After 15 minutes of play, I paused the game, picked up my phone, and called my oldest gaming friend. Once he picked up, I screamed like Janine in Ghostbusters “WE GOT ONE!!!” Evil West is a downright straight-to-the-point action-adventure game, reminiscent of early Gears of War and God of War.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m still a fan of both said franchises and the new directions they’ve evolved into. However, it’s not often that we get a game like Evil West with these steampunk weapons, a crazy story, relentless frantic gameplay, and gore-Palooza visuals.
You play as Jesse Rentier, a badass gunslinger whose sole goal in life is to hunt down vampires and every other monster that’s infesting the west. Jesse is part of the Rentier Institute which his father started right after the Civil War. They are tasked with hunting and killing the evil creatures that roam their lands. He also has a friend named Edgar Gravenor who’s recently retired but just can’t stop himself from going out on hunts with Jesse.
I’m avoiding story spoilers and yes, Evil West actually has a rather deep story that not only is told via the cut-scenes but also in the documentation and other collectibles you find throughout the game. OH! And they are all voice-narrated. Some Jesse will read and others will be narrated by the author of the document which is fantastic. This is something we rarely encounter in modern game releases. During a major meeting at the Rentier Institute HQ, they are attacked and all hell breaks loose. Literally, the entire area turns into Dante’s inferno, everything on fire, disembodied screams, and monsters. A whole lot of monsters.
Evil West looks like a western with its bright sun beaming light reflecting off mountains and casting shadows down creepy pathways. The twist is these vampires and monsters have also been here for some time so they have established locations that are downright horrifying. One minute you are shooting vampires which are shapeshifting on the fly into some un-godly creature and the next you’re walking down a tunnel leading to a location out of the film Van Helsing.
I love the fact that each location has differences and doesn’t all take place in abandoned ghost towns. Evil West doesn’t have any side missions but there are plenty of hidden paths to explore and find cash, weapon upgrades, cosmetic items, and other collectibles. There are also some light puzzle elements. For example, you need to reach a ledge but there is no way to climb up. So you’ll need to find a chain to shoot down or something you can pull and use to climb up. All these interactive points have a glow to them so there easy to spot.
Evil West combat is in a 3rd person close over-the-shoulder perspective. This feels very much like Gears and even more so once the slaying of monsters begins. At first, Jesse will just have his fist and trusty gauntlet. Holding RB which dish out a super uppercut that will send almost all enemy types (excluding bosses) into the air. At this time, you can button mash (RB) to unleash a flurry of punches or press in on the right thumbstick to perform a spartan-type kick and send them flying.
Some locations will have spiked-filled walls so if said moves are performed the enemy can and will be empaled. You will quickly unlock the ability to use the gauntlet to zip toward your targeted enemy at the same time electrifying it and then button mashing (RB) to rain down punch combos. Like in modern DOOM titles when an enemy is near death they will glow/blink and you can then perform an execution.
Regardless of the execution by weapon or hand, the outcome will be a bloody mess with body parts everywhere. Some locations will have TNT barrels and when shot they will explode along with all enemies near it. You can also use the gauntlet to pull weakened enemies toward you to finish them off. This is extremely useful in later stages in which there are snipers on high ridges.
Another two weapons you will get early on will be a revolver and a rifle. As you progress and find more cash and level up more upgrades and weapons will become available. There is also a perks system so you can better adjust Jesse’s combat style to your liking. You will need to utilize all of these tools as some areas can be downright ridiculously challenging.
What adds to the challenge is that as you’re performing a combo of any sort other enemies are still attacking you. So, at times I had to stop or not perform the combo at all since I knew there were too many enemies around and I would take damage in the process or even die. You gain health from fallen enemies and can heal but pressing the (B) button.
One of the key features of Evil West is the ability to play the entire game in online co-op (no couch co-op). Unfortunately, I was unable to try this feature during the time of the review. What I can confirm from the developer (Flying Wild Hog) is that the host of the co-op session will obtain campaign progression however the person who joins will not. So if you do plan to pick this up with a friend just keep this in mind. I always found this baffling as it makes no sense NOT to have shared progression, especially since the achievement or trophies will still unlock which means the game is recognizing you completed the mission yet it’s not reflected in the save file.
Playing Evil West takes me back to a simpler time in gaming, where I didn’t have to stress out if I’m using the correct loadout or strategizing my point of attack. All I had to do is move forward, kill every hideous creature I encounter, and continue to the next area. The story and weapons are right out of a “What if” scenario and I’m all in. I can easily see a sequel, streaming show, or movie. Honestly, if you are a fan of those types of action games, then this is a must-have for your collection.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Evil West for Xbox Series X provided by Flying Wild Hog and Focus Entertainment.