What is it with iconic horror franchises and their fascination with multiplayer? I don't know if it's the legacy of Left 4 Dead, the enduring popularity of Dead By Daylight, or some other otherworldly machination entirely, but it's difficult to ignore the emerging trend of classic horror characters being reborn in collaborative, antagonistic, and extremely-online video games.
Evil Dead: The Game is the latest to get in on the action. At a conceptual level, I totally get it. There's only so many times I can watch Evil Dead 2 before my neighbors begin to fear for my sanity; hearing muted laughter sync up with the sound of a chainsaw belt chewing through demonic flesh through the ceiling must be somewhat disconcerting. I need Ash to go on a new adventure and now I'll be in control of it, fighting against the marauding forces of darkness as Bruce Campbell's quips are lost under the deafening sound of the Boomstick unloading lead into Deadite. And my friends will be there too, for some reason.
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If I'm honest, I can already envision the arguments. Evil Dead: The Game is a four-player co-op game with an asymmetrical angle that we'll get to in a second. While one lucky SOB will embody the grooviest horror protagonist of all time, as he appears in Ash vs Evil Dead (although I'd imagine that skins echoing the style and looks of the eighties will be available, for a price), then the rest will have the fight over the others. The loudest of your friend group will probably claim sword swinging Lord Arthur, and the rest will have the likes of Pablo Simon Bolivar, Cheryl Williams, Kelly Maxwell, Scotty, and others to choose from.
As a group, you'll whip around worlds inspired by all three Evil Dead films (as well as the Starz TV show) on foot and in vehicles – and, yes, I've already called shotgun on Ash's Delta 88 Royale – while battling hordes of Deadite creatures. Surviving is only the half of it, mind; you'll need to loot equipment, explore locations for key items to help seal the breach between worlds, and even manage your escalating levels of fear to avoid being possessed by the Kandarian Demon and turned against your buddies.
Truth be told, Evil Dead: The Game looks like a hell of a lot of fun. It looks freaking gorgeous, with the developers at Saber Interactive clearly delivering a rich and evocative visual fidelity for its debut PS5 and Xbox Series X release. The moment-to-moment action looks truly chaotic as well, violent and absurdist in equal measure – just as Sam Rami would have wanted it. The studio is promising that the game will come equipped with a physics-based gore system to help take the action truly over the top in the most disgusting(ly stupid) ways imaginable, paired up with over 25 iconic Evil Dead weapons and skill trees to help you further refine your fight for survival.
As fun as it looks, I'm still a little mystified by the need to expand Evil Dead into the realms of online play, the game stretching beyond the boundaries of co-op and into asymmetrical multiplayer territory as one player takes on the role of the antagonistic Kandarian Demon. It's here where Evil Dead: The Game walks a familiar path, following in the footsteps of Predator: Hunting Grounds or Friday the 13th: The Game, the latter an iconic horror IP that may have been better-suited to an Until Dawn-style solo experience.
If we look at something like the upcoming Aliens: Fireteam, its framing as a co-op shooter makes sense to me – the structure echoes the nature of the film in which it draws its inspiration. I can't say that I ever envisioned Evil Dead pushing me and my friends together to fight off a wave-based army of darkness, smashing heads and slicing flesh until the ground beneath our feet gets squelchy, but that's where horror franchises are in their relationship with video games right now. Not that I'm complaining all that much. Evil Dead: The Game looks like a hell of a lot of fun and could still make for an interesting addition to the online arena.