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Evil West Review

Rooty tooty vampire shooty

I love cowboy games. There is something groovy about the 1800s frontier fantasy, where dudes were easily identified as a bad guy because of their black hat and moustache, and the solitary white-hatted bloke sitting alone at the bar was not to be trifled with. Towns were smaller back then – barely big enough for the two of us – and especially not sized appropriately for vampires and other such monstrous mother-hubbards. What I like most about cavorting as a cowboy is when the game doesn’t take itself too seriously – *cough* Red Dead Redemption 2 – and instead simply wants to thrill you with being the baddest boot-scootin’ badass in the wicked, wild wild west. This is where Evil West has staked its claim, and it is striking it rich.

In a diabolically different timeline, the American Old West has more than railroads and rustlers causing stress to its settlers. It turns out that a secret society of vampiric villains known as the Sanguisuge are lurking in the shadows, attempting to bleed their influence further into mankind and hopefully tip the scales more in their bloodthirsty favour. In an effort to stem the neck-nibbling numpties, a group of elite monster mashers known as the Rentier Institute deploy elite agents with exceptional weaponry to respond to threats and fight back against the toothy terrors.

The welcome wagon doesn’t look all that welcoming

Jesse Rentier is one such agent – a model cowboy and enthusiastic slayer of sanguine snobs. He’s good at his job and he clearly loves doing it; he’d much rather be blasting bad guys than pushing pencils behind a desk. He’s been making some great progress on finally sorting out a particularly thorny vampiric threat, when the status quo of mankind’s shadow war against the ticks goes completely to pot. The progeny of this nemesis decides that guerrilla warfare and slow attrition isn’t the key to vampire survival, rather it’s all-out WAR, and a healthy influx of monstrous soldiers should sort out their trouble with Rentier’s impressive arsenal. 

And arsenal is the word for it. After a few hours of play, just LOOKING at Jesse for more than a couple minutes makes my back ache just thinking about the amount of munitions this gunslinger is slanging. The institute is not messing about when it comes to the art of annihilation – every slug-thrower you can picture in your mind will start as a fairly pedestrian little number and quickly ratchet up to a technological terror of delightful decimation. Your revolver is a staple, able to rapidly empty its lead as you fan the hammer – but will eventually fire electrified bolts that ricochet between targets. The rifle that serves as a classic head popper from longer ranges? Why not turn it into a charge-shot railgun? Honestly, some of the upgrades had me Tim Allen grunting when I read what they did. A shotgun, that fires orbs of lightning, that CHASE enemies and constantly hurt them? Woof. Just throw it on the enormous array of armaments that you will carry into every combat encounter.

The old school styled combat is weighty, meaty and just all round excellent. The impact of playing a pseudo Tesla-punk cowboy came with a hefty level of expectations, and I can safely say all were either met or exceeded. The most joyful factor is how Flying Wild Hog has been careful to make sure that every toy in the toybox is engaging and fun, so you aren’t tempted to just punch baddies or shoot them – you wanna do it all baby! Attack strings are also carefully designed to make sure you can shift between your firearms and your regular arms on the fly to great effect, leading to stellar moments where you can punt some savage sangui-douche in the nards, send him flying into the air and then pepper his malformed frame with lead. The way Jesse twirls and flourishes his firearms leaves you feeling like king ding dong of Doo Doo mountain, the absolute master of meticulous melon shooting – it’s electrifying. And that’s without even mentioning ‘The Zapper’.

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Feels like an album cover

The Zapper is the bonding agent that weaves all of Evil West’s absurd fighting fun together. Bullets are great, as are giant brass knuckles – but a portable Tesla coil glove with the ability to block attacks and snare enemies in fun and unique ways just frames it all beautifully. Yanking flying arseholes out of the sky never grows old, and having the ability to zip yourself right up into a baddies face can really help a situation that’s getting out of hand. Every fun button then gets even nuttier once you apply upgrades to it – with crazy improvements where your grab attack will actually yoink entire groups of targets, and even allow you to uppercut all of them into the air at once. Oh, and then you can punch-spike them into other enemies, because why the hell not?

Paying attention to what boomsticks and beatsticks are available at whatever time can easily keep you in control of a situation, with the brilliant part about dying in Evil West being that when you hit the dirt, you can readily identify how you slipped up. If you are up shit creek without a paddle, it’s because you tossed all your paddles out of the canoe far too quickly, and likely for stupid, selfish reasons. You have a list of incredible cooldowns as long as your arm, each with monumental effects on an encounter. A massive area of effect stun can see you walking harmlessly through baddies to pick a target, a devastating frontal cone will vapourise lesser bads and massively harm larger ones. Even your standard heal effect comes with a free five seconds of invulnerability as its first upgrade, putting you in an ever increasing position of flexibility if you are quick on your feet and can apply the right tool to the most salient problem.

This is in harsh contrast to the game’s world movement, which is surprisingly rigid. Traversing a battlefield and pounding punks is smooth as silk, but once you are left to your own devices and can indulge in a little exploration, you’ll come to realise that you are beholden to some strict guidelines from the developers. This can manifest in curious ways – the most prevalent problem I faced was how the game would take issue to me trying to tackle shortcuts by, say, leaping off the side of a ramp rather than running its entire length. My intended endpoint would be nigh identical, just with a little freeform movement to get there a fraction quicker – but no amount of sprint, dodge rolling or forced moment would allow me to descend this 10-inch gap – an invisible force would grind Jesse to a halt, as if he had a sudden fear of micro heights. Evil West also commits the cardinal sin of blocking progress by way of silly roadblocks, where an array of barely waist high crates and barrels may be in your way and you are expected to take a longer, goofy route to navigate around them. My man can punch a vampire so hard they explode, but he can’t scramble over a box?

Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day?

Exploration and secret hunting pay dividends within the game world – with use of highlighted navigation elements that clue the player in to where you might be able to go next. These generally manifest as different chained elements on walls, doors and doodads that Jesse can climb or vault over. The glowy nature of these macguffins does a lot to bring them to your attention when they are out of the way, likely off the beaten path or in a direction that you may not have been intending to go, fostering interest in what the heck you might be missing. It pays to be vigilant however, because some of the hidden treasures can include perk points and even perks that impact how Jesse plays. One perk I fished from a chest actually increased the radius of TNT barrels – meaning a single bullet could now paste a swathe of gooey sinners. Another chest gave me a new set of duds, allowing me to dress in all black as an edgier techno-cowboy. Just be wary of which path you take, because sometimes these pathways are a one-way trip.

Adding even more to the impressive atmosphere of this Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Wild, Wild West aesthetic is the radical music. During moments of action, music is fantastically energised and gets the heart pumping – but the tracks I came away remembering the most were definitely the ambient ones. As you traipse around the different trappings of vampire shitholes, your backing track will make you feel right at home. A stellar example is the quiet shake beat that narrated my time in a crazy swamp locale, with quiet steely guitars punctuating the burbles of swamp water. The composer would plonk the odd piano key deep in the low register, as if he was on an absurdly strict budget and had to make every note count, but the impact it had on elevating the already gripping area was exceptional. It’s a score that is both reserved and overtly generous when the time calls for it.

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A truly shocking uppercut

It should come as no surprise then that the rest of the audio design is spectacular. When knee-deep in subject matter that deals with monsters splattering and guns blasting, you’ll expect a sound library that you have heard before, but somehow it needs to be fresh and engaging all over again. Everything is crisp and punchy, delightful to hear from the first time you pull your revolver’s trigger right through to the thousandth time – as it now arcs Tesla lightning with a satisfying hum and hiss. The range of sound cues within the game are a noteworthy aural delight, with a satisfying sound of a bullet casing clattering to the ground signifying the end of combat, while a clock chime alerts you to enemies. The reaction sound for a weak point appearing is masterfully chosen to be attention grabbing, not grating – meaning you don’t end up cursing it when you are in a pickle and can’t afford to let off a shot.

Evil West also invests a lot in making itself a feast for the eyes. From the crunchy creatures you are caving in slowly deteriorating as you strike them, to impressive coronas of electricity and fire as explosions and lightning fill the air. Your range of monsters are all slavering monstrosities, but many have some unique design cues to make sure they stand out and keep Evil West’s world as fresh and frightening as they can. Giant leeches pulsate across many wretched souls, vestiges of humanity peek out of bestial forms, even characteristics of regular animals long since twisted can be spotted in the presentation of foes. One of my favourite enemies came later in the game, and mostly consisted of a mass of heads and ribs, flinging itself around fights with four long-hooked tentacles. It would wetly stick itself to walls and spit out glowing skulls that would slowly float towards me like the Lost Souls from Doom. This sucker would then channel an ability to subtly blind me in a horrible fog, or focus an immense laser that would carve through the battlefield if I wasn’t quick enough to fire a few generous bullets into its weak point. Great care and attention is given to make sure that every detail is quintessentially Evil West, and not some similar property that you’d encounter elsewhere. I would have liked a little variety when multiples of the same enemy come stomping onto the battlefield, as it can feel a little awkward when the same three massive scythe-wielding nutbags all appear to have the same railroad-spike-impaled-in-my-forehead-look. Obviously they should have called ahead to better coordinate outfits.

Duck and weave baby

Final Thoughts

Encountering a new IP is often a case of curiously wondering whether it has legs to stand on. Seeing something fresh and full of promise is made all the sweeter when you realise that it really is everything it was cracked up to be – a bombastic badass romp through the wildest of the wild west, kicking names and taking arse on every stop from Calico to the Capitol. Flying Wild Hog has really let their freak flag fly with a signature experience that defines itself on being accessible and unique to any wannabe vampire slayer – just remember to pack plenty of bullets.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Evil West Review
Bullet Chucker Vs. Bloodsucker
Evil West might wear old-school clothes, but under the hood it's a modern stunner. Gorgeous and gutsy, the tale of Jesse Rentier paints a dark world where the best way to illuminate your path is by way of a shocking Tesla-powered knuckle duster. It deftly navigates some of the pitfalls that are to be expected when forging a new IP and drops a winning hand that is more aces than eights.
The Good
Combat is just all round excellent
Upgrades are all imaginative and fun
Guns, guns, guns
Story is classic true-grit man versus evil
Iconic aesthetic style brings the unique new world to life
Music is all-American western awesome
The Bad
World movement can feel stiflingly rigid
Some enemy designs could use a little visual variety
9
Bloody Ripper
  • Flying Wild Hog
  • Focus Entertainment
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
  • November 22, 2022

Evil West Review
Bullet Chucker Vs. Bloodsucker
Evil West might wear old-school clothes, but under the hood it’s a modern stunner. Gorgeous and gutsy, the tale of Jesse Rentier paints a dark world where the best way to illuminate your path is by way of a shocking Tesla-powered knuckle duster. It deftly navigates some of the pitfalls that are to be expected when forging a new IP and drops a winning hand that is more aces than eights.
The Good
Combat is just all round excellent
Upgrades are all imaginative and fun
Guns, guns, guns
Story is classic true-grit man versus evil
Iconic aesthetic style brings the unique new world to life
Music is all-American western awesome
The Bad
World movement can feel stiflingly rigid
Some enemy designs could use a little visual variety
9
Bloody Ripper
Written By Ash Wayling

Known throughout the interwebs simply as M0D3Rn, Ash is bad at video games. An old guard gamer who suffers from being generally opinionated, it comes as no surprise that he is both brutally loyal and yet, fiercely whimsical about all things electronic. On occasion will make a youtube video that actually gets views. Follow him on YouTube @Bad at Video Games

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