Hands-onEvil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick

We check out a new build of THQ's upcoming action game.

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We recently received a new and fairly complete build of Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick for the PlayStation 2, and after putting the game through its initial paces, we've gotten a good feel for it. The game puts you back into the unlucky shoes of Ash, the square-jawed hero and S-mart employee played by Bruce Campbell in the two Evil Dead films and Army of Darkness. Ash finds himself back in Deerborne, the sleepy town featured in the first two films, and of course things are fairly chaotic there, thanks to the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, the ancient "book of the dead." The book has basically invaded Deerborne, turning the residents into hideous undead creatures, and you have to take control of Ash and fight your way through the deadite hordes before they swallow his soul.

A Fistful of Boomstick is a mix between an all-out action game and a survival horror title. Ash has his trusty shotgun and arm-mounted chainsaw that fans know from the movies, and you can find other weapons lying around as well. For instance, early in the game, you'll pick up a shovel to bash undead heads with when you've run out of boomstick ammo. It seems kind of strange to have limited ammunition in an Evil Dead game, considering the way Ash blasts through deadites in the movies, but of course this makes the game more challenging, so it's understandable. You can hold down L1 to lock on to enemies, but once you're locked on, you don't actually circle-strafe around them as in most games, so the lock-on is really only useful for aiming the shotgun. Melee fighting with the chainsaw and other weapons like the shovel is a little bit awkward, and you end up sustaining a bit more damage than you'd expect sometimes, because it's hard to change direction in mid swing. Ash is often surrounded by a whole bunch of deadites at once, and it can be hard to cut your way out of the throng.

The new Evil Dead game resembles other survival horror games in that the combat is broken up with a bit of character interaction and item collection. You're mostly searching for keys to open specific doors or certain characters who will help you advance. Each area has a to-do list with conditions like "check out the lumber yard" or "enter the TV station" that guide you along. Generally the conditions are fairly easy to satisfy and don't hold up the gameplay too much.

A Fistful of Boomstick uses the State of Emergency engine, and it runs very smoothly all the time, even with quite a few zombies pursuing Ash at once. The graphics are functional but not overly flashy, and Bruce Campbell provides the voice for Ash, who makes some of his trademark quips while he's fighting the deadites. While this doesn't seem like Campbell's most inspired performance, it does add to the general atmosphere of the game and evoke the spirit of the movies.

The last console Evil Dead game, Hail to the King, wasn't received very well, but A Fistful of Boomstick seems to be shaping up a little better and should prove to be reasonably entertaining for fans of the films and survival horror games.

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