Review: Good? bad? I'm the guy with the gun.
The Evil Dead film franchise has always appeared as if it were ripe for a videogame license that would be action packed and entertaining. Unfortunately for fans of these horror-comedy feature movies, most of the previous games based on the films were lackluster, at best. With Evil Dead: Regeneration
, developer Cranky Pants Games and publisher THQ have finally made a game that, while flawed, manages to pay a level of homage to the campy films with a fun little action experience that won't take too much of your money.
The formula for Regeneration
is similar to previous games based on Evil Dead such as Evil Dead: Fistful of Boomstick
and Evil Dead: Hail to the King
, but the key difference for this title is that it truly embraces the action elements of the movies for proper effect. The main character of Ash is allowed to completely be himself, complete with a chainsaw on his right hand and a shotgun in his left. You're never constricted by ammo counts or complicated inventories in Regeneration
, and most of the time you are just kicking ass in a very stylish fashion. On top of this, the addition of the sidekick character ? Sam ? introduces a wrinkle into what would otherwise be fairly stock gameplay.
The main story focuses around Ash and his exploits in the infamous cabin from the movies. The idea seems to be that the game takes place after Evil Dead 2 (effectively ignoring Army of Darkness) and has Ash being taken to a mental hospital for his attacks on the ?people? who were in the cabin. Quick synopsis for those that don't know: Ash goes to a cabin in both of the first two movies, finds an evil book, people with him slowly get possessed and are then killed by him. Suffice it to say, the doctors at Sunny Meadows Asylum don't believe that Ash was fighting any ghouls so they are having him examined by psychiatrists and the like. Ash's lawyer, Sally, is intrigued by his story and wants to look into it more, but before she can really get started, the demented Dr. Reinhard, who has been Ash's psychiatrist, experiments with the Necronomicon (that Ash brought back with him from the cabin) and awakens evil all throughout the asylum.
The game basically picks up from here, as Ash must escape the newly populated asylum and find out what happened to Sally, the Necronomicon, and Dr. Reinhard. Most action scenarios involve Ash using a gun in his left hand and a melee weapon in his right; this constant weapon setup allows for simplistic combos that will use the chainsaw to slice enemies and then a shotgun blast to finish them off. Throughout the game, you'll find a few other weapons such as a flamethrower, rocket launcher, and a harpoon gun useful for grabbing distant enemies. As said before, there are no ammo counts or limits on your weaponry so you can really just go to town on the skeletons, monsters, and ghouls that you'll face. Additionally, Ash will occasionally come upon glyphs that will increase his health or rage meters.
The rage meter primarily allows Ash to turn into ?evil Ash,? a possessed version of himself from the films. This berserker mode functions comparably to the rage mode in The Suffering
, and it's about as useful, too ? that is to say, it's not useful. The rage mode allows you to attack faster and take slightly less damage, but you honestly won't find yourself needing it unless you want to speed up a particular fight.
The introduction of Sam (voiced by Ted Raimi) as a half-human, half-deadite partner for Ash is actually for the benefit of the game, as it allows for heavy doses of comic relief as well as some twists in the gameplay. Sam can be used in all sorts of ways including being kicked onto adversaries (where he'll rip their heads off) and he can also fend for himself with basic melee and projectile attacks. He's also helpful in certain situations in which Ash will possess him and be able to control his movements; this accommodates access to certain level areas that are out of reach for Ash, but not for the three-foot-high Sam. Usually, these sequences involve getting Sam to an area where he can pull a lever to gain Ash access as well, but sometimes Sam can drop onto large mini-boss characters in order to ride them around, thus clearing obstacles and eliminating the mini-boss. Sam is really quite an inspired addition to the game, as his and Ash's banter is quite funny, with lots of in-jokes about the characters, the actors who play them, and the game itself. You are also heavily encouraged to kill Sam in various ways, due to the fact that the he regenerates, thanks to his half-deadite form. This allows for many comedic moments of kicking Sam into grinders, fans, spikes, and so on. Often, Sam will have accomplished a task and you will see him ? in a cutscene ? meet his maker in comical fashion. Once again, though, he will reappear right next to you and can be used over and over. This mechanic is actually quite helpful for the game, as Sam can constantly retry certain sequences without ?dying? and forcing you to reload a save or redo tedious gameplay.
Evil Dead: Regeneration
also features several boss characters that are mildly entertaining to fight. Each of them has fairly obvious patterns and doesn't pose too much of a threat, but it is always fun to see games build up to boss fights and use them as markers in order to ?milestone? the story experience.
So, the game is definitely fun for fans of the movies and those who are into action games, but as mentioned earlier, it does have its share of problems. For starters, the camera system is not very cooperative, at the best of times. The game uses a basic targeting lock-on feature that can be activated by the right trigger and toggled to other enemies with the right thumbstick; however, this always seems kind of dodgy and many of the game's tightly designed areas end up snapping the camera around too late, too quickly, or not at all. You'll often find yourself trying to manually swing the camera around while being attacked, and the only times you really take serious damage is when you are battling with the camera/targeting control, not from the enemies, themselves. As for the combat controls, they also suffer, to a certain extent. Often, you'll find Ash sluggishly completing certain combos or not targeting enemies, and this, as said, can be frustrating in tight areas, but thankfully there are some more wide-open areas to really use your shotgun, harpoon, and even for punting Sam. In general, the game plays somewhat fun due to its source material, but really does feel quite floaty and unpolished in the areas of combo control, targeting, and camera movement.
The visual presentation is quite lukewarm and honestly, it's pretty simplistic. This being said, Evil Dead: Regeneration
is only a $19.99 game, but the general lack of detail in the environments and on some of the characters can't be ignored. Quite a few of the levels have only a few breakable objects and scarce peripheral detail, and the textures used for many of the walls, doors, and backdrops are often repeated and muddy. The characters themselves, particularly Ash and Sam, animate relatively well, but do move with a level of jerkiness when executing maneuvers or moving from place to place. There's some decent visual representations of blood, ghosts, and magic, but all of this stuff is pretty much par for the course in action games these days. Cutscenes are used fairly extensively throughout the game, and while the characters do show a level of character and humor in their movements and facial expressions, the overall effect is still somewhat wooden and routine.
The audio fares better than the visual aspects, thanks in large part to the stellar voice acting job of Bruce Campbell as Ash and Ted Raimi as Sam. Campbell is his usual cynical and witty self, and Ted Raimi adds a sort of Italian-gangster vibe to his screwball deadite character. The two exchange goofy quips making fun of each other, and the game benefits from the camaraderie of the two ?heroes.? The music is fairly so-so and doesn't really borrow from any of the movies, per se. The score is effective for warning you of impending danger and such, but it does not stand out as anything memorable. The sound effects all fit the universe well, and particular shout outs go to the weapons sounds (which pack a decent wallop) and the ?unseen evil,? which comes after Ash with the same whirring sound effect ? good stuff.
Evil Dead: Regeneration
won't last very long, probably in the neighborhood of about 5-10 hours based on skill level and whether or not a player cares about the Evil Dead lexicon. There are some unlockable extras to be found throughout the levels such as interviews, artwork, and voice recording sessions, but these only add a dash of additional content for those into the game and/or movies.
Evil Dead: Regeneration
comes at the price of $19.99 and it is certainly a decent purchase if you're a fan of the films (or even the not-so-hot previous games). If you go in looking for a campy romp to last you a couple of nights, you'll find there's probably something to enjoy in this one.