Given the whirlwind of releases over the last month or so, you’d be forgiven if Evil West has slipped under your radar. A brand new IP from Flying Wild Hog of Shadow Warrior fame, Evil West is something of a relic of the past, with a linear single player campaign, secret collectibles, weapon upgrades, perks, and so much more. This isn’t to say Evil West feels archaic, though, with a tightly paced campaign, satisfyingly brutal combat, and flexible progression that all coalesces into a thoroughly enjoyable carnage filled adventure.
Set in a Wild West under the threat of supernatural beings known as the Sanguisuge, you step into the shoes of Jesse Rentier, a vampire slayer and heir to the Rentier Institute. Headed by Jesse’s father, William Rentier, the Institute’s sole purpose is to eradicate the vampiric threat that has a stranglehold around the United States. With the Rentier Institute having weaponized steam and electricity, the Sanguisuge are desperate to survive against all odds, and launch a nation-wide attack to stamp out humanity for good.
It’s a fairly by the numbers narrative that’s made entertaining by its exaggerated characters and overt cheesiness. While Jesse himself is a pretty cookie-cutter protagonist, it’s supporting characters like long time vampire slayer Edgar Gravenor and doctor Emilia Blackwell that bring out the best in him through their interactions. The dialogue between them has a tongue-in-cheek awareness to it similar to Flying Wild Hog’s Shadow Warrior 3. It’s also chock-full of references to longstanding franchises like DOOM, Castlevania, and more, further adding to the self-awareness. While it’s nothing to write home about overall, it serves as an engaging backdrop for the blood-soaked action built around it.
If I had to describe Evil West, I’d say it’s most akin to a third-person DOOM Eternal. It has a taut focus on resource management, target prioritization, and making you feel as badass as you look. The core combat revolves around ranged and melee attacks, where Jesse has access to close-quarters combos and long range guns. It’s a seamless and fluid melding of the two that make for an entirely unique and kinetic style of combat, where you swap between weapons as needed, weaving punches in between and tying it all off with a finisher for a much needed health drop.
Combat only deepens further when you unlock an electric powered gauntlet which has a slew of capabilities. It’s primary use is for electrocuting enemies, which allows you to follow up with a high damage beatdown, but it’s the way in which you can zap your foes that allow you to get creative. Whether it’s successfully timing parries, pulling foes towards you with a whip, or unleashing electric hell on the Sanguisuge in an overdrive mode, the gauntlet is consistently satisfying to use in combat, and this is only reinforced through progression.
As you move through linear levels, you’ll level up and obtain perk points which can be spent on new skills for Jesse. There’s a few different trees you can spec into here that provide unique and distinct playstyles, such as maximizing your energy regen to make the most of powerful gauntlet attacks, or exploiting environmental hazards against enemies to get the upper hand. Every perk point obtained is an ever alluring prospect of new ways to dispatch foes in a gloriously satisfying manner.
The plethora of weapons you obtain can also be upgraded over the journey as you collect Bucks. From a standard six shot revolver and bolt-action hunting rifle, to a literal flamethrower, there’s always a way to power up and customize your favorite weapons further. Everything combines to make for a certifiably bonkers combat system that’s practically begging for a new game plus playthrough once you roll credits, which really cements how much Jesse’s slaying capabilities expand over the course of the game.
All of these aspects, alongside the ability to refund perk points at any point, means you have a robust and flexible progression system that encourages you to experiment with Jesse’s skills. One playthrough wasn’t enough for me to obtain every upgrade, but I’m sure a new game plus playthrough will result in a fully upgraded and equipped Jesse which I’m sure is as crazy as I’m anticipating it to be.
The game is somewhat slow to get going, though. I found the first few missions fell into repetition in their combat arenas due to a relatively limited move set and weapon choice early on. This only lasted for the first 3-4 missions, but left combat feeling more mundane in its opening hours in comparison to how chaotic it can get in the second half of the game.
A combat system like this is nothing without enemy variety, though, and Evil West delivers on that in spades. It’s constantly serving up new combinations of enemy types that demand you to pick and choose what you want to focus on first to make things as easy as possible. During my roughly 10-hour playthrough on normal difficulty, I died a handful of times but ultimately felt like the difficulty curve was satisfying and rewarding. This is most prominent with Evil West’s bombastic boss fights, that demand a higher level of focus, prompt dodging, and exploiting enemy weak points.
While the missions in Evil West are remarkably linear, that certainly isn’t to its own detriment. Each mission hangs around for just the right amount of time, never overstaying its welcome or bowing out too soon to where its ideas can’t breathe. Despite the supernatural setting, Flying Wild Hog still finds ways to weave cowboy staples into these levels, such as an explosive train heist and tense bank robbery. Each level still has some hidden collectibles, skins, and upgrades to find, so it’s never as simple as walking straight ahead.
While I wasn’t able to test the coop during my time with Evil West, only the session host can progress through the story missions and character upgrades, meaning anyone who joins up to a session as a guest will lose all progress made when returning to their own file. Enemy health and damage is scaled up to account for the extra player, but it’s disappointing that a 10 hour experience like this is lacking in the ability to save progression between solo and coop play sessions. Still, though, the entire thing is playable with a mate, so there’s definitely some value to be found in that.
While the Wild West might typically be synonymous with rolling deserts and tumbleweed, Evil West bucks the trend by including a myriad of environments to explore, all as captivating as each other. From your typical western towns to blood leech ridden forests, each mission is a visual delight with a suitable amount of spectacle to each of them. It adds to that already tight pacing to keep you engaged and involved in each part of the world you visit.
While it doesn’t quite stand up to some triple A juggernauts of today, Evil West’s visual allure is in its style, bursting with the vibrant colors of blood and electricity in direct contrast with a steampunk aesthetic. It also ran remarkably well on my 3060ti, and I only ever encountered a few audio bugs during my playthrough.
THE PC VERSION WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Evil West is a relic of a bygone era, one that any fan of high-octane action games should experience. An all-round excellently paced main campaign, ridiculously fun combat, and flexible character progression make for one of 2022's best games, and one of the best third-person shooters in recent years.
A cheesy yet entertaining and tightly paced narrative