Dead by Daylight, Friday the 13th, a forthcoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre game … official multiplayer horror-movie games are everywhere right now, and they understand not just our desire to become the ultimate final girl, but also to explore our gleefully masochistic side as an iconic villain. And Saber Interactive’s take on the guts and grue of the infamous comedy horror series Evil Dead is absolutely gleeful, a love letter to Sam Raimi written in blood using the middle finger of a dismembered hand. Four players take on the role of Ash and his companions, one player becomes the Kandarian Demon trying to kill them all, and everyone has a lot of fun.
The good news is that you don’t need to have ill-advisedly read a page of the Necronomicon out loud to understand what’s going on. Every chainsaw-filled 30 minute bout across the sprawling atmospheric map has the same entertaining structure. As the Survivors hunt down pages and collect the Kandarian Dagger to take down cloaked big bads, the Demon glides along close to the ground in the swooshing style of Sam Raimi’s relentless horror camera – albeit occasionally catching on the scenery.
Asymmetrical horror so often feels unbalanced, but the power struggle here is handled well. Where the Survivors can arm themselves to the teeth with weapons from the series – yes, that means boomsticks – they must keep their collective Fear Meter low by sticking together and gathering matches for fires and lamps. Conversely, the Demon starts off relatively weak, unable to interact directly with the humans – but it’s fuelled by terror, and can possess those who can’t keep their fear in check, as well as inanimate objects. You’ll be inventively booby-trapping supply crates with dismembered hands that will comedically bounce out and sucker on to faces, taking control of nearby evil trees, and even possessing Ash’s sputtering Oldsmobile and barrelling it through groups of Survivors. Whether you’re fighting Deadites or possessing them, the flow of each match feels compelling and suitably desperate.
The pithy one-liners and spattery finishing moves are such fun that they almost make up for the inexplicable absence of a jump button. Unfortunately, those looking to feel as groovy in single-player will be disappointed with the series of small but ludicrously frustrating missions based around the events of the movies and TV show. These are needlessly difficult, and the lack of save points is a colossal oversight for those just looking to soak in the atmosphere of the beautifully realised sets. Respawning next to the thudding chained trapdoor of the original movie’s cabin doesn’t feel quite as “horror fan in grisly Disneyland” on the fifth failed attempt.
But like Ash’s “improvised surgery” with a chainsaw, the multiplayer is surprisingly deep. Unlocking new powers and abilities for Survivors and the three varieties of Demon continually opens up fresh horror possibilities, and the player community is already making the most of the nefariousness on offer. It’s fittingly rough around the edges, but Evil Dead: The Game is a surprisingly worthwhile cabin retreat.
Evil Dead: The Game is out now, £34.99