Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: January 10, 2001
“Sure, I could have stayed in the past … could have even been king. But in my own way, I am king. Hail to the King, Baby.”
The above words close out the third installment of the Evil Dead series, known as Army of Darkness, and have obviously inspired the title for the latest expansion to Sam Raimi’s comic and horrific world. Building upon the storyline set out in the films, Evil Dead: Hail to the King is the first attempt to translate this popular cult-horror series to the realm of digital entertainment. As with any translation between media forms, THQ must walk a delicate line between disappointing long-time fans and alienating those unfamiliar with the movies.
For those in the latter category, an explanation of the overall plot is provided at the opening of Evil Dead: Hail to the King and will be summarized here: Our hero is known as Ash. He is the scourge of the undead, master of the one-liner, handy with a shotgun and he works in housewares. Ash was the sole survivor of a blood bath that took place in a mysterious cabin in the woods after a recorded incantation unleashed a horde of “deadites” upon the world. The recorded incantation was taken from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, a “book of the dead” created for the movies and based upon the translation of the title of the real — but possibly invented by H.P. Lovecraft — Al Azif, the “book of dead names.” In addition to controlling dead bodies and skeletons, the Deadites could even possess humans for their own purposes, and when it tried to possess Ash he quickly lopped off his hand to prevent the possession from spreading. Thinking quickly, Ash modified a chainsaw to fit over the amputated limb, and coupled with his “boom stick,” a double barreled 12-gauge shotgun, he proceeded to cut a bloody swath through the ranks of the dead. After being blown into medieval England through a botched spell to eliminate the threat forever, Ash finally returned to his own time and once again took over his job in housewares at the end of Army of Darkness.
Evil Dead: Hail to the King picks up the story at this point, as Ash is troubled by nightmares dealing with the old cabin. In an effort to purge his conscience, his new girlfriend Jenny travels with him to that haunted place where things seem normal; until Ash’s possessed hand plays the recorded incantation, once again letting all hell literally break loose. Jenny is whisked away by the forces of evil, and Ash’s copy of the Necronomicon is stolen while he tries to translate it with the help of a priest in a nearby church. With the book in the hands of the dead, the forest around the cabin promptly twists itself and all of its inhabitants into demonic versions of their original forms. Vowing not to lose his true love, Ash straps on the chainsaw, grabs an axe off the mantle and sets out in quest for the missing book.
As might be expected, the video game translation of the movies falls squarely within the realms of survival horror. Like the highly acclaimed Resident Evil series, Ash must fight his way through legions of the undead as he searches for the scattered pages of the Necronomicon and explores the woods around the cabin. The action takes place from fixed camera angles that overlook prerendered backgrounds, and the player controls his character’s facing and attacks from a third person perspective. Aside from the infamous cabin, players will find themselves exploring old campgrounds, a living labyrinth made up of plants and even a shack that’s home to a family of “hellbillies.”