2022 has seen its fair share of “weird west” games, but the latest is certainly one of the better ones. Evil West from developer Flying Wild Hog takes place in a Wild West ravaged by vampires and other deadly supernatural creatures. The Rentier Institute has dedicated itself to hunting down these monstrosities in an effort to protect the citizens of the American Frontier, but its vampire hunters soon find themselves at odds with especially powerful foes.
While it may sound entertaining on paper, Evil West‘s story is B-movie grade, with paper-thin characters that speak in one-liners and are all of various degrees of obnoxiousness. The plot is predictable and the villains are generic, but ultimately the story is incidental. Evil West‘s weak narrative doesn’t hold it back because the core gameplay is such a good time. Players can safely ignore it, and it won’t have any bearing one way or the other on their enjoyment of the overall product.
Basically, Evil West gameplay is what happens if Doomfist from Overwatch spent his time killing vampires in the Wild West. Protagonist Jesse Rentier is a seasoned vampire hunter armed with an electrified gauntlet that he can use to deal devastating melee combos. Players are able to launch vampires, monsters, and other enemies into the air with an uppercut, then send them flying into a stack of explosives or hurtling to the ground at breakneck speed. The gauntlet also lets players close the distance between themselves and enemies by zipping across the room to unleash a barrage of jabs, culminating with a flashy finishing move that eviscerates any monsters unlucky enough to get in the way.
Combat in Evil West primarily revolves around Jesse’s gauntlet, but he has plenty of other helpful tools at his disposal as well. Jesse’s arsenal of vampire-killing weaponry grows as the game goes on, which in turn adds more depth to combat encounters and gives players endless options when it comes to killing monsters. In the later stages of the game, players can string together incredible combos by utilizing a mix of Jesse’s gauntlet attacks with shots from his revolver, shotgun, rifle, and various other weapons he gets his hands on.
Evil West also has the occasional puzzle to solve and collectibles to find. Puzzles in the game are about as generic as they come, but they still do a good job of breaking up the action and giving players more variety in the minute-to-minute gameplay. Collectibles include documents that reveal more details about Evil West‘s characters and story, as well as sacks of cash that can be used to purchase upgrades for Jesse’s weapons. These upgrades oftentimes translate to new attacks that evolve Jesse’s repertoire that much further, which goes a long way in keeping the combat fresh.
Those that take the time to thoroughly explore Evil West‘s levels will be able to find most of the collectibles without too much trouble, as the game is extremely linear and doesn’t let players stray off the intended path too often. Some gamers may be turned off by this, but in an industry dominated by massive open worlds and complex level design, Evil West‘s scaled-down stages are honestly a breath of fresh air. With its simplified approach to level design and linear progression, Evil West sometimes feels like a game pulled straight out of 2005, and that’s not an insult.
Evil West has no loot boxes or season passes. It doesn’t bog the experience down with tedious side content or superfluous online features. It delivers a straightforward action-adventure game that lets players kill monsters as a cowboy vampire hunter in the Wild West. It’s a kind of game that’s difficult to come by in today’s gaming industry, and so it stands out more than one would expect.
Evil West prides itself on being a throwback to the third-person action-adventure games of old. Developer Flying Wild Hog’s Shadow Warrior series fits the same mold for the first-person shooter genre, so fans of those games will likely have a good idea of what to expect from Evil West‘s scope and approach to game design. Its primary focus is on fun combat, and it delivers that in spades. Unfortunately, this does come at the expense of its story and graphics, which leave a lot to be desired. This may be a deal-breaker for some, but not for those who are simply looking for a fun video game to play.
One big downside that the fun combat can’t overcome in Evil West is its short length, though this is mitigated by three things. For one, Evil West has multiple difficulty settings for players to conquer that up the challenge significantly. For two, Evil West has an online co-op mode that lets players go through the game with a friend, with the caveat that the co-op partner is unable to save their progress. This is a disappointing limitation and makes it seem like co-op was tacked on to check a box, but it’s better than not having the option available at all.
The third feature that helps alleviate the pain from Evil West being such a short game is the New Game+ mode, which is always a great way to add replay value. But even with these features giving the game more replay value, some may still be unimpressed with Evil West‘s short length. Evil West only has 16 missions to complete, and most of them can easily be completed in 30 minutes or less, with a few that run a little longer. Most players should be able to beat the game around the 10-hour mark or even faster without too much trouble.
Evil West‘s poor narrative, dated graphics, and short length make it somewhat difficult to justify the $60 price tag, regardless of how much fun the core combat is. Even so, those yearning for a no-nonsense action game with old-school sensibilities may still want to take the plunge, and if they aren’t bothered by the short length, they are unlikely to walk away disappointed.
Evil West launches November 22 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Game Rant was provided an Xbox Series X code for this review.
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