Evil Dead: Hail to the King Preview

The game is being designed as a single-player adventure that puts you in the role of the series' star, Ashley J. "Ash" Williams, played by Bruce Campbell in the films.

Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead first appeared on the horror-film scene in 1982, making moviegoers believe they'd never again step into the woods, nearly 18 years before The Blair Witch Project made people say the very same thing. The sequel, aptly named Evil Dead II, appeared in 1987, and then the third installment in the trilogy, Army of Darkness, was released in 1993, carrying on essentially the same Bruce Campbell-dressed blood-splattering gorific theme through a slew of new, unfortunate living-dead situations.

The storyline for THQ's new PlayStation game, Evil Dead: Hail to the King (formerly Evil Dead: Ashes 2 Ashes), takes place about eight years after Army of Darkness and is not based on the original ending of Army of Darkness. The game is being designed as a single-player adventure that puts you in the role of the series' star, Ashley J. "Ash" Williams, played by Bruce Campbell in the films. The game's story uses the continuing finding-of-the-Book-of-the-Dead (aka Necronomicon) theme to push the gameplay forward. In the game, you start off having nightmares about the Necronomicon, and accompanied by your new girlfriend Jenny, you go back to the original cabin in the woods and relive the terror of the Ash character as the undead (deadites) pop through the floorboards and broken windows. Whether you relive it by running from or attacking the undead as they poke through those very same floorboards and windows is something we have yet to determine. According to the game's executive producer, Scott Krager, the story/gameplay basically begins at the cabin and carries forward through other locations in the woods then moves to an entirely new set of as-of-yet-undisclosed environments.

The primary villain in Evil Dead: Hail to the King is actually Ash's evil half, who is, according to THQ, similar to the character that possessed Ash in Evil Dead 2. "We toyed around with the idea of creating a new character to serve as the main bad guy but decided that using an existing character made more sense because it provides something familiar to the audience and moreover allows us to capitalize on the coolness factor of the Ash character and Bruce," said Krager. Time travel will be featured as well, as Ash will have to drift back in time to find Jenny once she's abducted.

Krager described the actual gameplay: "Evil Dead is a single-player real-time 3D adventure game with full-motion prerendered 2D backgrounds. The gameplay and control are similar to that in other survival horror games. However, we certainly have features that help Evil Dead stand out among the competition. For example, some highlights include freedom of movement in combat, more emphasis on close combat, no loading times, and 24-bit backgrounds, which is a first for a PlayStation game.""The gameplay itself is a blend of action, exploration, and puzzle solving, all within the confines of the Evil Dead universe. So mixed into the overall gaming experience are horror-film shocks, signature Ash humor, and other fun Evil Dead elements. The primary view is fixed camera, but we also feature moving camera shots in locations where we think it will enhance the experience. And the fixed camera shots will often reflect the cool angles seen in horror films. There is also a little more emphasis on action as compared to the Resident Evil games, but we're extremely happy with the puzzle design and exploration aspect as well. Close-range combat is also more prominent. The game certainly includes standard projectile weapons, but because one of the main features of Ash is a chainsaw attached at the wrist, we obviously want to take advantage of that by creating a fun close-combat experience. We have also designed a cool scheme for upgradable weapons wherein the standard projectile weapons, as well as the chainsaw, can be upgraded so that their functionality is augmented in various ways."

So the game won't be just a rehash of the movie's environments and themes, even though Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, and Bruce Campbell (the film's creators) are supportive of the game's development. Developers at Heavy Iron Studio are adding new territories and scenarios to the cabin-in-the-woods and terror-everywhere themes. Bruce Campbell will also furnish the Ash character's voice (voice-over scheduled to begin in June), which could end up sounding a bit like Duke Nukem's, when the day's done.

As you'd hope from an Evil Dead game, the stages will progress with FMV cutscenes and prerendered scenarios, between and during level play. The camera work is promised to be decidedly horror-film-like, using the angles and setups of the classics to give an eye to the gameplay.

Evil Dead: Hail to the King is the first in what will become a series of games based on the Evil Dead license. We'll have more on the game as information is released.

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