Evil West tries many things during its 13-hour campaign and fails terribly at most of them. While the writing is absolutely atrocious, the characters are painfully cliche and the visuals often look dated, Evil West manages to deliver some excellent combat before it becomes incredibly repetitive.
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Evil West’s gameplay outside of the combat is generally one-note and sadly, its steampunk wild west world, which I was so hoping would be good, just didn’t deliver what I was expecting. But underneath all the blood, grime and slimy leeches, the combat shines and thankfully just when the fighting starts to feel repetitive, the game ends.
There’s nothing really remarkable about Evil West and you’ll likely play it and forget all about it but it generally keeps things fun. The game is set in the 1800s. The wild west meets steampunk world has collided with vampires, werewolves and leeches – Oh my! and you need to stop all this massacring before the whole world ends up in ruins. You play as Jesse Rentier, a vampire hunter that gets caught up in this latest mission to save the world.
You see, vampires and monsters aren’t really anything new in the world of Evil West. In fact, the Rentier Institute is an owned entity built on killing these creatures. They have been doing so for decades now but the latest threat, for some reason, is bigger than anything the group has encountered to date.
I want to say I cared about what was going on in Evil West but sadly, the game lost me halfway through. The characters are unlikable which makes the cutscenes a bore. They also act like absolute morons most of the time while constantly bickering about nonsense in order to prove who is the bigger man than the next guy. People just don’t act like the characters in this game so I don’t know how the team at Flying Wild Hog decided to write them this way. They are just the worst one-dimensional, dull, horrid cast I have seen in a game.
It is hard to stay focused on the story because everything they said was white noise after a while. All I know is that there was this brat girl who used leeches to transport blood somewhere and there’s a plant I went to get and some other guy got sad and went somewhere else so I went to save him and I fought a lot of vampires and bad guys the end.
Don’t get me wrong I am sure there’s a decent story in here somewhere but the game does a poor job of telling it. The script is 90% ego-boosting and 10% useful information. It just doesn’t play out well enough to care.
But weak writing aside, Evil West’s gameplay goes between good and okay at times. There are 16 missions in total that play out in a linear fashion. Each mission took me to some unique-looking locations to do something.
Some missions were a lot longer than others while some even tried to incorporate a sort of explorable hub. These missions had me running around to complete a set objective like destroying nests. I had to string up grappling points, break down barriers and fight off enemies to reach all five of the nests. It wasn’t anything wow but these missions offered a nice break from the other linear progression types.
Generally speaking, missions include a bit of exploration through side pathways before walking into fighting arenas and beating up a bunch of enemies. There are also some things to collect in each mission including documents, Bucks which is the game’s currency and each stage includes chests that contain weapons skins and perks.
Some perks can’t be obtained without finding them in chests which is pretty weird. You can’t use a specific attack without learning how to perform it in a chest hidden away in the level? It is just a horrible mechanic. So unless you spend time wandering around mindlessly across these stages, you won’t unlock every perk. It also doesn’t help that most sections of each mission lock you out of returning to an earlier area. So while the ladder to get back to the platform is quite literally in front of you, Jesse refuses to climb it meaning you can’t go back at all. You also can’t select the mission again until after you finish the game. It baffles me that the devs decided to do this in the first place.
You’ll also spend a lot of time fighting enemies in Evil West and this is where the fun is mostly to be had. Combat is gruesome and combines punching, uppercutting, shooting and ripping apart creatures before they kill you. Jesse is equipped with some cool gadgets including a revolver, shotgun, crossbow, a cross that stuns enemies and most importantly, his fists. Evil West also relies heavily on the element of electricity and it plays a big role in the game’s combat.
Jesse can shock enemies with different electric ammunition and even teleport towards them using a dash. Everything you do that relates to electricity builds up a meter and after a while, will stun the enemy. The stuns don’t last very long but it is the perfect opportunity to either punch away, heal or find healing items on the floor.
Mostly everything in Evil West’s combat has a cooldown including the shotgun for some reason. I guess Jesse is just too lazy to simply reload it. So combat is basically about dashing around, punching things, shooting stuff with your rifle and using all the various overpowered abilities like the shotgun whenever the cooldown timer ends. It works and near the end of the game, once I obtained every item, the combat was a lot more enjoyable than at the start.
Enemies also force you to play a specific way. Some are tankier and require more damage while others fly around in the air. Jesse can also grapple flying and perched enemies towards him and use a super move that sees him dance around like a lightning bolt to smash everything around him.
He can also get upgrades to his weapons and obtain a range of perks. Both the ones you find in boxes and ones obtained by simply levelling up with XP. The perk tree can be reset at different times in the game so you can rework his playstyle if you’re getting bored. Jesse can be specced into various builds including some that favour electric attacks over weapons. You can also spec into a punching maniac that buffs your uppercuts, slams and dashes. Of course, this will take collecting everything which is just a pain.
Sadly, while the combat is the best part of Evil West, it does get repetitive too. Every mission introduced me to a new heavy-hitter boss that sadly turned out to be just another goon I would face going forward. Flying Wild Hog also thought that spamming fights with a dozen of the same enemy in one field would make things difficult and while it does, it is also just annoying and unbalanced.
Some fights saw me face five or six larger boss-like enemies while tackling smaller goons. It would be an exciting fight if enemies played off each other’s strengths and weaknesses but they just spam the same attacks over and over again. At one stage, I had this annoying flying creature that sent out bees to protect enemies. I had to dodge all attacks, keep myself alive and focus entirely on this flying hive so I could kill it before I was able to attack the other horde in peace.
I am always up for a challenge but duplicating the same enemy over and over again only for them all to use the same attack over and over again isn’t a challenge. It is poor game design. Speaking of which, Evil West also doesn’t run very well either. It is ridden with frame rate drops, nasty-looking character models and wonky animations.
I did have fun at times in Evil West. The combat still felt great when the battles were carefully constructed rather than spammy. The actual boss fights were especially enjoyable. The general attacks, abilities and items felt great to use and upgrading Jesse actually made a huge difference.
However, everything else just wasn’t as fun. The game starts out strong but slowly becomes a chore to get through. It doesn’t help that everything good Evil West has going for it is slowly killed throughout the campaign. The characters become unlikable, the story is all over the place and the combat, while being okay, becomes repetitive.
This Evil West review was based on a PS5 version sent to is by Focus Entertainment. The game releases on 22 November for R850
Evil West Review
Story - 5.5/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 6.5/10
Evil West slowly falls to pieces in its 13-hour campaign due to its weak story, horrid writing and shoddy visuals. The only thing left standing is the combat and even that gets repetitive and shallow after a while.
Combat is enjoyable
Some decent-looking assets