I’ve just defeated the Evil Dead: The Game dev team by smothering them in my Kandarian demon bosom and crop-dusting them with toxic farts. “You beat them faster than anyone else yet,” Saber Interactive’s PR lead admits. “Yeah, that was fast,” laughs Tim Willits, chief creative officer at Saber Interactive. The rest of my Evil Dead: The Game hands-on is as crude and chaotic as you’d expect from a game set in the iconic horror universe, full of skeleton flutists, chainsaw executions, and Bruce Campbell one-liners.
Evil Dead: The Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer experience that is a bit like Dead by Daylight. It pits four Survivors against one Demon, with the survivors working together to fight Deadites (think demon zombies) and banish the devilish presence from their plane of existence. Naturally, it’s steeped in Evil Dead lore, as the team has worked extensively with Evil Dead vets and creators to ensure it’s true to its source material. The Saber Interactive team wants to court fans of the Evil Dead franchise, asymmetrical veterans, and newcomers alike, and with Evil Dead: The Game’s unique arsenal, it certainly seems likely.
Evil Dead: The Fans
“We’re proud to say we’re bringing the Evil Dead universe to life more comprehensively than ever before in a game,” boasts narrative director Craig Sherman. It’s hard to argue with them there. There’s a lovingly intense attention to detail throughout Evil Dead: The Game that points to the team’s adoration of the franchise, like an almost exact recreation of the cabin from the original movie that you can wander through, or the car that looks exactly like Ash Williams’ 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale, from the pale yellow paint job to the Tennessee license plate.
The Survivors you can choose from are actual characters from the universe, almost all of whom are voiced by their original actors. Professor Raymond Knowby, the man who summoned the Kandarian demons in the first place, is the game’s narrator. Playing as the Kandarian demon swaps you to a camera angle and movement style that mimics Sam Raimi’s iconic Shaky-Cam setup that he invented for the original Evil Dead film.
Naturally, the locus around which the entire Evil Dead franchise revolves is Bruce Campbell, who was an integral part in the game’s development. “He put a ton of effort into collaborating with us on the details of this game and it shows,” Willits says. Not only is there a different version of Ash Williams in every class, but Campbell had a hand in the character design, as well. “He reached out about his butt,” Willits continues. “He was concerned that his butt on one of the Ash Williams models wasn’t accurate! Going back to our designers on that one was funny.”
And of course you can expect Evil Dead’s specific brand of gross humor woven throughout this game. “The game is gross, gruesome, very over-the-top and we definitely didn’t hold back on that element,” Newman says after I ask if I did indeed down the devs by smothering them in my bosom. “You’re right… a big demon granny hug from Henrietta Knowby’s chest.” Hot.
Not your momma’s asymmetrical horror game
It’s clear that my Dead by Daylight comparison is far off the mark just a few minutes into my Evil Dead: The Game hands-on. Whereas Dead by Daylight gives survivors very few tools to combat its killers, Evil Dead: The Game arms you to your teeth. “Half of the core game is good guys fighting back against evil, gaining the upper hand through coordination and ruthless battle, instead of being more passive and just trying to survive,” Willits says in regards to other asymmetrical horror games. In Evil Dead, Players get a melee weapon and a ranged weapon, with several options lying around an incredibly large map. Transitioning between whacking a Deadite with an ax and aiming down rifle sights is seamless to help maximize carnage.
At the start of each match there’s a brief looting phase, which is much more like Fortnite or Apex Legends than Dead by Daylight, with Survivors milling about in search of weapons, ammo, amulets (which give you a shield), and Pink F (which refills your health). While there are four classes of Survivors, one of which is a support class featuring a healer, you’ll want to have as much Pink F as possible – those Deadite suckers hurt. The looting phase is the calm before the storm (and there is a storm that closes in as the match progresses), as the Demon can’t see the Survivors unless they fire a weapon or start a car.
You will need to get in a vehicle from time to time, as the maps in Evil Dead: The Game are massive. As you traverse these spaces, searching for pieces of a map that will lead you to the Necronomicon (and the knowledge necessary to send the demons back to hell), a car will make life much easier. Of course, putting a key into the ignition will alert the Demon to your location, and that’s where the real fun begins.
Demons want to increase survivor’s Fear Meters by laying traps, possessing cars and trees, and borrowing the bodies of Deadites and your fellow survivors. During my playthrough, the devs tease a team member who fires his gun shortly after the match starts. “You do that every game, man,” someone complains, laughing. The dev playing the Kandarian demon softly and quite menacingly thanks him for the gunfire, and moments later I get my first jump scare. “Oh shit!” I yell as a blood-red demon face flashes on my screen. “He found us,” the team warns, and I hop in the car to make my getaway – before driving directly into a tree.
We collapse into a fit of hysterics that are punctuated by shouts of surprise as Deadites swarm us and a tree swings its branches at our heads. I pull off a QTE execution that sends the head of a skeleton careening off into the brush. After we successfully complete the steps required to banish the Kandarian demon, it’s my turn to get demonic.
Switching it up
More ways to play
If you aren’t too keen on jumping into the 4v1 fray with random matchmaking, there’s more ways for players to enjoy Evil Dead: The Game. You can build custom private matches with your friends, building games that could be 1v1 or four Ashes vs the Kandarian demon. “We’re excited to see how people approach it,” Willits says.
Playing as the demon is an entirely different experience. Most of my time is spent setting traps and possessing vehicles while collecting enough resources to unlock points along my skill tree. One of those is a boss branch that lets you send a powered-up demon into the fray and control it, so a few minutes into the match I unleash the disgusting rage of Henrietta Knowby. I belly flop and emit waves of noxious gas and grab survivors and shove their face into my chest like some sort of twisted burlesque performance until I’ve downed the entire Survivor squad.
Evil Dead: The Game is far easier to pick up than Dead by Daylight and that’s thanks in large part to its willingness to give players a pretty impressive arsenal. This game is much more active than other asymmetrical horror games, which often lean towards passive play and survival rather than team coordination and firefights. “We consider our game to be easy to pick up but hard to master,” Willits explains. That mastery will come from players learning how to maximize their skill tree upgrades, pick their Survivor class that best suits them (Leader, Warrior, Hunter, or Support), and get the hang of the gunplay. There’s a surprising amount of depth for a game that feels so instantly accessible.
It certainly feels like Saber Interactive has thought of it all with Evil Dead: The Game. Not only does it appeal to fans of the iconic horror franchise, but its status as an approachable, active asymmetrical horror game will intrigue people who don’t know the difference between Ash Williams or the Evil Dead. Evil Dead: The Game drops on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch on May 13.
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