Reviewed: June 25, 2003
Released: May 20, 2003
I was introduced to the Evil Dead series of movies way back in college and since then I have amassed a collection of every movie on both laserdisc and DVD, often with multiple copies of the same title. I am a huge Bruce Campbell fan whether he is playing the chainsaw toting Ash in Evil Dead, Brisco County Jr., or even the head of Intergang on Lois and Clark.
When I heard THQ was releasing a game based on this cult phenomenon I was understandably giddy and quite impatient to unleash my boomstick on armies of undead. I first saw this title at the 2002 E3 show and it was most impressive, even at that early stage of development. Based on the same engine used for State of Emergency, but promising better gameplay, Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick has finally arrived and all I can say is, Ash is back baby…
Massive game environments include all new Evil Dead locations as players attempt to save the town of Dearborn from the influence of the Necromonicon ex Mortis – the Book of the Dead. Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick mixes the comedy and fun of a campy horror movie with intense combat missions for the most complete Evil Dead game yet.
For those of you that played State of Emergency you will immediately notice several similarities in the game engine, but once you start to play the actual game you’ll forget all about SOE, as you slice through armies of zombies with your chainsaw or stylishly decap a Deadite with an over-the-shoulder shotgun blast.
In case you haven’t looked at the scores yet I really liked this game. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I am a huge fan of the franchise in general, but even if this game weren’t based on a series of films it would still stand on its own merit. The gameplay is solid and backed with a creative and quite humorous story that allows our wisecracking hero plenty of opportunities to deliver his trademark quips.
The basic premise of the game (and the movies) revolves around a book that when read aloud can summon evil spirits. In the movies Ash has only had to contend with a few of these spirits – or Deadites after they inhabit a human host, but in Boomstick the book is read over a local TV station and the broadcast tower creates a swirling vortex summoning an evil that possesses nearly the entire town.
Ash becomes a one-man army as he must defeat the Deadites and rid the world of evil. Killing zombies is a violent and messy business, and Ash will be able to use shotguns, pistols, a chainsaw (that attaches to his amputated hand – see Evil Dead 2), and even a shovel. When weapons aren’t powerful enough Ash will find a short but clever list of spells he can use to both enhance his own abilities and unleash powerful forces upon the undead.
The game is divided into chapters and each chapter has several mini-objectives. In the beginning you need to get past a police barrier. You attempt to bluff the captain by telling him you are undercover but he insists on seeing your badge – quest 1. Once past the barrier you make your way to the TV station and learn you need the station manager key to get inside, but he is over at the nudie bar - because where else would you really wanna be on your last day on earth. Getting in the club requires a quest of its own and there are plenty of other non-story quests you can complete to get new weapons and ammo including an early trip to the lumberyard for your chainsaw.
The story is what really sells the game along with the campy acting and one-liners from Bruce. The gameplay is admittedly repetitive by nature, but no more than any other action game really. The frequent in-game movies and new objectives keep you focused, and fighting simply becomes incidental to the quest.
Boomstick is an average looking game that falls victim to but still manages to surpass it’s SOE roots. The levels are a bit dark, which is to be expected since the game takes place at night, and the models are on the low-poly end of the scale. Textures are simple and functional but nothing to win any awards. Ash seems to be cut from a different mold than the rest of the cast. He has considerably more detail and his animation is really good whether he is walking, running, or fighting.
The game is 3D and you have control over the camera but you will find yourself fighting for that control if you aren’t careful. The camera AI does a really good job of keeping Ash and his enemies in the same view, but this view might not be what you want. You are free to spin the camera, but it will almost instantly snap back to what it wants.
The in-game movies and CG cinematics are all excellent quality with excellent camera work including that frenzied first-person demon-cam that rushes through the level toward its target. There are plenty of special effects for both weapons and spells that add some quality and fun to the game.
It’s not really game related but I’ll go ahead and note the excellent quality of the FMV documentary included on the disc. It really shows just how much fun the designers and Bruce had making Boomstick.
The soundtrack in Boomstick is excellent and dynamically cues to the events in the game as they unfold creating a very cinematic experience. I recognized several familiar parts of music used in the movies and it works just as well in the game.
All the necessary sound effects are in place so when you swing the shovel you get a metallic sound as heads go rolling. Your boomstick goes BOOM and your chainsaw growls like an angry predator waiting for the command to kill.
Yes – I saved the best for last. May I introduce Mr. Bruce Campbell, king of the sarcastic one-liners and deadpan delivery. Bruce is no stranger to games. He has lent his voice to such projects as Spider-Man, Tachyon: The Fringe, Broken Helix, and one of my favorites, Pitfall 3D.
This game probably wouldn’t have been made if Bruce wasn’t along for the ride and it certainly wouldn’t have been as popular. You might hear a few quips repeat from time to time but they are still hilarious as the first time you heard them. As least the designers give Bruce new lines for each chapter so things try to stay fresh. His acting and comic deliver in the game’s movies mirrors the style of his film character.
As you play the story you unlock levels for an arcade mode, which is actually quite a bit of fun in its own right. Story and arcade combined, you can expect 12-15 hours of original fun and while there is no obvious reason to replay the game I’m guessing that fans of the film will replay this title as much as they re-watch the movies.
Evil Dead is also only $20. Yes, I was surprised too. Normally this is a big red flag when shopping for your next game, but I think the price is very fair for what you get and I commend THQ for releasing a quality game at this price. I was surprised at the lack of media attention around this title. After waiting for over a year for this game it managed to sneak into stores a week before I knew it had even shipped.
Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick is a fun little romp with plenty of gratuitous violence, witty one-liners, and hilarious cutscenes. Thanks to the collaboration with the film’s creators and leading man this is perhaps – and oddly enough – one of the better movie translations to release on the PS2. $20 could buy you the latest Evil Dead DVD (just in case you don’t have the rubbery face special edition version yet), or you could go get this game and live the movie.