Depending on how old you are, you may remember “The Weekend Game,” in which you rented or borrowed a game from a friend and finished it in two or three sessions between Friday and Sunday. And that was the end. You might replay a few levels to collect collectibles, but nothing else. You enjoyed yourself, observed the closing credits, and moved on. Tomorrow’s release of the Western-horror hybrid Evil West feels like a weekend game. In a world full of constant updates, complicated endgames, long battle passes, and a never-ending supply of loot, it’s been nice to play something simple, fun, and linear.
Flying Wild Hog’s Evil West is a third-person action-adventure game set in an alternate history version of the American Wild West. This version contains significantly more vampires, steampunk-style machinery, and magic than the actual world. Evil West features Jesse Reitner, who resembles Red Dead Redemption 2’s Arthur Morgan.
As a member of his father’s high-tech, secretive Reitner Institute, Jesse protects the country from evil monsters, vampires, and other creatures that come out at night. Jesse and his friends are the only ones who can save the day when a new type of vampire arrives and begins to create a large, difficult-to-kill army of undead bloodsuckers.
There is no way around the fact that Evil West is humorously absurd. Its plot has many similarities to the best B-movies and pulp fiction of the past. Characters behave more like actors posing as humans than actual humans. The dialogue is filled with profanity and explanation. All of it is perfect in its cheesiness and silliness. In conjunction with the steampunk gadgets, monsters, and violence, the plot resembles a 1990s TNT grindhouse film that you might have seen at 2 a.m.
Evil West’s key advantage is that it is a good action game, combining fast-paced melee combat with precise gunplay where you can combo everything. When you first begin playing Evil West, the emphasis is on teaching you each new element and transforming you into a vampire-killing machine. This is advantageous, as there is a great deal to learn, and by the end, you will be able to juggle multiple weapons and devices during some of the more challenging combat encounters. Infuriatingly, I did find a few fights near the end of the game that became extremely difficult, so be prepared for some difficulty spikes.
Jessie’s goofy-looking gauntlet steals the show in this western-themed game, despite the fact that both revolvers and rifles are effective and useful. This item is excellent. You can use it to electrocute foes, stun them, and send them flying into other monsters or off cliffs, among other things. As you upgrade Jesse, you gain access to more electrical attacks and counters, ultimately transforming him into a lightning-spewing, vampire-slaying army in a trenchcoat. And no, it makes little sense how this gauntlet can perform so many functions, but who cares? It fits perfectly within this B-movie universe and world. It is also another Evil West element that reminds me of old PS2 games. Games that prioritized entertainment over attempting to make everything feel realistic or logical.
But what made me fall in love with Evil West was not the game’s heavy, solid combat. Nor was it the horror-infused western landscapes and settings, though they are beautiful as well. No, what I love most about Evil West is that it is a simple, straightforward, linear, and enjoyable video game. No battle passes or microtransactions exist. There is no crafting, and there is no loot to collect, upgrade, or trade. No MMO-lite elements or other players are moving around and performing actions. There are no copy-and-paste side quests, and the open worlds are vast but empty.
It is a 16-mission linear action game with simple skill trees to improve your character. Most players will complete it within 11 to 13 hours. This may seem like an odd thing to praise, but by removing all the superficial elements you’ve come to expect from modern games, Evil West is able to focus on what it does best as opposed to expanding beyond its strengths.
Evil West’s seams and corners were likely cut due to its smaller budget in comparison to other single-player action games, such as God of War. Characters outside of cutscenes do not move their lips when they speak, audio quality can fluctuate, and levels only look good if you don’t peek through windows to see beyond the mission’s linear area. But where it counts, Evil West performs admirably. I ran the game in its performance mode on PS5 and found a rock-solid 60fps experience, with the exception of a few hiccups during a late-game mission. The camera and movement controls are always responsive and fully functional. This may be a low-budget game, but Flying Wild Hog spent their money wisely.
Evil West is the type of game I miss playing currently. I’m not ashamed to say that I like games that never end, like Destiny and Fortnite, which have battle passes, crafting, loot, and other things. These games can provide hours of entertainment and are ideal for playing with friends or while listening to a podcast. But I don’t want everything to be a complex, all-encompassing, time-consuming social experience that grows and changes over time. And Evil West is an excellent example of the type of games I want to see more of in the future. Not all situations require an endgame or crafting table. Sometimes I just want to move forward, listen to some bad banter, and beat up some monsters for a few hours. And Evil West delivered precisely that. No more. No less.