Evil Dead: Hail to the King picks up the story where the legendary movie Army of Darkness leaves off, with the hero Ash having returned to his retail job at S-Mart after saving the world. Since his last adventure, Ash has been having nightmares and hallucinations about the deadites and evil woods associated with the Necronomicon, or the Book of the Dead. Jenny, Ash's new girlfriend and the assistant manager of Arts and Crafts, convinces him to go back to the woods and face his fear. Big mistake.

 Jump in the fire, jump in the fire...
A close-up of Ash. Please back the camera up.

   "Big mistake" seems to be the key phrase when discussing Hail to the King, as nothing seems to have turned out as it was planned. All the key elements are in place: Ash, Evil Ash, a girl to be rescued, the Necronomicon, and a surplus of one-liners - but there's just something missing. And no, it isn't Bruce Campbell. If anything, his excellent voice acting is the one high note of the game.

   The biggest offender is the overall gameplay. What this game needed was an arcade style of gameplay along the lines of Medievil II. Instead, we are presented with a very sloppy and awkward version of the Resident Evil setup that doesn't work well with either the analog stick or the D-pad. Poor hit detection also plays a big factor, with invisible walls that are incredibly easy to run into if you're hugging a corner too much as you run around it. It can also be quite difficult to open doors and pick up and use items if Ash is not in exactly the right position. Poor camera angles make it even tougher to navigate through the environments because many of them are positioned so far back from the action that it's hard to judge your exact location on the screen. These problems wouldn't be quite so bad if enemies didn't constantly surround you, forcing you to open doors and deal with items quickly. Enemies will frequently get a free shot on you as you struggle to perform actions.

My eyes! It burns!
That's better. Wait, no it isn't.

   As if sloppy control wasn't a large enough problem, the game also features one of the most unbalanced fighting systems around. Standard enemies are often more difficult than the game's bosses, especially when you are forced to fight more than one at a time. Using weapons like the chainsaw and axe will only allow you to hit one enemy at a time, and the chainsaw often gets stuck in opponents, giving the second enemy free hits until you free your arm. The shotgun and rifle are a little more helpful when facing multiple enemies, but even then it can be hard to hit several creatures with one shot. Adding to the frustration is the fact that enemies will constantly regenerate after you've killed them, so you'll have to fight them all over. You could attempt to run away, but enemies often block paths to prevent your escape. In an attempt to make things slightly better for the player, ammunition and health packs can be found everywhere, and enemies will more often than not drop some reward for you after you kill them. Of course, you wouldn't need to have a surplus of items lying around if every enemy in the game couldn't hurt you so much.

   You'll have to fight a total of twelve bosses throughout the game, and most of them can be easily defeated by standing right next to them and hacking at them with the chainsaw. Several bosses will require you to use you surroundings to defeat them, but more often then not these "breaks" from the hack 'n slash combat of the rest of the game are tedious and boring. All they require you to do is stand next to a pillar and hit it as the boss gets in close range to drop a random object on said boss. It would have been nice to see either fewer bosses or a wider variety of battle tactics implemented.

 Damn dirty deadites
As soon as you kill this deadite, another pops up. Expect this throughout the entire game.

   The graphics consists of atrocious prerendered backgrounds combined with blocky, poorly animated characters. The backgrounds are low quality and grainy, which can have an impact on the gameplay. Doors tend to blend into the walls in certain locations, making it easy to miss a room with a needed item. Another problem results from the animated backgrounds that appear several times in the game. One in specific is a fountain in the castle on disc 2. Not only is its animation frame rate incredibly poor, but once you have two enemies on the screen the game goes into a terrible lag. The backgrounds tend to be similar in appearance, giving the overall atmosphere of the game a bland feel. While having two areas to explore does help make things more tolerable, it doesn't change the fact that once you've seen several rooms you've basically seen the entire area.

   The characters suffer many of the same problems as the backgrounds. There are few enemy types, and the only visual difference between two types of enemies will often be only a change of color. The deadites will be familiar to anyone who has seen the movies, and though the programmers probably didn't intend it this way, their animation in the game isn't much different than it is in the movies. All the characters in the game suffer from jerky animation that's compounded whenever more than two or three characters are present on screen. Characters also tend to have low quality designs, especially humans, which is usually solved by postitioning the camera a good distance from the action whenever possible.

   When things can't look any bleaker for the graphics, we come to the cut-scenes, which resemble something out of the earlier years of the PlayStation. Whether it's keeping with the in-game graphics or not, the CG models are blocky and have stiff movement. The opening cinema seems to have been inspired by Legend of Dragoon and features scrolling images for the majority of its length. The single decent cinema in the game is the ending sequence, ending sequence, which is by far too short. The animation remains jerky, but the animators seemed to have improved somewhat by the very end.

Not me
Who wants some?

   Rounding out Hail to the King's problems is the sound and music, which, to be fair, consists of only the sound department. Had there actually been music in the game, there may have been something to critique, but as it stands, intro and closing music just aren't enough by which to judge it.. Sound effects are pretty standard, with the typical moaning undead and shotgun blasts that can be found in any survivor horror game.

   The saving grace for the sound is, surprisingly, the voice acting. Bruce Campbell does a great job and delivers a large number of one-liners throughout the game. Players control when Ash talks by pushing the taunt button (Triangle), which is a nice change of pace from games like Gex: Enter the Gecko, where the lead just spouts out random lines far too frequently, resulting in the player muting the volume. The rest of the voice actors are decent, which is helps makes the game a little better, albeit only during cinemas.

   In the end, any potential Evil Dead: Hail to the King showed in its early stages has vanished, leaving gamers with yet another pathetic survival horror game. If you must play this game (for whatever masochistic reasons you may have), do yourself a favor and just rent it. Less than four hours of extremely flawed gameplay will leave even the most die-hard Evil Dead fans cursing "The King." The folks at Heavy Iron Studios managed to capture the low-budget appearance of the movie series without any of the fun.

Review by Alex Annis, GIA.
Evil Dead: Hail to the King
Developer Heavy Iron Studios
Publisher THQ
Genre Survival Horror
Medium CD (2)
Platform PlayStation
Release Date  12.06.00
Evil Dead adventure game announced
16 screenshots
5 concept sketches