Review of Evil West: Take out your six-shooter

(Last Updated On: November 22, 2022)

Eliminate. The. Vampires. No, don’t ask any questions. Simply don this steel gauntlet and punch out the bloodsuckers. Take these weapons as well, so that you can shoot them in the face. Now get out there and don’t return until America has been saved!

Evil West knows what it is and makes no concessions. Developed by Flying Wild Hog, best known for the Shadow Warrior series, it is a linear third-person action-adventure about destroying monsters and gaining notoriety throughout The Wild West. The game makes a direct reference to the cult classic From Dusk Till Dawn and even has a trailer starring Danny Trejo, so it’s safe to assume there won’t be any vampires that shine in the sun. There is a story that follows field agent Jesse Rentier as he defends the United States as a hero of the Rentier Institute, which was founded by his father, but it’s really about eliminating every varmint and supernatural villain from sea to shining sea with bullets and superman punches.

Punch first, then ask questions

Jesse Rentier goes from being a badass to an even bigger badass over the course of a campaign that lasts approximately 12 hours, depending on the difficulty level and the player’s zeal for light exploration. As a small nod to Kratos and the God of War reboot, he can uppercut monsters into the air and perform aerial juggling from the get-go. Jesse will also use his gauntlet to smash chests, similar to how Kratos opens chests with his fists. For ranged attacks, he can pull out a revolver or rifle, both of which never run out of ammo, allowing you to exploit enemy weak points from a distance and employ the keep-away tactic if you don’t want to risk engaging a monster face-to-face.

Jesse gains a new ability, weapon, or gadget in nearly every new chapter, in addition to gaining perks from leveling up and purchasing new weapon upgrades. Multiple skill trees that target various facets of Jesse’s abilities make progression straightforward, despite being roughly as complex as in the original BioShock. Once I unlocked Jesse’s electrocution abilities with the gauntlet, I focused almost exclusively on them when deciding where to invest my perk points. Not only can he pull foes toward him and approach with lightning speed, but both of these moves stun most foes with electricity, allowing Jesse to unleash a barrage of punches that would make Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star proud. Towards the middle of the game, he will also gain the ability to transform into a state that transforms him into a supercharged blaze of electricity that would fit in perfectly with an inFamous game.

However, despite Jesse’s scrappy arsenal of gun-slinging and close-quarters combat skills, he is alone against hordes of enemies. He specializes in single-target DPS, eliminating a single foe at a time, but is frequently interrupted by other monsters on the battlefield. Bosses and subbosses have no difficulty sending their allies to overpower him. Jesse does not have any countermeasures against groups until he obtains the boomstick, a field-wide electric shock, and a shocking quake move. However, these area-of-effect maneuvers tend to have a lengthy cooldown, so you’ll need to be quick with your dodging and ensure that your behind-the-back camera has a wide enough field of view to survey as many enemies as possible. Certain finishing moves, such as the earlier-mentioned barrage of punches on a stunned foe, will also cause enemies to drop health pickups, increasing Jesse’s survivability during prolonged battles.

That dog won’t hunt

While Evil West’s simplistic gameplay is one of its strengths, it suffers from the issue of repetition. Particularly in the middle of the game, you will encounter the same mini-bosses with essentially the same group of enemies. The introduction of a new ability and a new foe roughly once per level, as well as the occasional platforming puzzle, help to mitigate this, but regular battles tend to remain largely unchanged. Some battles have a tendency to add more enemy reinforcements for no apparent reason, and they can become predictable over time. To add more variety to the combat, the game’s objectives and overall strategies could have been altered. The camera can also become too tight if Jesse is cornered, and the lack of a lock-on ability can make aiming melee attacks and strafing more difficult than it should be.

For a game as action-oriented as this one, the story is fairly well-done. It neither explores character conflicts in depth nor in an engaging manner. In addition, there is a lack of transitions between locations, with Jesse stating that he needs to go somewhere, and then appearing there in the next scene. However, the story does not outstay its welcome, and there is sufficient work with the lore of the Rainier Institute and the monsters to keep the momentum going without getting bogged down in the details. A substantial amount of lore is also fully voiced to keep the action flowing.

Surprisingly, Evil West features online multiplayer, although the implementation is quite restrictive. If you have a companion, the monsters become more difficult, but you can revive each other and it is more difficult to be flanked. However, the co-op partner will not receive any story advancement, even if the player is at the same point in the story as you. Co-op is also limited to those on your Steam friends list, at least in the version I played, and there is currently no crossplay or local split-screen co-op.

Evil West performs reasonably well graphically. The environments are well-crafted for how linear they are, and the character models are sufficiently detailed to pass muster. On a system with an Intel 7 CPU and AMD RX 6700 GT, I was able to play the majority of the game on the Epic preset, though I encountered the same severe game-breaking bugs three times during the first boss fight. I had to reduce the graphics settings to Medium just to get through it, which resulted in some screen-tearing during the cutscenes. Hopefully, a day-one patch or later update will fix this issue.

Will die standin’ up

West is an accurate shooter. It does not pretend to be anything other than what it is: a game in which cowboys mercilessly slaughter vampires. Despite being a little repetitive, the combat is viscerally satisfying and confidently straightforward. And for that reason alone, the game is able to largely overcome the flaws of its limited multiplayer, graphic crashes, and awkwardly edited story. Despite the campaign’s relative brevity, the game’s permadeath mode and new game plus ensure replayability. Evil West may be rough around the edges, but the nearest saloon is worth a shot of whiskey.

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