This November has been a great November. Between blockbusters like God of War: Ragnarök, massive franchises like Pokémon Scarlet/Violet, and even surprising acclaimed projects like Pentiment, it’s been a very, very busy month indeed. And while the coming weeks have more great games making their debut, one that might have slipped under your radar is Flying Wild Hog’s Evil West, a story-driven action game that puts players in the shoes of a true superhero from the wild west fighting against hordes of vampires and supernatural terrors.
For one thing, you’re not actually a superhero in this game, rather you’re equipped with enough firepower and unique tools that there’s a real power fantasy with what you’re able to do with them. From a myriad of firearms, whether it be shotguns, revolvers, boomsticks, gatling guns, crossbows, pipe bombs, and even a lightning-powered gauntlet, there are so many ways to deal with the blood-sucking parasites that are engulfing you. the American West, and while it can often seem like too much for anyone’s dollar, the tasks and odds you’ll have to overcome at times will make it very clear why the options are so varied and plentiful.
The story of Evil West basically revolves around Jesse Rentier, a famous vampire hunter who pursues a deadly vampire adversary known as Felicity, who has plans to take over the world. The story has its own pace, however, early on, Felicity and her army of vile horrors attack your base, the Rentier Institute, an attack that sees Jesse’s father bitten and turned into a vampire. From here on, there are elements of vengeance woven into the duty of work, which carries the narrative forward, and sees Jesse and his allies head to a variety of locations across the Wild West on the hunt for Felicity and to undermine her nefarious plot. .
While mostly entertaining and there are interesting bits, the story plays out like a typical big-budget Hollywood action movie, where the intricacies and finer details that make something elite are overlooked in favor of explosive action senseless. It makes for some exciting cutscenes and gameplay sequences, but it never comes across as particularly memorable.
And as far as gameplay goes, this is mostly split into two areas. There’s the wandering through the mostly linear levels, where you can collect gold and other collectibles, and then there’s the combat encounters, which essentially drop you into an arena you can’t leave and ask you to kill everything that has no soul and yet moves. It’s a very dated gameplay design, that feels like it belongs out of a PS2 game, which is a shame because the combat is actually very fun, fluid and challenging at times.
The ability to engage in a series of melee combos, then switch to a shotgun repeater to take down some wall-clinging vampires, then whip out a boomstick and blast some attacking enemies to bits, then roll-dive out of the way and then hammering six shots of your revolver from your side into multiple enemies, all while letting your Gatling gun charge so you can unleash a tornado of lead down, it’s a very fun system that gives the player tons of freedom in the how they deal with combat encounters. And that freedom to approach combat however you see fit is important, because the range of enemy types will force you to think differently in every fight.
Some enemies are slow but massive and deal tons of damage when they hit you, while others are weaker but faster, and to add to that, there are ranged enemies, mini-boss type enemies, and real bosses from time to time, and it’s not always easy to overcome the challenges they pose due to the fast pace of combat and typically small arenas. But when you get things under control and sink into the movement of combat, it’s hard not to feel good and really badass, and that’s one area where Evil West really excels.
But it’s also the one area where Evil West really excels, because the exploration and collectibles aren’t all that interesting to find and discover, the progression is simple and rudimentary enough to take into account that the storyline isn’t too long (you’ll have to play New Game+ to unlock each update), and I’ve already touched on the issues with the narrative itself. Add to that the weird art style and visual design that puts a weird orange shading effect around Jesse and the enemies, all within a world that’s either dark or overly red-washed, and you get a game that it is far from surprising in any sense.
As you can see, there are moments in Evil West that impress, but overall, this is not a title that will blow your mind. The best way to describe Evil West is to think of it as a film directed by Michael Bay: sure, it’s funny at times, but do you leave desperately looking for more? Not particularly.