We may be entering a quiet period for new releases in 2022 but that could work in the favour of any game that does decide to release in the coming months. For Evil Dead: The Game, can it capitalise on this to cause a stir?
In truth, I approached Evil Dead: The Game with a ton of hype not just because of my love for the subject matter but because all pre-release content just seemed perfect. Managing those expectations is not always easy and competing in the asymmetric multiplayer space is an incredibly hard task.
Can Evil Dead pull it off and create a worthwhile experience that has the legs to compete for years to come? Let's take a look...
It's easy to try and compare Evil Dead: The Game to titles like Dead By Daylight and there is some accuracy to this. I feel that it honestly does Evil Dead a little dirty though because there is certainly something truly unique about this game from start to finish that no other game out there has done before.
From the tutorial, it's clear that a lot of care, love and attention has gone into creating the perfect experience not only for Evil Dead fans but for horror fans in general. The game is never truly scary and often dilutes tense moments with comedic one-liners from the cast of characters you can choose from. It encapsulates the feel of the movies to a tee.
The objective of each match is fairly simple. As the survivors, you need to collect three map pieces, then a page from the Necronomicon and a Kandarian dagger. From there you head to where the Dark Ones have spawned and use the dagger to banish them.
Finally, you must protect the Necronomicon while it is sealed once and for all. This gameplay loop is so satisfying and there's a certain thrill to playing as the survivors that creates a perfect atmosphere and tension within the team.
There is - of course - also the chance to take on the role of the Kandarian Demon and stop the survivors from succeeding. Regardless of whether you're a survivor or the demon, you will start the game by making some choices around the characters.
For the survivors, you will pick from one of many iconic names from across the Evil Dead franchise. There are even four versions of Ash Williams (once they've been unlocked). As for the demon, you will need to select your chosen elite enemies and strategise to cause the survivors as many problems as possible.
The cast of characters is pretty expansive covering all three original films and the Ash vs The Evil Dead tv show. Some characters need to be unlocked in the single-player missions which are in place to offer a recap of sorts while also teaching you how to play.
I can't overstate how beautiful this game is, especially given certain limitations it has. Evil Dead isn't a bright game, but it uses its light to great effect. Whether it's a lantern out in the forest or the flashlight beam from a character bouncing around a decrepit shack that you're investigating, it really is beautiful at all times, even when chainsawing a deadite in half.
Character models are stunning and fans of the franchise will know exactly who each character is without a doubt. When it comes to the various versions of Ash, it's so distinct the little differences between each one that again, you'll know which version you're playing with based on those visuals alone.
Each of the survivors has a special ability that fits within a class. This could be something that heals your group for a Support character or something that buffs your damage and healing as a Warrior class.
Regardless of who you select, they will also start out with a passive ability. You can level up each character by playing more games with them and once you reach levels 10 and 25, you unlock two further passive abilities.
Each character can carry one ranged and one melee weapon but you start each match with nothing. Combat is so simple yet fun. You have a light and heavy attack for your melee weapon and ranged combat isn't too overpowered (unless you're carrying a boomstick).
Within each match, you can also level up using Pink F. Each bottle you find is an additional point that you can use to increase your health, shields, stamina, fear tolerance or combat efficiency.
Ammo isn't too sparse but you'll rarely be tripping over it if you're using your ranged weapon frequently. Health items can be carried in limited quantities and you can also find amulets which will provide you with a shield against incoming attacks. Finally, there are matchsticks which are used to light lanterns and create a space for players to lower their fear level which naturally increases when out in the forest or under attack from enemies.
Each match feels like its own unique experience despite the overall goal never changing. While many people might think it's more fun to play as the bad guy in games like this and Dead By Daylight, I fully believe survivor gameplay is best in Evil Dead.
Bring a friend.. or don't?
The most surprising aspect of Evil Dead: The Game - given how it was marketed - is the amount of content on offer for solo or non-competitive players. You can search for matches against an AI-controlled demon and have your teammates either be AI or real players found through matchmaking.
Beyond this, there are also missions which are used to take you through the history of the films and tv show while also getting you used to the gameplay mechanics in a really clever way.
Crossplay aids this even further because if you and your buddies are on different platforms, you won't need to resort to matchmaking to have fun, you can still link up in private lobbies.
Evil Dead really has created an experience with something for every type of player and none of its content feels like an afterthought. I'm truly excited to see what else they release over the games' hopefully long lifespan.
Evil Dead: The Game is an absolute surprise hit on so many levels. Whether it's the depth of content available or the sheer polish of the final product. Where I came into this experience expecting to have to make allowances, I instead leave with a new favourite game of 2022 so far.
There is enough here to satisfy solo or offline players while providing the right balance of gameplay for anyone willing to take their experience online. I still feel like I'm only scratching the surface of what Evil Dead: The Game has to offer. Just a gentle reminder that this isn't even a 'full price' game and is putting many £50/$60 titles to shame.
I'm sure that plenty of people will find fault with the online nature of the game but the developers have never hidden this fact so I knew what to expect going in. It won't be for everyone but if you're willing to head online to get the complete experience, you shouldn't have an issue.
Knowing that there is still more to come in future updates and content drops fills me with joy. Even without an in-depth and intimate love for the Evil Dead film and TV adaptations, you can still appreciate and enjoy this game because it's that damn good.
RealSport Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)
We reviewed Evil Dead: The Game on PC and PS5 with codes provided by the developer.