Evil West Review

How the West was won.
Evil West Art Header

Evil West feels like a game from a different era, and I say that in the most excited, pleasantly surprised way possible. Modern game design has become an exhausting slurry of major triple-A games forcing open worlds, side quests and weekly challenges onto you in an attempt to turn your hobby of gaming into a part-time job. Evil West is free from those shackles – it’s a nostalgic reminder of the scale and scope that games used to shoot for.

This is a game that has linear levels, hidden collectibles, combat arenas, and no battle pass. When I longingly talk about wanting smaller games made by fewer people with less realistic graphics as an escape from the fatigue of modern gaming, Evil West is the kind of game that comes to mind. Don’t mistake small scope and limited scale for a lack of imagination, though. Evil West is packed full of corny and incredibly endearing style, the likes of which is rarely seen outside of Japanese action games and the margins of middle school notebooks.

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Evil West is set in an alternate history America at the height of the Wild West, where the American frontier and the lands beyond face a constant vampiric threat. Thankfully, the Rentier Institute serves as a secret society of vampire hunters under contract by the American government to deal with these dark threats, and protagonist and institute heir Jesse Rentier just so happens to be one of their best field operatives. There’s an overwhelming mix of gothic fantasy, Tesla-inspired steampunk and 1900s frontier aesthetic constantly clashing with each other in Evil West, but it’s a wild concoction totally works. There’s such a cheesy yet earnest appeal to Jesse wearing a baggy Van Hellsing coat with a leather cowboy hat and a giant, metallic pile-bunker gauntlet. It’s cool, and it’s dumb, and it’s good!

Evil West Monster Design

Monster designs are refreshingly unique, too. You aren’t just fighting run-of-the-mill cloaked Draculas – the threats in Evil West are grotesque and inhuman, and it soon becomes clear that there’s something much darker than just vampires lurking in the shadows of this alternate history America. Some enemies are hairless, fleshy vampire beasts, while others are shambling hives of ooze or flying, projectile-spitting flesh faeries. Bosses are full of visual variety too, sometimes arriving as eight-foot vampiric titans and other times taking the form of colossal worm beasts.

It’s unfortunate that the environment art doesn’t always do these wild creatures justice – Evil West lays it on thick with environmental lighting and dark shadows, leading to levels that involve raging fire or demonic red auras being barely decipherable as the whole screen is caked in fluorescent reds and pitch blacks. In one combat arena, I had trouble even discerning my targets from the background with how splashed in red and black the whole stage was.

When the environment is legible, though, battling these beasts is a delight. Evil West is beefy, blood-filled brawler not too unlike the modern God of War games. At the core of your arsenal is a supercharged gauntlet capable of heavy strikes, lightning-arced stun combos, mid-air launchers and more. You’ve got some close-ranged weaponry to rely on as well, from a boomstick and a trusty revolver, to some more basic ranged weaponry like a hunting rifle, and even a flamethrower.

Evil West Melee Combat

Each weapon is slotted to a different button on the controller, so it’s easy to mash out gauntlet-punches with the right bumper, suspend an enemy in mid-air with revolver shots off the right trigger, and then turn around and aim down the sights of your rifle with the left trigger in one fluid motion. There isn’t a fluid ballet of combat combos at play in Evil West that rivals games like Bayonetta 3, but the variety of tools at your disposal and the way each enemy often has a specific weakness worth targeting ensures that combat never gets old.

As well as uncovering new weapons as you progress through the dozen-ish hours of Evil West’s campaign, you’ll spend currency on weapon upgrades and perk points on a skill tree. Looking at a skill tree in an action game usually fills me with a sense of overwhelming dread, but the upgrade tree in Evil West is simple enough to not feel overwhelming, and stacked with upgrades that feel like meaningful changes rather than minuscule stat changes. You can turn your revolver bullets into ricocheting energy blasts, or convert your electric-batteries into health buffs. Exploring the nooks and crannies of each stage will let you find some bonus bucks or lore entries, but you’ll also find unique treasure chests that grant you extra perks – oddly enough, you still need to actually spend a point on unlocking these newly found perks, which dilutes the excitement of finding them.

Evil West Weak Spot Shot

There are flaws with Evil West, but it’s hard to prioritize them over the fun of demolishing vampires with a giant lightning gauntlet. Sure, the voice acting in the game is pretty terrible – not a single character sounds the way you’d expect them to, and hardly anyone leans into the camp cheesiness of the world – and the story is filled with as many half-baked moments as it is with zany, out-of-left-field twists, but then Evil West isn’t trying to deliver a mind-bending narrative epic. It’s a game about steampunk cowboys punching giant vampires to death, and when you ride that wave of cheesy microwaved goodness, the result is an old-school adventure game that feels like a breath of fresh air compared to bigger, pricier games.

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Summary
Evil West is an old-school banger, a reminder of the quick and sharp fun that action games can deliver. It has some flaws here and there, but the meat of the game is fast-paced and endlessly entertaining combat. Smacking vampires into clouds of red mist with a giant lightning gauntlet is something that every video game needs.
Good
  • Weird and wild 'so bad it's good' aesthetic
  • Fun combat full of varied weaponry and interesting perks
  • Refreshingly old-school game design and scale
Bad
  • Poor voice acting and a story worth ignoring
  • A few awkward environmental glitches and oversaturated lighting
8
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.

1 Comment

  1. I can’t wait to play the finished game! Loved it at Gamescom!

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