Reviewed: October 12, 2005
Released: September 13, 2005
Good. Bad. Ash is the guy with the gun.
Bruce Campbell provides the voice and inspiration for one of his most famous characters, Ashley J. “Ash” Williams, a sarcastic former Joe Everyman with a chainsaw for an arm and a score to settle, in Evil Dead: Regeneration for the PlayStation 2. With his chainsaw and his trusty boom-stick, and a new sidekick to boot (literally), Ash hacks his way through one of the better budget titles available for any current platform.
Regeneration is not the first Evil Dead game to be produced, but it is the best so far, with additions to gameplay that make it a quick but entertaining adventure. Factor in new voice acting by Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi and signature snarky one-liners for which Evil Dead 2 and its sequel, Army of Darkness, are known, and you have a solid title.
You play the part of Ash, just an average guy who gets stuck in a haunted cabin with the evil Necronomicon Ex Mortiis, the Book of the Dead. Thanks to the evil codex, bound in human flesh, the woods surrounding Ash and his friends become infested with zombies, or Deadites, and malevolent spirits. Only Ash survives, but at the expense of his hand (which becomes possessed and tries to kill him) and quite possibly his sanity.
Evil Dead: Regeneration starts with Ash at the haunted cabin, where he enters a demon-possessed trance and hacks hundreds of zombies to pieces. However, the police interpret the act as a mass murder and commit Ash to the Sunny Meadows asylum for the criminally insane. After months stewing in the asylum, Ash’s defense lawyer comes to inform him that she investigated his crazy story about the Necronomicon, and that the head of the asylum, Dr. Vingo Reinhard has been secretly running necromancy experiments in his laboratory in the basement. Shortly after Ash’s lawyer leaves, all proverbial hell breaks loose, and must spring to action to make it out alive.
Ash starts out with a lowly pistol, but over the course of the game obtains many weapons to play with, including new and improved chainsaws, harpoon guns, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, and of course, his trusty “boom-stick” (a sawed-off shotgun). The mechanics are standard 3-D action fare; different buttons control Ash’s chainsaw and ranged weapons, and various combinations in rapid succession will allow Ash to perform special attacks.
Typically a demon must be killed with a finishing blow, by pressing the triangle button when the demon begins to let off a green haze. These finishing blows are varied and sometimes are shown in slow motion, and are fun to watch the first hundred times or so. The controls feel solid enough that the game is not too tricky to play, and a well designed targeting control allows you to quickly scan the room for containers to shoot or enemies that pop up outside of the camera’s view. In most scenes the camera can be rotated 360 degrees with the right stick, which is a feature that too many modern action games forget.
Early in the game Ash will also gain a traveling companion, a three-foot tall zombie creation of Dr. Reinhard, named Sam. What makes Sam special is that he is fully expendable; no matter how many times Sam may die, he will quickly rise from the Earth again to strike terror in the hearts of his evil enemies with his maggot-infested mug and witty banter. Not only does Sam help fight the near-endless hordes of demons and Deadites that threaten Ash, but he also provides comic relief and a way of lighting distant objects on fire (just ignite him and punt him to where you want things to explode). Of course, if you get bored or stressed, you can always abuse Sam for a few laughs.
The game is fun to play in general; much of the challenge comes from the overwhelming number of monsters that are thrown at you. Regeneration balances this out by giving Ash a Rage Meter, denoted by a skull with a spinal column dangling from it. Ash can transform into a demonic badass and hack and shoot much more efficiently for a period of time limited by the meter. This looks cool, but the game is easy enough that you could beat it without relying on Rage.
While it doesn’t break any new ground in graphics, Evil Dead: Regeneration has good visuals, which help make the game go down more smoothly. The character models for the game’s major characters, including Ash, Sam, Ash’s attorney, and the evil Dr. Vingo, are well done and display a wide range of emotions and expressions. In particular, Ash looks enough like Bruce Campbell to be recognizable, but also has a cartoonish quality, which lends itself well to the slapstick and silly nature of the game.
The environments of the game often look somewhat faded and gray, which is understandable since it is a game about evil zombies and transdimensional horror. However, the outdoor environments look much nicer than those indoors, such as at the asylum.
The sound in Evil Dead: Regeneration is an asset to the game. There is so much recorded material from Bruce Campbell and other voice actors that I am sure I haven’t heard it all in one play-through. Exploring every nook and cranny of the levels will often result in Ash making corny jokes (for instance, if you check enough doors in the bathroom at the insane asylum, Ash will quip “Quit stalling!”) Other amusing soundbites include Dr. Reinhard’s announcements over the intercom at the asylum, and Sam’s whining and wisecracks. The voice-overs in Evil Dead: Regeneration really help lend the game an entertaining, silly tone which worked so well in the movies.
The music in Regeneration is mostly unremarkable, with the exception of a nice metal track that plays whenever Ash enters Rage Mode and starts ripping through Deadites in a frenzied bloodbath.
Evil Dead: Regeneration hit the market at a $19.99 price. This might dissuade some gamers who will assume that this means that the game couldn’t sell. However, Evil Dead: Regeneration is a bargain at $19.99 and provides at least enough entertainment to keep gamers busy between major fall releases. Add hidden Bruce Campbell interview Easter eggs, and Evil Dead turns out to be a great buy for Evil Dead fans and novices alike.
Evil Dead: Regeneration won’t win any awards. Hell, you probably won’t be able to find it at major electronics stores in a year. But it is a fun little game that should not be overlooked if one is looking for a cheap yet satisfying game.