Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
November 22, 2022
Flying Wild Hog
There’s something special about the feeling of the Wild West; the unease yet beauty of the landscape, the dog eat dog nature of survival, the cowboy hats. This year, there have been a few Western games that rebuild the world of the dusty, savage landscape of 16-1800s America into one that is infested with magic, superior technology and thick fanged monsters. Evil West, the adventure third person shooter from devs Flying Wild Hog fits right into this category due to its inclusion of elements of the time period that you certainly won’t find in history books.
These elements focus on hordes of dark magic monsters and therefore humanity is in need of an organisation that will keep the world from collapsing under the weight of this evil presence. The Rentier Institute is just that, a place where scientists, doctors, field agents and soldiers come together with the aim of keeping these magical elements under control. The game’s protagonist Jesse Rentier is the heir to this institute and top monster slaughter. When a group of vampires attack and leave the Rentier Institute headquarters in ruin whilst also managing to seriously injury his father, the threat that these beasts hold is deepened and the members of the Institute accelerate their plans to abolish these evil powers forever.
The narrative is linear and consists of 16 chapters; most of the time you will journey to a location and then come back to your home base to discuss what you’ve discovered with your team. Evil West’s love for progression become very evident when you start a new chapter – the game loves to slowly spawn more and more enemies as you traverse throughout the game’s different landscapes. Evil West has an impressive bestiary and as it does with many other game elements, it slowly introduces different foes as you move throughout the chapters. Enemies that were mini bosses in chapter 2 you will encounter again, possibly in multiples, when you face a chapter 6 mini boss. Of course you will have more skills and weapons by then but if you’re not good at multitasking, you’re not going to have a good time! Especially as each enemy in Evil West requires you to use different short and long ranged weapons and abilities in order to conquer them.
For example, some enemies, like these giant ogre axe swinging dudes that look fresh out of a Motley Crue music video, you have to administer a quick kick to the guts in order to inflict damage. Leechers, who look like a combination of a sumo wrestler and a massive 7 foot tapeworm carry a spikey shield and you can only attack them when their back is turned, unless you break through the shield first. Then there are these bright orange glowing squirmy monsters that run erratically at you and blow up causing you damage, so you need to hit them with ranged attacks before they are in your vicinity. The game will spawn all of the above, some in pairs or fours, whilst you are trying to eliminate a boss with a health bar triple the size of your own. Also, if blood and guts make you squeamish, you may find some issues with the game’s character art. Goo and puss ooze out of enemies, blood splatters are frequent and the earth is usually littered with all types of crawling gross insects. The game really sets the scene via these creatures to entice a vibe of unease and feelings of ick in the player.
Another way the game sets the scene is via its location art. This is really one of the stars of the Evil West show with environments ranging from toxic misty swamps, to deserted sawmills, to abandoned tumbleweed covered towns filled with gunslingers. Each location has its own distinct feel and includes unique aspects, some concerned with gameplay. For example, the sawmill sees you jump aboard a train carriage where you have to shoot at targets to change the direction of the tracks; the swamps include sinking platforms and the town includes rundown buildings to scale and explore.
In regards to exploration, it’s disappointing that the locations don’t provide you with further opportunities to investigate deeper areas and reward you for doing so. There were a few times when I did go off the beaten path, but this was because the game included markers that caught my attention. I would have liked to lose myself a bit more in these spaces, as the beauty of each location made me want to dig deeper and also be more handsomely rewarded. The loot in Evil West comes in the form of sparkling gold money bags and different sized chests which contain various amounts of money, cosmetics and some upgrades. All these items feel a tad lackluster, mainly due to the vibrancy of the world around them. Sure, the money was useful to upgrade my weapons, but they didn’t make me ooh and ahh when I received them.
“…enemies include giant ogre axe swinging dudes that looks fresh out of a Motley Crue music video and Leechers, who look like a combination of a sumo wrestler and a 7 foot tapeworm…”
What did bring out the ooh’s and ahh’s however are the weapons that are on offer. Jesse’s signature weapon is the gauntlet, which glows in blue swirls of electricity from his right hand and is therefore very hard to miss. Not only does it add extra wallop to Jesse’s punch but it is also powered by electricity. One of my favourite moves in the game is the Zapper Pull, where you can pull enemies towards you using an electric volt which electrocutes your victim but also lets you throttle them with punches. The game doesn’t overwhelm you with numerous weapons and moves to learn from the get go, rather it scatters them successfully throughout the chapters. Every time I received a new weapon I was pleasantly surprised, and Evil West offered opportunities for me to take it for a spin very soon after getting my hands on anything new.
Along with the gauntlet, the Scorcher, a handheld fire propelling weapon, was another favourite. When you receive this weapon it also opens up opportunities to burn down areas that behind them usually hide chests and money bags. Again the game is a bit too explicit with telling the player what they can burn or not with a little symbol indicating a burnable area. It’s a bit disappointing that there is so much hand-holding in regards to exploration in Evil West; it felt as if the developers didn’t trust the player enough to work these elements out for themselves.
However, what they do trust their players with is learning the combat skills that are introduced alongside the arrival of these new weapons, or when your gauntlet goes through different upgrades based on narrative occurrences. To perform special moves you will extinguish a portion of your four energy bars, which can be replenished either by performing melee attacks, or by picking up energy buffs that can be found littered around your location. My favourite and arguably the most powerful special move is the supercharger, which exhausts three whole bars. This move sees Jesse turn into a frenzied electrified killing machine, bouncing from enemy to enemy smashing them with his gauntlet. It’s a move best pulled out when you feel as if you’re knocking on heaven’s door or during a boss fight as health can sometimes be hard to come by.
The game does offer opportunities to gain big clots of blood that provide you with health via finishing off enemies when they are glowing yellow. This will also add to XP and levelling up, which provides you with thousands of dollars in cash and the ability to unlock different perks. The skill tree in Evil West is divided into perks and upgrades, the former focusing on combat skills whilst the latter looks at extra abilities for your weapons. Perks are rewarded when you level up, whilst weapon upgrades can be bought with the money you find either right in front of you, or with the game’s not so subtle nudges towards “secluded” areas. Though the adventure doesn’t give you the autonomy to explore, it does give you power over the way your Jesse kicks monster butt, which is important seeing as things in Evil West can get hairy at any moment, so it’s important that your hero has the moves that make him the type of badass you want him to be.
- Weapon variations are fun and easy to use
- The game looks amazing, especially the location art
- Each new area expands the player's knowledge of the game's lore
- Constant changes to gameplay keeps you on your toes
- Enemies can get repetitive and therefore boring
- Loot could be more exciting to collect
- Exploration is quite linear throughout
Evil West’s gameplay focuses around progression. It loves to introduce new elements like weapons, combat and enemies and then proceed to absolutely smash the player with an assortment of everything they have learnt by the end of each chapter. The constant change in how you play the game is overall satisfying, but its rinse and repeat formula of enemies and mini bosses became annoying the more time I spent with it. The location art and narrative is exciting, but I longed to be given more opportunities to explore and be rewarded for my endeavours based on the enticing nature of each area. Evil West is an exciting ride that will test your reflexes and ability to take on swarms of monsters which will either leave you feeling exhilarated, frustrated or like me, somewhere in between.