When I first heard of Evil Dead: The Game, I was super excited. Back during the “Spooky Season” of 2015 (aka Halloween time), I decided to watch all of the original Evil Dead movies (Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness).
I did this in preparation for Ash vs Evil Dead — the show on Starz. I knew who Sam Raimi was thanks to the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man Trilogy, and I’ve always loved Bruce Campbell. He’s just a funny dude. It was finally time to catch up on the story of Ash Williams (aka the Evil Dead franchise).
Earlier this week, I was explaining how Evil Dead is such a strange, but fun series of events. The first Evil Dead movie is a true Horror film, followed by Evil Dead 2 which can be both a sequel and a remake, and after that the franchise goes off the rails with the time-traveling Army of Darkness. Army of Darkness made Ash into a Deadite Smashing Action Hero with fantastic one-liners and all.
I became a bit skeptical about the game after seeing who was behind it — Saber Interactive. I had been burned (not once, but twice) by them before.
It all began with NBA Playgrounds. I grew up a huge fan of arcade basketball games like NBA Jam and NBA Street. I had expected NBA Playgrounds to be the spiritual successor to these games that I had been waiting on for so long — I was wrong! There were just some things that were way off in the original NBA Playgrounds — mainly the controls.
This week I returned to NBA Playgrounds and noticed how off the shooting and dunking meters are. The scoreboard is hidden in the corner, so you have to search to know the game’s score. There’s so much wrong with that game, even today.
I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed. In fact, NBA Playgrounds was such a flop that Saber Interactive ended up giving early adopters of the game a free copy of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. Apparently there were some problems with the Nintendo Switch version of NBA Playgrounds (more so than the other versions). The problem was when I downloaded my copy of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, it was also not very good.
I owned the original Shaq Fu on my Super Nintendo — I still own my copy to this day. What excited me most about the sequel was that it was a brand new take on the original game. While the original was a one-on-one fighting game (in the style of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter), this new version was a classic arcade-style beat ‘em up.
While Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is not as terrible as NBA Playgrounds, it was still a not so great game. I guess the original is also pretty well known as a terrible game, but as a Big Shaqtus fan I was excited to beat people up as Shaquille O’Neal. Back in the 90’s kids were dumb, and at the time I would buy any game featuring a sweet license deal.
From that point on, any time I saw Saber Interactive’s name attached to a project I was immediately suspicious. It’s understandable to take a studio or publisher’s previous releases into account when evaluating whether or not to play their upcoming title. It’s also important to know that things can change — studios hire new people, teams get larger, they learn from their mistakes, and many other factors come into play.
In the years since the NBA Playgrounds/Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn debacles, Saber has released some better games. I tried out World War Z, and I really enjoyed the gameplay. It just wasn’t the type of game for me at the moment. I never gave NBA Playgrounds 2 a try, but I really don’t trust that franchise any longer.
Saber Interactive has also helped bring some big AAA games to new platforms: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to the Nintendo Switch and Halo: The Master Chief Collection to PC. They are a big company working on tons of games right now, so they can’t all be winners.
I never owned a PlayStation 3, but I played Resistance at my friend’s house a couple of times. I didn’t really care for the game. Years later, Insomniac Games (developer of the Resistance franchise) has made some of my favorite games on both the PlayStation 4 and 5 (Marvel’s Spider-Man & Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and there’s even more to come). Things change.
Evil Dead: The Game • Redemption
After getting my hands on Evil Dead: The Game a few weeks ago I don’t think it’s a perfect game, but it is a lot of fun. What I really enjoy is how this game has a few different modes for different types of gamers. Also, I love that Bruce Campbell plays Ash and gets to be his silly self. After trying other movie tie-in team survivor games, like Friday the 13th, Predator: Hunting Grounds and some others, I would say this is my favorite so far.
Survivor vs Demon
The main version of Evil Dead: The Game is a 4 vs 1 horror/survivor mode, where a team of four humans (or a mix of humans and AI) can take on one “evil” human or AI. If you have a squad of up to four or even five friends you can have a great time with these online modes. The addition of cross-play allows for friends on all platforms to play together.
The multiplayer gameplay reminds me a great deal of games like Left 4 Dead and Back 4 Blood, except that Evil Dead: The Game is presented in third-person while the other two are first-person shooters (FPS). The third-person presentation works for this game, since it’s great to see Ash and the team perform chainsaw and melee kills on deadites.
I tried my hand at a few online matches with strangers, but in the end moved on to other modes. With a group of friends I would enjoy chatting and creating a plan to take down the evil deadites and complete our goals. Playing with a team of strangers was mostly disorganized chaos. We all ended up choosing our own objectives and ended up bleeding out all over the map. I’m sure that’s not always the case, but I much prefer talking to friends online than strangers.
The missions in Evil Dead: The Game have been my favorite part of the game. This may also be the best place to learn how to play the game. I started off with the Tutorial, which got me through the basics, but moving onto the missions was where I began to see it all in action — without having to let down a team of players by being the new guy.
What I love about these missions is that they are scenes taken from the movies and the TV series. I still haven’t beaten the first mission (after trying multiple times) — these are real tough — but I love that it comes straight out of the first Evil Dead movie. Each mission even features unlockable characters, items, outfits and more. I can’t wait to unlock Pablo Simon Bolivar from Ash vs Evil Dead.
Once I make my way through these missions, or at least a few of them, I can see myself going back to the multiplayer. The Survivor vs Demon mode also features a few solo modes, where you play with AI as your team. Below you can watch one of my many failed attempts at the first mission:
Over the past few Halloweens I have learned that I’m not into very scary games. Ever since its release, I have tried playing Resident Evil 7 each October, but haven’t made it very far. I will say that Evil Dead: The Game has the perfect amount of spookiness for me. The deadites may sneak up on your from time to time, but for the most part it’s more of an action survival game. Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams character also adds more of a goofy action/horror tone, with his quips and one liners.
The control layout is a bit complicated at the start, but I got used to it (mostly). Between using your melee and ranged weapon, healing up with some Shemp’s Cola, striking some matches, and using your flashlight, there’s a lot to control in this game. After playing the game for about two weeks, I hardly get lost in the controls any longer.
I plan to continue working through these missions and hopefully find a squad one day. Even if I have to search online for some new friends to play with (via Discord or somewhere else). The missions feel sort of like a training ground to build up your playstyle before heading into online modes.
This is sort of how I used to treat games like Call of Duty back in the day. Before ever stepping into any online multiplayer modes, I would complete a big chunk of the campaign to prepare. I know of many gamers that would go straight into online multiplayer modes, never touching the campaign or missions in these kinds of games. I’m more of a solo player anyways, so I’m always happy when a predominantly online game still features something for solo mode.
I’m very happy that Saber Interactive has been able to redeem themselves with Evil Dead: The Game, I may still be a little critical when seeing their name attached to a new project, but I will surely give them a chance. As long as you don’t feel that a particular developer or publisher has purposefully released a bad game to trick gamers, I believe they still deserve a chance.
Evil Dead: The Game is out now on PC and consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch).
*myVGBC.com was given a PlayStation 5 review code for Evil Dead: The Game by the publisher.