Along the way, players find weapons like swords, axes, and different types of guns, each with their own level of rarity that determines their strength.
The moment-to-moment action of hacking and slashing my way through enemies feels smooth and satisfying if a bit simple. Gunplay is solid as well, but the real highlight comes from the abundance of gory execution moves, like slashing an enemy’s head off or driving a chainsaw through their chest.
It’s rare that asymmetrical horror games provide good movement and attack options for survivor players, as the general idea is to force weak characters into teamwork. In Evil Dead, every survivor has a fighting chance, though communication is key. For example, players can ping important things around the map, like rare weapons and key mission items. It’s also imperative to stay close together, since players who wander away from the group become easy fodder for enemy demons. Coordinating is a large part of success for any successful team here.
Playing solo as a demon adds more depth to a match, as players are basically ‘dungeon masters’ of sorts. Tasked with making sure survivors don’t collect the pages of the Necronomicon, they’ll use energy to set traps, frighten players, and even possess vehicles to slow down the enemy team in first-person perspective — it’s reminiscent of the infamous POV shots from the Evil Dead films.
Overall, both modes provide a good time with friends. Unfortunately, after about two or three matches, I think I saw everything the main multiplayer modes had to offer. There’s not much variation to each match, and few opportunities to improve as a survivor. Sure, there’s a skill tree with new abilities and slight upgrades to unlock, but that does make players slightly better at doing the same thing over and over again. Even being a demon got stale before long. It doesn’t help that there are also only two maps — a serious bummer, though a free new map is coming soon.
A multiplayer-focused experience like this running out of gas so soon is a bad sign, especially since the single-player mode is horrible. Basically, players complete missions that serve as mini-campaigns, with the reward being an unlockable character for the multiplayer. Each character has its own ability, making them highly worthwhile to unlock. Unfortunately, I hate the work that goes into earning them.
The campaigns seem simple enough — progress through a linear set of goals, kill enemies and read some boring captions of still images. Unfortunately, it’s ruined by random difficulty spikes and a lack of checkpoints. It’s maddening to reach the end of a mission, get killed, and then be sent back to the very start. So much so, that I didn’t even bother with these after a while.
Aside from those complaints, I think the package excels at providing Evil Dead fans (like myself) with great fan service. Beyond having cast members reprise their film roles, we get stuff like a recreation of the cabin from the first film, and the treat of the same exact low-budget sound effects for things like wood creaking or gunfire made — it made me so happy. In a way, it might be the best use of the property in a game since 2012’s Poker Night 2.
Evil Dead: The Game pleases the Evil Dead fan in me as the perfect love letter to Sam Raimi’s horror masterpiece. As an actual game, however, it’s disappointingly bare-bones, with a multiplayer mode that gets stale way too soon and a dreadful series of single-player missions– qualities that are a serious concern for online-focused games like this one.
Disclosures: This game is published and developed by Saber Interactive. It is available on PS4/PS5, PC, XBO/X/S, and Switch. This copy was obtained via publisher for review and was reviewed on PS5. Approximately 10 hours were spent in multiplayer. 1 hour was spent in single-player and was not completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, and Partial Nudity. According to the site: This is an action horror game in which players battle either human survivors or demonic forces in multiplayer matches. As survivors, players must find the pages of a map while killing demonic forces by using melee and ranged weapons (e.g., cleaver, chain saw, crossbows, pistols). As demonic forces, players must kill human survivors by setting traps and controlling demonic minions and inanimate objects (e.g., trucks, trees). Battles are frenetic, often accompanied by large blood-splatter effects that leave stains on characters and the environment. Some survivors can perform finishing attacks that result in dismemberment, decapitation, and/or disembowelment of enemies. When controlling demonic minions, players can rip their minion’s arm and/or head off to use as a weapon against opponents. Some demonic creatures are depicted partially nude with exposed buttocks and/or breasts. The word “sh*t” is heard in the game, and a handful of characters are shown raising their middle fingers.
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles for character dialogue and a few visual cues, but being a multiplayer game, there could have been a few more concessions to help players navigate around the map. Also, enemies don’t always appear on the minimap but there is an ability to ping items around the area. This game is not fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The controls cannot be remapped and but there is a control diagram.