Developed By: Flying Wild Hog
Published By: Focus Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Evil West on the outside looks like any other zombie game with a western twist and you may be forgiven for thinking so. So, it’s obvious when developers Flying Wild Hog created this game, I guess they also faced the challenge of how they will stand out amongst all the other games out there. After all that, I am happy to report, that they might just have succeeded.
A Different Father and Son Story
Evil West is set in a steampunk wild west universe where there are supernatural vampiric monsters threaten humanity. To fight against this, the Rentier Institute was created as an agency dedicated to facing all these undead foes and you play as the son of the head of the institute, Jesse Rentier. His father, Willian Rentier, is the founder of the institute and the inventor of some of the gadgets and weapons used to fight these monsters.
The game starts with you and Edgar Gravenor trying to stop a train filled with monsters. You are slowly introduced to the game’s universe where monster use techniques to hide what they are doing called Glamour and how the Rentier Institute are finally able to deal with the issue with the creation of the Gauntlet. Things go south when the institute is attacked and destroyed with the father and son escaping in the aftermath. From there the game goes into how you, as Jesse, figure out how to fight back with the only working Gauntlet available.
I felt the story is very generic but the characters especially the main villain in this game, Felicity, just pushes you forward in the hope that you have a chance to punch her in the face. There were also times when the antagonist could have killed Jesse and ended the story but it felt like the developers needed to drag out the story to increase the game’s playtime since this is a single-player-only game. I manage to complete the game in around 9 hours but I did spend a lot of time going off the beaten path to explore and collect items.
The story progression is predictable but what kept my interest in the story is the voice acting and characters though not that amazing. The pacing also felt a bit weird where it feels like you are forced to do some side quest to then continue the main story on some missions but as I said, it felt draggy to me.
Nothings Runs Smoothly In The West
I will be honest here, but the game is not really the best-looking game out there and also not the best optimisation. Faces look rough and there are also visual glitches like stones without proper lighting. There is a setting to change between Quality and Performance mode for the PlayStation 5 but besides the pixel, the game looks the same visually. Performance mode does give you a better frame rate which is the one I recommend for this game because of the quick reaction time you will need to dodge or execute certain attacks, especially at the end of the game.
What got me annoyed is that to change between Quality and Performance, you have to literally close the game and exit to the PlayStation 5 Home Screen. I find it hard to understand why this game has to do a reset just to make visual changes when other games could change between modes seamlessly.
In the audio department, there is nothing much that stands out except for the voice acting as I mentioned before. There is a limited amount of soundtrack, especially during combat. One good thing is there is quite a nice audio cue when new enemies enter combat which helped me a lot to sort out the chaos but I did suffer a few instances of audio bugs where a sound effect goes into a loop and I had to restart my game to remove it.
My Fist is Better Than A Gun
Evil West is a fast pace action game which feels familiar to Devil May Cry or even God of War. The quick combat, which is a mix between ranged and melee combat made me feel at home but as you play more, Evil West manage to shake things up with how each weapon felt important during combat.
Combat consists of you doing damage with your fist and later your Gauntlet which can harness the power of lightning. You do have range weapons like a pistol, rifle and many more but they feel a little secondary compared to melee because of how little damage they deal. The most important range weapon I would say is the rifle where there is a mechanic which feels like a quick draw to deal extra damage to enemies when a circle appears on them.
Not to be left out are the upgrades to either your character or weapons. You can learn new skills like the ability to slam the ground with your Gauntlet as your character level up and gain perk points. On the weapons side, you can collect gold coins laying around to upgrade your weapons. The game is forgiving by allowing you to reset all your skill and upgrade for free at certain points in the game so I did reset a few times to experiment which is a plus in my books.
What I actually love about this game is how the enemy variety pushes me even on normal difficulty to survive with everything I have. It feels like Evil West gives you all the tools you need and if you didn’t manage to survive, it is your fault which brings me to the pièce de resistance in the game, the combat.
Mix and Match Combat
Early in the game, the combat is pretty straightforward with 1 or 2 enemy types as the game teaches you how to deal with each enemy type. There are a few bosses for which you will need maybe a retry to get used to the attack patterns also. Later in the game, these bosses will turn into your regular mobs and as soon as I understood how to handle every enemy, the game ramps up the difficulty and start mixing and matching them together.
I was now put in a situation where I must shoot down flying enemies while trying to dodge attacks from ground vampires slashing at me. Throw in a boss monster you just faced and you are in one undead bullet hell. One monster I hated the most was a boss monster which made every other enemy invulnerable. Figuring out which monster to handle first is a puzzle itself so some fights took me a few tries just to get through.
Your arsenal plays a crucial role and managing things like your energy, health and cooldown will become vital in dispatching enemies in a controlled manner. Luckily, you do have a few tricks up your sleeves like using the Gauntlet to pull in or dash to enemies while stunning them or even throwing up an enemy to send them crashing down to cause a blast. Using these moves as some sort of crown control does give you some breathing room but it is always better to be on your toes during battle.
There are a variety of ways depending on what is your playstyle. For instance, you can uppercut enemies and juggle them in the air and there is some perk that helps you increase damage to enemies while in mid-air. If you want more crowd control, you and spec into having more ways to stun the enemies. With the ability to respec for free, you can cater the game’s combat to your style.
A Straight Road
Each chapter in the game happens in a zone which is a mix between narrow corridors and a large combat area. You can easily know where to go with the game usually having some kind of shiny chains on places you can go. There will be some hidden spots which you can access if you explore the narrow corridor sections. Exploring these paths will usually net you some story collectables or gold to help with your equipment upgrade.
Combat zones are very obvious with huge round areas and destructible items scattered around. You can easily spot these areas and get ready for a fight a mile away and I felt that it spoils the fun. There is one area in the game where they are trying to “ambush” you, but I just felt it was silly because it felt so telegraph. On the bright side, these combat areas are at least spacious enough for you to run around and dodge things as hell rain upon you.
The game luckily has an excellent chapter selection so if you missed anything while playing the first time, you can just select the chapter in the menu and it will tell you how many items you miss and you can go back in and try to collect them. Sadly, due to the linear nature of the levels, you do have to play through all the level again if you missed an item, especially at the end of a chapter.
A Lot More to Deal with Monsters
There are still a few issues with the game which I feel should have been fixed before the release. Even with full voice-over, character models do not open their mouths during non-cutscene conversations. Even in performance mode, the frame rate tends to dip with an even worst situation in quality mode. Checkpoints are also a little weird where if you have to restart, you might need to go through a cutscene first before the fight which is a little frustrating at times.
On a more serious note, there are a few times when I fell through the floor and got stuck without being able to dodge which is a death warrant in this game. I was also cornered between a few boxes and enemies while trying to dodge so I am not sure if this is intended but just like boxing, better stay away from corners.
The controls also can be a challenge as there is no way to remap them unless you do it from the PlayStation menu. The game’s UI does not help much with having the equipment on the left side being triggered by buttons on the right and vice versa. Having the melee button binded to R1 also felt weird to me as I am used to pressing the buttons for melee instead of using triggers.
Evil West also has a co-op feature which allows you to play through the story with a friend. Sadly, there is no matchmaking available so you are forced to invite friends only to join your session or you can join them to help them continue their story.
What I Liked
- Voice Acting – Even with some cheezy lines the voice acting manages to hang n there and help move the story forward
- Combat – They manage to flash out the game’s core mechanic excellently. One of the most satisfying action combat I had in a while.
- Upgrades and Customization – With the ability to reset your skills for free, experimenting with different builds is fun.
What Could Be Improved
- Visuals – The game look dated and making it hard to change visual settings is very weird
- Story – The story is quite predictable with many cliches and with a weird story progression tempo which causes some unsatisfying build-up.
There is a New Sheriff In Town
Evil West is far from a perfect game. I would even call it an average game but with its excellent combat system, it really pushes to game up to the forefront of being great. I felt the game was very draggy but going from 1 fight to another just pushed me forward because I just wanted to beat up more stuff as the story progressed instead of caring too much about the story. Even from a small developer, Evil West has great potential to be a triple-A game maybe not now, but hopefully in the next sequel.