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[News] Evil West Review - Undead Redemption

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Evil West asks a simple question: What if cowboys fought vampires? It's the kind of off-the-wall thinking that gets a Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford movie greenlit, and developer Flying Wild Hog certainly gets a lot of mileage out of its whimsical concept. Set in an alternate version of 1890s America, Evil West is the Wild West at its wildest. A familiar backdrop of swinging-door saloons, rolling tumbleweed, and abandoned gold mines are interwoven with Nikola Tesla-inspired electro-steampunk technology and an assemblage of ravenous bloodsuckers. Evil West shines in the heat of battle when that initial question can be answered, but its strengths are often diminished by the dated design wrapped around them.

The story is a fairly by-the-numbers affair, pitting a vampire-hunting organization against a vampiric enemy force threatening the continental United States. You're strapped into the spur-clad boots of Jesse Rentier, a typically gruff protagonist with very few emotions beyond mild indifference. His occasionally pragmatic response to the absurdity occurring around him is slightly endearing, but it's telling that I had to look up his name before writing it here. The narrative does periodically broach some interesting themes; for instance, one of the Highborn vampires is concerned by humanity's ever-expanding technology and the threat it will pose his fellow sanguisuge--but these threads never really go anywhere. The only one that does revolves around a smarmy and misogynistic government official, yet his comeuppance isn't as satisfying as it deserves to be.

Ultimately, these one-dimensional characters and cringeworthy dialogue replete with strained expletives are easy to ignore. The story is little more than a vehicle for its chaotic combat, propelling you from dusty town to murky swamp in search of new monstrosities to extinguish. The most surprising thing about Evil West is that it's more of a brawler than a shooter. The behind-the-back third-person perspective is reminiscent of the most recent God of War games, letting you get up close and personal as you pummel enemies to a bloody pulp. Jesse is equipped with a metal gauntlet that adds extra heft to each punch, while a charged uppercut can be utilized to launch smaller enemies into the air where you can follow up with a cannonball strike to send them careening into a conveniently placed spike trap or stack of TNT. Jessie's melee strikes feel suitably weighty, and the gratuitous gore that coats each arena in blood and crimson viscera really sells the power fantasy at Evil West's core.

Eventually, the gauntlet is infused with electricity, further expanding upon your repertoire with a voltaic variety of new moves. You can pull enemies towards you or you to them, sending volts coursing through their bones and giving you a short window to lay waste to their helpless husks with a flurry of blows. This has dual uses, too, as you can latch onto distant enemies to zip away from danger or yank one out of a pack to deal damage before their pals arrive. Most of Evil West's challenge comes from the large number of foes it throws at you at one time, so having this kind of mobility is key to survival, alongside the typical dodge move and a kick that can interrupt certain attacks. There's also an electrical ground pound that evaporates multiple enemies at once, and a shockwave attack that stuns multiple enemies, giving you a brief moment of respite or the opportunity to focus on a specific target while the rest are locked in place.

It's not just about melee fisticuffs, either. Jesse is still packing an arsenal of deadly firearms that gradually expands throughout the game. Rather than constantly swapping between weapons on the fly, most of these vampire-killing tools are each assigned a button. Pressing shoot on its own will fire Jesse's six-shooter revolver, while aiming down sights will automatically switch to a rifle for dealing with long-range threats. Another button fires a quick blast from the boomstick shotgun, and there are a few other special weapons that I won't spoil here. There's no ammo to collect; instead, everything works on cooldowns. It's a lot to remember, but combat feels both intuitive and fluid. You can launch an enemy into the air, use the revolver to suspend them with lead--revealing Evil West's Devil May Cry DNA--before zapping over to another enemy and blowing them apart with a close-range burst of buckshot. It's the type of game that would benefit from having a combo meter, just to keep track of how proficient you are at slaughtering everything in front of you, but sadly doesn't have one.

Link: https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/evil-west-review-undead-redemption/1900-6418004/

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