Occasionally, a game like Evil West is required. After a long day of work, you just want to relax at home. There are also competitive shooters, such as Call of Duty, and complex story games, such as God of War: Ragnarok. Those are enjoyable, and I play them whenever I can, but sometimes you don’t want to put much thought into your actions. Even though Evil West has its complexities, I’ve found it to be the ideal way to relax and kill bad guys.
You play as Jesse Rentier, a member of an organization dedicated to the eradication of vampires, in Evil West. In a bizarre alternate history of the United States, everything occurs during Grover Cleveland’s administration. After killing one of the bloodsuckers and taking its head as a trophy, you find yourself in grave danger while on what appears to be a standard mission: hunting down the bloodsucker gang. The institute’s headquarters are attacked and destroyed, your father, the organization’s leader, is mortally wounded, and a young female vampire steals your trophy vampire head. It is entirely up to you to save the day, as no cavalry is arriving at dawn.
The story initially appears to take a bit of a back seat. There are a few entertaining characters, and the story begins to pick up in the second half, but I frequently had no idea what was going on. I am unaware of the origin of vampires, the reason for this conflict, the history of the institute, and more. I am aware that there is lore you can occasionally pick up to figure things out, but a game with such intense action should not be slowed down by menu reading. Maybe if I played Evil West again, I would learn more, but I’m not certain I would. On the plus side, it is corny and campy, even though it occasionally appears to take itself too seriously. It makes the narrative appear underdeveloped that I still do not understand why we are pursuing vampires.
Similar events transpire with the characters, with Jesse and Vergil being the only ones for whom I cared. Even though several cutscenes attempt to engage me, there isn’t enough in the gameplay to make me care about anyone else. Vergil may be the oddest character you meet, but his extreme awkwardness has made him a fan favorite. I only care about Jesse’s plight because he is the main character. Considering how these characters are written, I’m not sure you could do much more with what they have.
The gameplay is comparable to The Order 1886 meets Bulletstorm. It is by far the most important reason you are here, and it is also why you will remain. There’s nothing more satisfying than shooting a scumbag with a rifle, parrying him with an electric gauntlet, pummeling him while he’s electrocuted, and then shooting him in the face. Take a break and a deep breath, then uppercut a minion and punch it directly into a mini-boss before delivering a devastating finisher by ripping off its head. There will be a lot of repetition, such as “kill enemies in area, go down hallway, repeat,” but it won’t matter because the game is so enjoyable.
Even if it’s not a radical departure from what you’re doing, they continue to find innovative ways to keep things fresh. The route through enemy territory will not change, as you are performing the previously mentioned repetition, but the manner in which it occurs will change. Evil West features a wide variety of enemy types, including numerous grunts, heavies, flyers, long-distance fighters, and minibosses. Somehow, it never feels exactly the same, although a few instances are very similar. Sometimes you’re surrounded by nasty zombie-like creatures, then you’re fighting cowboys, and then out of nowhere a werewolf appears. The fantastic planning that went into Jesse’s rogues gallery makes the game flow even when it shouldn’t.
The boss battles are comparable, if not superior. Few games are able to capture the bombastic scale of a boss battle in modern times. I lament the loss of over-the-top boss battles, of which I can recall only a handful in recent memory. In comparison to other games, Evil West’s minibosses and chapter bosses are on an entirely different level. The Parasiter is particularly impressive, with a gameplay loop and attack patterns that you’ll likely need to face multiple times to defeat. However, the learning process is worthwhile.
In Evil West, learning the combat loop is where everything pays off. As I mentioned briefly earlier, words cannot do it justice. You must figure out the flow of combat, and once you do, the bloody ballet will commence. Not every encounter involves shooting or punching enemies. After utilizing the electric gauntlet and its numerous functions, I found myself engaging in close-quarters combat with nearly every nearby opponent. Evil West comes close to being a fighting game; there are a variety of effective ways to combine your arsenal’s abilities. If I have to reload my rifle, it may be time to switch to a shotgun and gatling gun barrage. It is extreme violence at its finest, which is likely why so many people thought of Gears of War after its initial reveal. It surpasses Gears in this regard, and it’s amusing to watch the other enemies recoil in fear as you smash their companions’ faces in.
Jesse’s leveling up, whether via perks or upgrades, is one of the best ways to get the best combos rolling. Each weapon has a list of abilities that are unlocked by a level gate or by spending money collected, and perks are unlocked by gaining experience points, which are then spent on a skill tree. Despite the fact that not everyone may find this concept to be as cool as you do, there are some benefits you may never obtain that are hidden in boxes throughout the levels. In my opinion, it encourages the search for hidden routes, but others may disagree.
I believe many of us were drawn to the visual quality in the trailers, and Evil West lives up to those expectations. While the preview build I played earlier this year was a bit rough around the edges, the final version of the game is quite polished and more in line with the trailers we’ve viewed. Even in 1080p performance mode, Evil West is visually stunning. I want to play it in 4K for comparison purposes, but the 1080p mode is so fluid at 60fps that I’m not sure the 30fps cap is worth it. Evil West’s gameplay makes the additional frame rate boost much more appreciated than in most story-based games.
The visuals are breathtaking, but the audio is deficient. Not the sound effects, although the explosive blasts and squelchy rips are quite good; rather, it is the dialogue. The characters, including Jesse, sound slightly more distant than they should, for whatever reason. Jesse’s lines have either excessive gain or excessive treble. Perhaps it will be fixed in a day one patch, but it’s currently a problem.