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Its funny to think that Sam Raimis The Evil Dead and its two sequels have maintained a cult following for years, but it wasnt until the formative years of this decade that merchandise based upon the 3 movies and their iconic main character, Ashley J. Ash Williams, as portrayed by Bruce Campbell, has flown onto the shelves. Action figures, tin lunchboxes, T-Shirts, and in a move few would have foreseen, a videogame, in the form of Evil Dead: Hail To The King.
Released in the year 2000 for the PlayStation and Dreamcast, for which it was one of my first games, Hail To The King was not actually the first videogame based upon Raimis movies, as a long forgotten Commodore 64 game, released in 1984, actually preceded it. It was, however, the first series spin-off into the wonderful world of games since the invention of 3D gaming, as well as coming when the series had built up and all time high fan following.
In many ways, Hail To The King was being built up to be as close as the fans were going to get to a fourth instalment into the plot. While there is some, rather sickening, talk of a remake, it does appear that the series, in terms of movies, has been done and dusted, with Sam Raimi now too busy on huge projects like Spiderman 3 to be making silly little horror-comedies like the series he made his name upon. The fact that Hail To The King did bring with it the key ingredient to the series success, in other words Bruce Campbell to provide the voice of Ash, did give series fans some optimism, but the bizarre early word on the project didnt provide much else to be optimistic about.
For a start was the rather confused description of what type of game it was. A survival horror I the vein of Resident Evil or Doom. While Resident Evil is, indeed, a Survival Horror game, Doom isnt really, and REs slow, stalking gameplay didnt really seem to fit the kinetic nature of the films, and while the latter game was as fast and furious as Raimis movies, a First-Person perspective would lose much of the character of Ash.
Most importantly, no matter what genre the game fit into, trying to get across the comedy element of the movies was always going to be tough, but to be fair to THQ, they did take steps towards remedying this with the bizarre, yet brilliant, inclusion of a One-Liner button. Yes, there is actually a button designed specifically to unleash one of Ashs trademark phrases, just in case its been a while without a cut-scene and you are getting bored.
Naturally there is a limited loop of lines, so this feature, probably the best thing about the game, loses its appeal after a few minutes, which leaves the rest of the game, and all Ill say is: Oh Dear.
Before I talk about the gameplay, Ill set out the story for you. After surviving the events of Army of Darkness(the Happy ending version), Ash is happily living with a new girlfriend, but he still dreams of the demons he encountered in that cabin years ago. His girlfriend convinces him to go back to the cabin, to face his fears, but this proves to be a bad idea, as his dismembered hand, last seen in Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn conjures up all hell again, and Ashs evil doppelganger emerges from the mirror and kidnaps his girl. Declaring war on the deadites who are now springing up everywhere, Ash cracks on his custom chainsaw arm-fitting, picks up an axe and sets off to get his girl and stop his evil-twin.
Now, apart from completely contradicting events from the movies, such has Ashs hand, and the cabin for that matter, still being there, to the ridiculously tedious retreading of movie events, replacing Ash travelling back to King Arthurs England in Army of Darkness for a trip to ancient Damascus, the game really doesnt seem to have many ideas in terms of plot, and really serves as nothing more than an excuse to steal series fans money by slapping the license on to what is a pretty bad game.
THQ opted to go on the survival horror route, meaning we are treated to a painfully bad Resident Evil rip-off, complete with the most sluggish controls ever(honestly, it makes Resident Evil look like a lightning fast adventure), incredibly poor attack responses, and generally dreadful game mechanics.
The D-Pad movements are slow and useless, and even the dual-weapon system, with one attached to Ashs handless wrist and the other wielded in his arm, is good in idea, dreadful in execution. Operating Ashs Chainsaw is one of the games best ideas, but is overly complicated in execution, having separate buttons designated for On, Off and Slash, and despite being a melee weapon, the device using ammo, in the form of oil.
Aside from these 3 buttons, you also have 1 button to control your other weapon, an action button and a run trigger. All of these respond in the same excruciatingly slow and worthless fashion.
Honestly, I know most of you must be thinking either this guy is a pedantic series fan who is just annoyed the game isnt epic, and the other series fans will write me off, thinking I truly love the franchise and will enjoy it, this guy clearly just doesnt get it and youd be wrong, this game is as bad as I make it out to be, possibly worse even, there really us nothing to recommend the game upon, the deadites are ridiculous, not based on anything from the series at all, and apart from the cabin, the character of Ash, the necronomicon and one, admittedly, cool appearance from Annie Knowby from Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, the game could be unrelated to the series, and just another crappy survival horror game.
The games aesthetic qualities arent even commendable. While the cabin does look creepy and well recreated, the rigid cameras, which completely lose the movie-like atmosphere, given the nature of Raimis camerawork, ruins this effect, as does the fact the lighting on Ash, enemies and items doesnt come close to matching it, making the game look very silly.
What is worse are the blocky character models, and the fact Ash appears to have an Iron-Rod jammed down his spine, and looks about as much like Campbell as any generic mass of polygons with brown-hair effect, and the Deadites just look dreadful, and in the case of the stock floaty ones, which dont resemble anything from any of the movies, just look plain unfinished.
The sound, well at least it isnt bad. Campbells voice adds an air of respectability to the project, but the rest of the sound is really rather nondescript. Spooky wind noises and the odd bit of creepy music, as well as Deadite cries of Ill swallow your soul which also get old very fast, but at least nothing sonically comes close to being as offensive as the rest of the game.
When all is said and done, Hail To The King provides one of the textbook examples of a wasted license, and above all else a woefully bad game. I really would not recommend this game to anyone, under any circumstances, no matter how much they class themselves as fans of the series, in all honesty, it will actually dampen the appeal of the series in your eyes, it genuinely is that bad.
Review Also posted on Epinions.com
Most of us will have seen the Evil Dead films. If not i can tell you that they are quite good. However as for this game all i can say is that it is such a disapointment. This game was brought out for a few consoles such as Playstation and Dreamcast. Lets find out about the game then. The game`s story stays true to the films adding a few twists here and there. It begins with Ash the chainsaw-wielding hero (which you play) going back to the dark cabin where everything began in order to confront his fears and nightmares. Of course we then find out pages from the Necronomicon are missing and so is Ashs new lady, Jenny. From then on it`s a wild ride into a portal back to medievil where everything started. Through out this game you will find a large amount of baddies chargeing towards you all the time from every angle. Its as if thats all this game was made for. If you really want to, you can stand and kill every single one but your ammo will rund out very quickly. Dont waste your time killing them all just dodge them. Also like i said the ammo will run out quickly as you get hardly any in this game. This will make the game tricky indeed. In the film our hero uses a chainsaw for his hand since its missing. He also uses it for a weapon if you havent already worked it out :) The use of the chainsaw when killing the enemy in this game is great but again it will keep running out as the fuel which you need to run the chainsaw on keeps running out leaving you to fight hand to hand or with other items. Another disapointment. When facing game boss`s they are easily killed with your weapons but can be annoying if fighting hand to hand. Try to dodge the little enemies earlier on cos you will use all your weapons up killing them before coming to the boss`s where like i said you need your weapons. Overall a disapointment in total. The graphics are terrible with the colours in this game being dull and boring. The sounds are pretty decen
t though with the heros favourite little qoutes being said. As for gameplay again terrible in other words dont get this or play it.
WOOHOO, at last the supposed fourth installment to the Evil Dead trilogy. "GREAT" everyone shouts... well not really. After three great cult movies the inevitable (which was Evil Dead the game) had to happen . Unfortunately its nowhere near as good as it rightfully should be! The graphics (as with most games) are probably the strongest selling point of Hail to the King but don't hold up with the top dogs of this genre like resident evil code veronica. The backgrounds are static like the early resident evils but arent as lavishly decorated, however they are lit quite nicely. The character that you play (Ash) is quite detailed in comparison and he even has a chainsaw instead of a hand just like the film which is cool. The deadites that you have to face are a different story though. They look unfinished, dont move very well and there only appeared to be a total of 4 or 5 different types. Sounds are quite disappointing too im afraid. For some reason the developers have decided to leave out the famous motorbikesque noises which grace the Evil Dead films when the evil spirits are getting closer. The creatures that your character (Ash) has to face only have one memorable thing to say and that's "i'll swallow your soul". so top marks for the sound guys in this department too. One saving grace is the fact that they've kept Ashes catchphrases intact and there's a cool catch! In order to kill the deadites, you have to use a combination of phrases and then use your weapon at a certain point (I thought it was a good idea others might disagree). The worst thing about this game is probably the controls (or lack of control over your character). For one thing, his movement is quite slow and when in battle it takes all day to kill something and it soon becomes impossible when theres more than one creature onscreen. You'll soon find yourself running instead of fighting but hangon a sec... you still can't get aw
ay because the character gets caught on the scenery. For some reason the designers seem to have left barriers that you can't see on all of the corners so the effect is similar to that of running into an invisible wall! Well that about wraps it up, I wouldn't advise that you buy this game, if anything like me you'll just get frustrated and wont bother playing it again. It's just a shame that such a great license was wasted with Hail to the King.