Evil Dead is back in video game form, and it?s better than ever! Of course, that is not saying much considering its predecessors?but better nonetheless! Evil Dead: Regeneration is a third-person action/adventure that this reviewer suspects takes place after Evil Dead 3. Our hero (and hardware enthusiast) Ash has been convicted of murder and thrown in the loony bin after killing his friends who he claimed were possessed by?you guessed it, The EVIL DEAD! The head doctor of Sunny Meadows Asylum, Dr. Reinhard, has gained possession of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, and he plans to unleash an army of Deadites upon the world. However, during his incantation, something goes awry (which seems to happen a lot in the Evil Dead universe: See Army of Darkness aka Evil Dead 3) and to resolve the problem, Dr. Reinhard needs Dr. Knowby?s diary (the first man to study the Evil Dead). However, in searching for the diary, Dr. Reinhard comes up empty handed, for Sally Bowline (Ash?s beautiful, cleavage-bearing attorney) has taken it in hopes of proving Ash?s innocence. With Deadites now running rampant in the asylum and Sally being Dr. Reinhard?s number one target, Ash must escape the asylum, rescue Sally and her cleavage, and consequently save the world. However, Ash will not be alone on this mission. Dr. Reinhard?s ?failed? experiment, a three-foot, half-Deadite named Sam, will assist Ash in hunting down and stopping Dr Reinhard, hoping to settle his own vendetta in the process. The spirit of Dr. Knowby will also assist you with ?helpful? information about Ash?s mission.
With an auto-target trigger, block button and an infinite amount of ammunition for all the weapons, the gameplay in Evil Dead: Regeneration is quite simple. It features a combo system that the player can be ignorant of the entire game and still easily finish the game. The weapons and items available throughout the game are few in number (seven total). However, combining weapon-item usage can be surprisingly effective against the Deadites, the most effective being the harpoon-shotgun combo. Regeneration also features a ?finishing move? system. After so much damage, enemies will begin to emit what looks like a green gas from their bodies. On this cue, a simple tap of the ?Y? button will make Ash finish off the enemy in one move (which can vary from a simple shotgun shot to the head to Ash kicking the enemy in his ?jewels,? flipping him over, and blowing his head off!) During the time it takes Ash to finish off his enemy, he will be invulnerable to any attacks by surrounding enemies.
Ash is not the only one who will partake in the slaughtering of innumerable Deadites. As mentioned earlier, Ash is teaming up with a half-Deadite dwarf named Sam who has a personal vendetta against Dr. Reinhart. Sam can be used in a variety of ways. Primarily, he is Ash?s personal football. Ash can kick Sam at enemies, and Sam will proceed to latch on to them and either hold them for Ash to finish off, or finish them off himself by ripping off their heads. The ?punt? function comes in handy when trying to solve puzzles in order to proceed to the next area. For example, Ash can set Sam on fire with a flamethrower and punt him onto a torch, opening a doorway to the next part of the level. In parts of the game where a certain Necronomican symbol is found, Ash can actually possess Sam to access areas that Ash cannot reach due to his size. Feel free to use Sam as half-hazard as you please. Even if Sam perishes, he will immediately regenerate. Therefore, abuse him to your heart?s content.
As they die, the Deadites can drop two different types of floating orbs, red and orange in color. Collecting the red orbs will replenish Ash?s health (duh), while the orange orbs will fill Ash?s ?rage? meter. Once this ability is activated, Ash will transform into an evil, demonic form of himself, increasing the damage dealt to the Deadites with each blow. Ash will return to his human state either by deactivating the ability or running dry the rage meter. Like the combo system, it is possible to complete the game without ever using the rage system, though it can come in handy when you find Ash low on health and surrounded by Deadites.
After the first hour or two, Evil Dead: Regeneration?s gameplay becomes quite boring and repetitive. Besides a few extremely small platforming sections (which are uncomfortable due to the stiffness of Ash?s jump), most of the game is spent holding down on the right trigger and mashing the ?X? and ?B? buttons (weapon and item firing). The bosses, as well as the rest of the enemies in the game, offer no challenge whatsoever. The simple tactic of circling the enemy, while continually firing one of the guns, will take down practically every enemy in the game with relative ease. The game itself is glitchy and full of bugs. On more than one occasion, the game started up and once I loaded the level, Sam could be heard dying over and over again, but could not be seen on the screen for some reason. At another point in the game, if Ash were to shoot a specific enemy while they were knocked to the ground, the entire screen would turn blue. The game progression is linear in the strictest sense, allowing for alternate routes only to pick up a secret item or two. Lastly, the enemy AI can only be described as ?intellectually impaired? or in Laymen?s terms, retarded. The Deadites simply run at Ash in hordes, lacking any form of strategic flanking or weakness exploitation. This is all the easier for Ash to chop his way to Dr. Reinhart, but is extremely dull for the player in control of Ash.
In the graphics department, Evil Dead: Regeneration has its ups and downs. On the positive side, the cutscenes are done fairly well. The face of Ash is very similar to that of a young Bruce Campbell. However, once you enter real-time gameplay, the graphics go out the window. Generally, most of the textures are flat and lack detail. The game, especially the XBOX version, had potential to do so much more. With the amount of blood that flows in the game, the developers could have easily allowed some of that to stay on Ash after he killed a Deadite. However, the best they give you is a fountain of blood erupting right before the body disappears. Basically, much more work could have been done in this department.
As for the audio, like the graphics, it has its positives and negatives. On the negative side, the only time the game has any form of music is when Ash possesses Sam or when Ash enters into rage mode, and even then it hardly fits the game atmosphere (i.e. when possessing Sam, a techno tune begins playing). On the positive side, Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi (from the Evil Dead movies) provide excellent voice-overs for Ash and Sam. The game is filled with hilarious one-liners, encouraging you to turn off the mute option during the cutscenes, but ONLY during this time!
There is not much in terms of replayability for Evil Dead: Regeneration. As stated earlier, the game is completely linear, so no hidden paths or levels are available. The only ?secrets? the game offers are pages of Necronomicon, which for the most part are quite easy to find and acquire. Each page collected unlocks an extra in the main menu. These extras include interviews and voice-recording clips with Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi. Of course, for hardcore fans of the Evil Dead series, this is worth the twenty bucks alone. As much of a fan as I am of Bruce Campbell, as an objective observer, I must say I wasn?t inclined to make a second run through for three or four more two minute clips of Bruce talking about himself.
Evil Dead: Regeneration is easily the best game in the Evil Dead video game series (steer away from Hail to the King and Fistfull of Boomstick!). However, this isn?t saying much. It has its fair share of flaws, including ?lazy? graphics, repetitive gameplay, and a glitch-infested level design. It only takes around six to seven hours to complete, and unless you are obsessed with watching and listening to Bruce Campbell, you will only run through this game once before you allow it to start collecting dust on the shelf. This game is slightly redeemed by a relatively cheap price tag of $19.99 and excellent voice acting. The Evil Dead game franchise, like its sister movie franchise, is undoubtedly getting better with time, and hopefully with time, we as a gaming community will be able to call an Evil Dead game great! For now, however, we must watch them falling short of their potentials and recommend them as one-night rentals.