Asymmetrical multiplayer games are my jam. They’re fun, immersive, and offer a variety of mechanics that work to keep you replaying. They’re not perfect, though; anybody who’s played one knows that the lobbies aren’t always great. Whether it’s getting stuck with trolls or running into server issues, a bad lobby can throw a good asymmetrical game off of a metaphorical cliff. The latest in the genre, Evil Dead: The Game from Saber Interactive, manages to make up for any multiplayer woes with its single-player missions—and man, they’re good.
I’ve spent about 50 hours in Evil Dead: The Game since launch and the bulk of that time hasn’t been trying to send the Kandarian Demon with a group of three. It’s actually been spent playing and replaying the game’s five missions. Now, half of this immersion into the missions and not the multiplayer lobbies came from my unwillingness to hop into games with randoms after a couple of frustrating experiences, but the other half of me was and is still completely enamored with the love for the property that runs through the missions.
While the entire game captures the gore, guts, and humor of the Evil Dead franchise, the game’s mission system is where all of these elements really shine as brightly as a campfire keeping Deadites away. Based on different events of the original Evil Dead films and the Ash vs. The Evil Dead series, the five missions dig into franchise lore. These references run deep and can be found throughout the game, from the Knowby Tapes and characters you unlock by completing the missions, to the mission titles and the actions missions ask you to do.
Mission One, titled “If You Love Someone, Set Them Free…With a Chainsaw” takes place during Evil Dead II. Collect Linda’s head, take Linda’s head to the shed, and defeat Henrietta Knowby, whose high damage move is, well, making you motorboat her. Align the way you get swarmed by Deadites repeatedly, ration your ammo, and try to keep your fear meter down. This one took me about nine attempts to clear which accounted for about an hour and half of the time spent, and I didn’t care about having to repeat it at all.
The care that has gone into adding humor and having the woods around the Knowby Cabin come alive (literally), along with the cursed areas you can wander into to collect supplies and quest items, can keep you entertained even if the deaths start to pile up. Additionally, the iconic Henrietta is absolutely hilarious to fight, with some of my deaths coming against her right at the end because I needed to show someone her motorboat move.
While Mission One is difficult, Mission Two does offer some reprieve. Titled “Party Down!” your goal is to collect Wisemen’s Brew across the map in order to throw a party enticing enough to make sure the kids who stole your car with the Necronomicon inside come to the party. It’s an extremely straightforward mission and the easiest of the five available. However, this one tests your Fear management skills, necessitating more match collecting and fire lighting to reduce your meter.
But after a simple easter egg hunt, Evil Dead: The Game ramps up with “Kill ‘em All.” As the third mission of the series, I spent about two hours here. Here you have to scout Deadites and their boss units continually, but more importantly, you’ll go up against the Puppeteer Demons and the Demi-Eligos. After multiple attempts and failures at relying on ranged attacks and dying because of it, I had to learn to get close in order to actually do any critical damage. But as the most challenging of the three, you, as Army of Darkness Ash, get to unlock one of my favorite characters from Ash vs. Evil Dead: Amber Fisher.
Between these three missions, you get the absolute groovy pleasure of playing as different versions of Ash. The last two are where things get into a fun weird territory that embraces other elements of the franchise. In fact, the love for Ash vs. The Evil Dead is one of the highlights of the missions and it comes into scope in the Mission that unlocks Pablo Simon Bolivar.
Mission Four, “It’s Not Gonna Let Us Go!,” puts you Pablo’s shoes. One of the fan favorites from Ash vs. The Evil Dead, and one of mine too, Pablo’s mission makes you take advantage of El Brujo’s amulet and focus on stealth—which is not the easiest thing to do in a game with a combat system that is clunky. I mean, if I can’t even track where I aim, making sure I move stealthily is fairly difficult.
Mission Five is perhaps the most fun to be had as you play as Lord Author. In “Homecoming King” you live out Army of Darkness fun and battle Evil Ash in this modern setting. This is a long one, but the fact that each mission is only unlocked by the one before means that you have everything at your disposal mechanically to beat it.
I will acknowledge that the missions are there to keep you engaged with the game’s core multiplayer content. I mean, you have to play through them to unlock characters (and the notable fact that there are no Black or brown characters to play as off the bat is a choice that shows how white Evil Dead is as a franchise). But the good thing about this challenging content that is completely devoid of checkpoints is that it gives me the ability to play through moments of movie and series moments in a way that isn’t just about cinematics.
The missions are difficult and one wrong move means you jump all the way to the beginning, sacrificing your time to the Necronomicon and getting no reward. But that difficulty and exploration is the best part of Evil Dead: The Game for me. I got to put in my time playing through lore-filled missions with fanservice moments that work perfectly and they weren’t something easy to just speed through.
While the missions alone aren’t worth the $40 price tag, they do offer amazing supplementary content that helps solo players do more than be forced into multiplayer or to only play AI games with AI that is pretty buggy. More ways to play? That’s just groovy.
Kate Sánchez is a pop culture journalist and co-founder of But Why Tho? A Geek Community.