Vampires meet spaghetti Western. I’s an exciting concept that Evil West takes on with varying degrees of success. Evil West is a third-person action-adventure game set in a twisted, alternate-history version of the Old West produced by Focus Entertainment and developed by Flying Wild Hog. Players are placed in the shoes of Jesse Rentier, one of the last agents of a top-secret vampire-hunting Institute. Jesse is left to pick up the pieces and take on leadership when his father is wounded by a vampire attack that also destroys the Institute. He’ll have to save his father while trying to get to the bottom of the vampire conspiracy.
Jesse takes on the role of the Western hero—a self-made man, building up from scratch, uniting people, defying traditions, and battling the creep of vampires along the frontier. Gruff, rebellious, and a tad arrogant, Jesse is a fun character that feels straight out of a none-too-serious action flick. And there’s plenty of action.
When it comes to implements of violence, Jesse evolves over time. His first few weapons consist of a revolver and a gauntlet, only to later find more weapons like a crossbow and rifle and upgrade his gauntlet with the ability to harness electricity. The first hour or so of gameplay is a bit slow. It’s just a lot of punching and shooting your revolver, which doesn’t pack a whole lot of punch. There aren’t many skills or combos to contend with, so the action feels slow and basic. But the complexity ramps up quickly after that, leading to some pretty fun options like zapping around with your gauntlet electrocuting enemies. And much like God of War or Doom, when you’ve hit an enemy enough, you can perform a finisher. The action is just a gory mess that is very satisfying.
But it also gets boring over time. This is a symptom of the small number of enemy types, though enemies do evolve to have new traits, like exploding upon impact, as you progress through the game. But it isn’t enough. There are a lot of bosses throughout the game that up the complexity mechanically, but the mini-bosses you’re forced to fight are the same handful repeatedly. You’re often forced into the same formulaic action because the areas you fight enemies in are often large, round arenas with TNT or spike traps lining the sides. And I really wish the finishers were more grandiose and over-the-top. After all, the setting of Evil West is ridiculous and fun; why not make the action similar? Thankfully, hitting a weak spot and having an enemy literally burst into bloody pieces is hugely gratifying. And I highly recommend playing the game on the hardest difficulty because it does provide quite a challenge, even when the enemies become redundant.
The action feels balanced, and the weapons and skills work well with the control schema. You’ll be able to unlock more skills and upgrades with the more experience you gain and the more money you find sitting out in the wild. But when it comes to exploring, that’s all you really get—money sitting on barrels or chests filled with a couple of extras goodies. Evil West is highly linear in plot and level design. And while that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does leave me wanting for just a bit more complexity.
From a setting and lore standpoint, Evil West is fascinating. Painting the Old West with a gothic brush stroke and throwing players into an already-established world rich in mythical beasts and real, historical figures, it’s hard not to find something about the game you want to learn more about. While the main narrative is straightforward and pretty simplistic, the files you can find scattered across the maps open up the world of Evil West. And if you’re not one for extensive reading, have no fear—all the lore has voice acting. The designs of the enemies and settings are wonderfully gruesome and dark. Jesse will take players to diverse settings, from the classic Western canyon to swamps and subterranean pyramids.
But the central narrative takes a while to pick up and become enjoyable, and even then, it lacks a lot of intricacies. The dialogue often borders on cringe, especially because it feels like the game is trying too hard to emulate 80s action films with their gruff one-liners and witty remarks. The game is set up in a mission structure, with Jesse being told to go here and grab this thing or go over there and save that person. And while there are some great plot beats and cut scenes spliced in here and there, the first few hours are slow. And the transitions between cut scenes are so jumpy and sudden that it discombobulates.
Evil West has a lot of things going for it—the designs are fascinating, the lore excellent, and the gameplay can be massively fun on hard mode. But it also has some downfalls: the levels feel just a bit too linear, and the main narrative takes a while to really jump into, and even then, it struggles without fluid cutscenes or complexity. While other games have been able to get away with a basic narrative because of their fantastic action, Evil West isn’t quite there.
Evil West is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Play Station 4, and Play Station 5.
Evil West has a lot of things going for it—the designs are fascinating, the lore excellent, and the gameplay can be massively fun on hard. But it also has some downfalls—the levels feel just a bit too linear, and the main narrative takes a while to really jump into, and even then, it struggles with fluid cut scenes and complexity. While other games have been able to get away with a basic narrative because of their fantastic action, Evil West isn’t quite there.