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Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick Review
review
game: Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick
three star
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
publisher: THQ
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Aug 10th, 2003
last revision: 07:39 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005


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The Sam Raimi yarn factory may have graduated to one hundred million dollar franchise flicks like Spider-Man, but old school Deadites can still get their fix. Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick is out at a budget price for the Xbox and PS2. Outsiders beware: if you do not enjoy the Evil Dead films, or have never even seen them, you may be perplexed as to why someone like myself is immediately drawn to this game. It is, after all, not all that deep, or all that long. It is also very repetitive. However, there is enough zombie-killing mayhem to keep most action junkies happy for the duration of the game, and enough signature Evil Dead flare to make the true fans stand up in their living rooms and declare to their loved ones: "Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up: this is my boomstick!"

Boomstick is the second game from THQ based on the Evil Dead movie trilogy. All of the primaries behind the films -Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell-were involved in its development, with Campbell once again providing all of the vocals for Ash. The story follows our beloved, square-jawed hero as he continues to struggle against the evil unleashed from the Necronomicon ex Mortis (the Book of the Dead).

This time, however, he is in a game that is more befitting the unusual mix of over-the-top blood and gore and ham-it-up comedy of the films. The first game, Evil Dead: Hail to the King, was a must-see for loyal followers of the series, but really wasn't that much fun to play. The reason behind this lay in its use of the Resident Evil engine. It may have seemed like a no-brainer to use the game engine of the number one horror title on the market for an Evil Dead game. In retrospect, however, the deliberate pacing and fixed-camera perspective of Resident Evil do nothing to translate the manic, hair-brained action for which the Evil Dead films are known. To correct this, THQ and Vis turned to the game engine used by Rockstar's State of Emergency. This was a move in the right direction, as this arcade style, dismember-the-crowd gameplay is a good fit for the material.

Crowd control pretty much sums up the action in this game. Each level is filled with seething zombies that terrorize citizens and make a lot of trouble for Ash. At times there can be thirty or more "people" on the screen at one time-Ash, zombies, policemen, old ladies, the undead and dying. It is mayhem in the truest sense of the word. But Ash has an arsenal at his hands...er, hand. As you may remember, Ash's right hand (or left, depending on what scene you are watching) was possessed by the Evil, and he was forced to sever it and replace it with a chainsaw. Add to that a shoulder-slung sawed-off shotgun, a.k.a. boomstick, and you got yourself one bad-ass zombie-killer. The game's control set-up allows you to use both weapons independently for optimal carnage. The game also features a lock-on targeting system for the gun, so that wherever you are facing, the gun is always aimed at the target. This makes for some great Ash style and flair as you cut down one zombie with your chainsaw while blowing away another one standing behind you with an over-the-shoulder pot shot. You can also impale a zombie with your chainsaw, lift him into the air, and blow him across the screen with a carefully placed shotgun blast to the head. The game features other weapons including pistols, shovels, dynamite, even gatling guns. Most weapons have several selectable forms of ammo as well, like hollow point or exploding rounds, which really come in handy when you are in the thickest of things.

There is no end to the nastiness and gore in this game, either. The zombies are as gruesome as ever; they feast on human flesh, and they all have multiple gore zones, which allow you to dismember them limb by limb. You can chop of arms, blow off heads, you name it, and they still keep coming. Cut a zombie in half, and its upper body will crawl after you, hand over hand. If the scene isn't awash in blood when you leave it, you haven't done your job. All of this is perfect for Evil Dead, mind you, especially when punctuated with Ash's trademark cheesy remarks and witticisms.

In addition to his more visceral weapons, Ash can also cast spells using a book that he finds during the course of the game. Various spells allow you to call down lightning upon your foes, acquire super human strength, and possess zombies, among other things. The use of spells is limited by a magic meter, which is filled as Ash absorbs a fallen zombie's essence. In order to use a spell, you must correctly time a sequence of button presses. The spells also provide some of the games best fan moments. For instance, as your mind travels to possess a zombie, the perspective shifts to the famous tracking shots used to represent the Evil in the films. And when you flub a button sequence when casting a spell, Ash fumbles his incantation ("Konvo, Nutsu...ah crap!") causing the spell to backfire.

All of this makes Boomstick intense enough to hook action fans for the duration, and true enough to the films to satisfy Deadites everywhere. However, the game is bogged down by what can only be described as a half hearted attempt by the developers. This happens all too often with games that are based on movie or TV licenses, and Boomstick is no exception.

The environments, consisting of various incarnations of the town of Dearborn throughout time, are plagued by poor level design. There is very little interaction with the environment as the town itself is merely a fa?ade-window dressing for the maze you have to run in order to complete your tasks. Although there are exceptions, the tasks themselves are rarely all that exciting. Most require Ash to run from point A to point B to get an item, then to go back to point A to use it. Add to this that Ash's objectives are often incredibly vague in terms of spelling out exactly what needs to be done, and yet require absolute precision in order to complete, plus the fact that the items you need can magically appear anywhere in the level, including all of the nooks and crannies that you have searched a dozen times before and written off as empty, and you can see how frustrating the game can get. You spend a lot of time covering the same territory over and over again. This works splendidly in games that are as open-ended and interactive as the GTA series, but in a game as limited as this they're a real buzz-killer.

The camera system works in that it gives you complete control of which way you are looking on the X-axis. This performs terrifically in the heat of a massive, multiple-opponent melee, when there are specific targets on which to focus your attention. However, there is no fixed position view to use during the rest of the game. As a result, you have to spin the camera this way and that as you search your surroundings, making yourself and anyone else watching the screen dizzy as hell.

Aside from the perfect deadpan delivery of some genuinely funny lines by Bruce Campbell, and a great many in-jokes and Dead-isms (Raimi's "classic" Oldsmobile even appears outside the bar at the beginning of the game), the presentation is wholly mediocre. The graphics are merely serviceable, and the rest of the cast turn in by-the-numbers performances.

And, of course there is the fact that running around, dispatching horde after horde of zombies in predominantly the same fashion gets pretty old pretty fast. After a while the only things that spice it up are the bosses and the occasional inspired mission. This is probably why the game isn't terribly long or terribly expensive. For twenty bucks, your average action junkie will stick around for a few days to play through this game. Other than that, I would recommend it only to fans of the films. There is just a whole other level to it for us Deadites, and on that level it is a hell of a lot of fun while it lasts. You'll be grinning ear to ear the entire game. "Hail to the king, baby."