Evil West Review
Evil West is a third-person shooter developed by Flying Wild Hog, the developers behind the fantastic Trek to Yomi, and published by Focus Entertainment, the very same publishers behind the critically acclaimed A Plague Tale. This time around, their latest effort comes in the form of an alternative western akin to something like Weird West but with gameplay taking the form of something like Darksiders or even God of War.
You take on the role of Jesse Rentier, the heir to the Rentier Foundation. The Foundation has been deputized by the US government to help thwart the looming threat of vampires. Utilizing science and ancient slayer knowledge passed down from previous generations, Jesse and his fellow agents battle against the looming vampire threat that threatens to subjugate the US.
Saddle up that horse, cowboy. It’s time to go hunting ticks. (It’s ‘vampire’ in cowboy talk in case you didn’t get it.)
Cowboys and Vampires
Evil West is much closer to the gameplay of the original Darksiders if you take a look at its enjoyable combat. You start with your Rentier Glove, which allows for a basic melee attack that can uppercut, charge, and counter against foes. As you start using your firearms in the form of six-shooters, repeater carbines, and shotguns, you start adding a mix of different combos to take out your foes.
It’s quite a fluid combat system, and it is the main mechanic at which Evil West truly excels. As you gain more perks to add to your repertoire as well as weapon upgrades, you can push for more free-flowing combat that really feels good to look at and execute.
The comparison to Darksiders isn’t unfounded, as it has that classic PS3-to-PS4 combat system before similar games of its type started to tweak the formula. It brings back some nostalgia, but in a way, it also feels like this combat system is masking performance issues that are really noticeable once you go up the difficulty scale.
Later in Evil West, there’s a tendency to get swarmed by a massive amount of familiars and vampires, punishing frame rates further. This obviously degrades the value of the game that relies on a fluid combat system, and it’s especially annoying in the hardcore mode where your save file gets wiped when you die.
That being said, it’s really a shame to play Evil West on the PS5 as it doesn’t take advantage of its power. While you can turn it up to performance mode and enjoy 60 FPS, you’ll have to contend with unusually compromised visuals. Flipping the switch to 30 FPS dials the visual quality up quite a bit but loses much of its style factor due to the lessened frame rate.
What gets me though is the uniform lighting that ruins the aesthetic as a whole. After a while, all the outside sunny spots become a flash of yellow and the inside dark dungeons become a muddy state of black.
Level design isn’t anything to write home about, as it is mostly straightforward and will mostly help when you’re running the level again while sweeping for moneybags, lore pieces, and treasure chests.
Building a Vampire Slayer Workshop
Evil West boasts a large number of skills and upgrades to customize Jesse into the ultimate vampire slayer. Most of these skills add more power, speed, and ways to combo better when you fulfill certain parameters. One example is that you get a 30% attack buff on your next action if you successfully perform a melee combo at the right time, or get an extra bullet when you hit an enemy weak point.
Consequentially, what this does is just power you up to deal more damage, but doesn’t really add anything new to the table because you’ll still be working with the same skills that you currently have. Combat is more frenetic and dealing damage is utterly satisfying, but the gameplay doesn’t evolve dramatically.
When you first start, enemy types and variants range from simple familiars to full-fledged vampires. You get bosses and mini-bosses as well, but sooner or later they become regular creeps that end up as bullet sponges in later levels. There’s a lot of reusing going on in here, so if you’re one that gets easily peeved at fighting enemies again and again, you’ll want to watch out for this one.
While Evil West starts out enjoyable, it eventually transforms into a slow trek toward beating its serviceable story. The plot is nothing we haven’t seen before and is fairly straightforward and predictable – a vampire clan discovers a new type of power to destroy the Rentier Institute, and now it’s up to Jesse and his spunky surviving agents to stand against this thread. What does make it enjoyable is the really cliched dialogue that enters “so bad it’s good” territory. I would usually get annoyed by this, but Evil West has a particular charm that I quite enjoyed.
What We Liked:
- Enjoyable and fluid combat system
- Fun gameplay
- Strangely charming cliche dialogue
What We Didn’t Like:
- Enemy variants are rehashed and become repetitive swarms after a while.
- Repeating levels to collect moneybags for upgrades can get tedious.
- Framerate issues can be a bit of a pain in higher difficulty levels
Verdict: Wait For It…
Evil West returns to the glory days of action games with a fun and straightforward approach to the genre. The combat is frenetic, simple, and fluid enough to create the ultimate vampire slayer. You also have straightforward characters that scratch an itch and then some.
While there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, I feel that they could’ve done better by utilizing the current-gen console’s power to push its visual style and charming characters to a higher standard. However, due to its frame rate issues and lazy enemy variants being thrown at you in swarms, Evil West may be an annoyance in higher difficulties.
I want to like Evil West and there’s really quite a lot to enjoy, but the fantastic charm it builds in its early impressions wears thin in the later levels. It’s a fun game to pick up on sale or at a later date when much of its frame rate issues get resolved.
Overall, it’s a great game that reminds us of an earlier generation, and I hope to see more games with this style but updated for a modern gameplay sensibility.
*Evil West was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.