Inspired by the titular movies and TV show, Evil Dead: The Game (Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC) is normally a co-op-focused third-person survival horror action game in which players must work together to defeat the infamous Kandarian Demon…or get to be the notorious K.D. as they take down their friends.
But as is so often the case these days with co-op games, the people who made Evil Dead: The Game — Saber Interactive and Boss Team Games — insist that it can also be played by those who prefer to go it alone.
What follows is my assessment of Evil Dead: The Game as a single-player experience.
One note before we continue:
As I mentioned, Evil Dead: The Game is made by Saber Interactive and Boss Team Games. Boss Team Games’ CEO, Steve Harris, also runs the magazine Walmart GameCenter, which I contribute to on a regular basis. And while this didn’t influence how I feel about this game, in the interest of transparency, I feel it’s something worth noting.
Anyway…Evil Dead: The Game is, for the most part, a lot like Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Back4Blood, and other combative co-op action games. Using a variety of melee weapons and guns, you have to take down an army of deadites, demonically-possessed people who run right at you like the crazed fast zombies of 28 Days Later. You also have your choice of hero, with each having their own special skills and abilities. Play as Ash Vs. Evil Dead‘s Kelly Maxwell, for instance, and you’ll find your melee attacks get progressively stronger as your fights go on, while Henry The Red from Army Of Darkness starts out with added health.
Even the three different versions of series hero Ash Williams — from Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army Of Darkness — have their own skill set. Evil Dead Ash, for instance, recovers some health when he lands a heavy attack on someone, while Evil Dead 2 Ash is especially skilled with double-barrel shotguns.
What sets Evil Dead: The Game apart comes from how the source material dictates some aspects of the gameplay. For starters, when using melee weapons, you have a finishing move you can execute when you’ve got a deadite on the ropes, ones that truly embrace the Evil Dead‘s cartoonish love of over-the-top gore.
characters in Evil Dead: The Game get scared just like they do in the movies and show, and it impacts their ability to fight. Not by a lot, mind you, but enough that your combat skills are somewhat compromised. With your fear meter on full, you might find yourself missing an easy shot or stumbling when trying to smack someone upside the head. And while you can calm your nerves by lighting a campfire or lantern, you can only do this if you have a match.
Evil Dead: The Game also embraces the source material in how the world is structured. Not only does the action happen in spooky places — including a forest where there’s a familiar-looking cabin — but it also has the terrible trees from the movies, ones that’ll slap you silly, secure in the knowledge that you can’t do a damn thing about it since, after getting slap happy, they turn back into regular trees.
Though what makes Evil Dead: The Game feel even more unique is how the levels aren’t as linear as the ones in Aliens: Fireteam Elite or Back4Blood, but are instead open like those in such games as Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands and Halo: Infinite. They’re also rather large. So much so, in fact, that the developers left some cars and trucks lying around so you can drive from one place to another…and run over deadites, of course.
As for how you play Evil Dead: The Game, here the game is more typical.
In “Survivor Vs. Demon,” one of two gameplay modes, you and your friends normally team up to complete a task, while another friend tries to stop you. But with the “Play Solo” option, you instead team up with three A.I.-controlled companions. And while you’re not given the option of picking which Evil Dead character will join you on this quest — which yes, does mean you sometimes get all three Ashes at your side — this does let you decide if you want to play as Kelly, Henry, or one of the Ashes.
The thing is,
like other solo modes in co-op games, the “Play Solo” version of “Survivor Vs. Demon” feels more like training for when you play with your friends than one built for people to play on their own for hours and hours. While the A.I. controlled characters are reasonably competent at killing deadites and saving your ass, and you have plenty of stuff to do, this doesn’t have any kind of progression, and thus no real incentive to play it more than a couple times. At least not on your own.
For a more solo-friendly experience, Evil Dead: The Game has “Missions,” in which you play as specific characters with specific objectives…and lots of deadites determined to stop you. It’s also set in an open world, one that doesn’t have side quests or anything like that, though there are plenty of underground areas and abandoned buildings to explore. More importantly, beating a level in “Missions” unlocks the next one, which not only gives this a beginning and an end, but also a sense of purpose.
The thing is, completing a level in “Missions” solo isn’t easy. For one thing, when you play this solo, your character is solo as well; there’s no A.I.-controlled companions helping them out.
Further adding to the difficulty,
supplies in this mode are in short demand (unlike “Survivor Vs. Demon,” in which a helpful deadite seems to have gone to Costco recently, and then spent time stashing the ammo, matches, and health-regenerating soda they bought in helpful places around the world). While there are supplies where you start these levels, there’s never enough for the task ahead, nor are there many places to grab more.
Though what’s interesting is that some of the other differences between “Survivor Vs. Demon” and “Missions” in Evil Dead: The Game make the former more difficult, but would actually make the latter better.
For one thing, the deadites in “Missions” run at you and start clawing at you like a weasel on meth. But in “Survivor Vs. Demon,” they’re more like the ones in the movies and the show in how they often jump back or to the side to avoid your attacks. They don’t just stand there and take it like their brethren in “Missions.”
Similarly, the sound of someone drawing near only happens in “Missions” when someone is actually drawing near, and you can usually tell where they’re coming from, and maybe even see them coming at you. Conversely, deadites in “Survivor Vs. Demon” come through portals that pop up unexpectedly, which not only makes for more jump scares, but also less predictable attacks. And yet, the sound of them coming closer in this mode is done in such a way that you’re never quite sure where someone’s coming from, which adds some real tension.
Sadly, Evil Dead: The Game has other issues that impact both modes. For starters, you can’t play the game, even on your own, if your Internet goes down or the servers are offline for maintenance.
Evil Dead: The Game also has a problem so common that I basically just cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant review: a lot of the text is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the captions, the mission objectives, and parts of the menus.
As a result of all these aspects, and issues,
Evil Dead: The Game — like other co-op games that can be played solo — is still best played with friends. But if, like me, you don’t play well with others, and you’re a fan of the Evil Dead movies and the TV show, it works rather well. Not as well as Back4Blood, mind you, but certainly better than Aliens: Fireteam Elite. Just be prepared to get bloody.