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Evil West Review – Face-Smashingly Good

Evil West is a third-person action-adventure game developed by Flying Wild Hogs and published by Focus Entertainment. The game releases on November 22 on PlayStation, Xbox and PC and this review focuses on the Xbox Series X version which ran superbly. The story was engaging enough and while the levels were linear, the combat and gunplay was fantastic as you smashed your way monsters earning perks and bought upgrades for your weapons. This is yet another success story from Flying Wild Hogs, following releases like Trek to Yomi and Shadow Warrior 3 earlier this year. Where Lo Wang was punching holes in demons, Jesse Rentier is doing the same, if not better, with these vampires and hideous monstrosities through the wild west frontier, snow-covered buildings and dank caves.

The Weird West is a recurring theme in 2022 and I’m all for it. A dark menace called the Sanguisuge consumes the American frontier. You play as Jesse Rentier, the heir to the vampire hunting Rentier Institute led by your father, William Rentier. One of the last agents in RI, you are the final line between humanity and a deep-rooted terror that now emerges from the shadows. Armed with a lightning-fueled gauntlet, firearms and various gadgets, you will kill bloodthirsty monstrosities in style as a lone hunter or in co-op with a friend.

Jessie is your typical kick ass monster hunter in Evil West with more of a western flare compared to someone like Van Helsing. The bad-mouthed western dialogue and banter between characters was humourous right from the opening intro cinematic and kept up throughout all 16 chapters in the game. There are some serious moments too which are backed up by an awesome soundtrack. However, it’s the melee combat and gunplay in each mission that kept my attention. The default attack button on the Xbox was right button that I don’t use very often, and then A dodged. My first thought was that I needed to swap then around but the combat is so fast and so often that I quickly got used to it and didn’t look back.

Starting off relatively easily, you are taught how to use your gauntlet to devastating effect. The gauntlet can stun opponents, shock them with lightning and generally smash faces in. You can uppercut a monster and then slam them into an environmental trap in the distance, like a pile of TNT. Once you gain the lightning abilities, you can zap enemies in close to you or speed your way to them with a swift fist to the face. Your revolver is a good starting point for ranged damage, but it wasn’t until I received the rifle that gameplay started to get hectic. The levels are quite linear with obvious paths but are still great to explore and you do occasionally find a hidden away area to get some money or collectibles.

Monsters you face in Evil West are varied and well designed, exploding in splashes of blood and guts all over the place. Each monster type has it’s own mechanics that you must learn how best to take down quickly before getting overwhelmed. Boo-Hags attack in packs; Nagals are quick melee attackers; Leechers are massive enemies who protect themselves from frontal assaults with huge spiky shields that you must first break; and Highborns, the strongest species, whose powerful wings lash devastating aerial attacks and who can call on swarms of bats to assist them. Having to face most of them all together created some of the more intense and challenging, yet outrageously fun fights I’ve had in a game like this. A move called the kick-off allows you to interrupt a monster’s special attack where other games you have no choice but to dodge. Combat was great fun with lots of versatility in how you tackle each fight.

At times, a monster will aim at you with one of their attacks and it exposes a weak point. This will signify with an audible sound as well as a bright yellow ring, and if you are not facing the monster at that time an arrow will flash to help you know which direction to turn. Aiming with the rifle at these weak points will do very high damage to a target, and one-shot kill smaller targets like bandits or flying monsters. Each time you kill a monster with the weak point, or if you stun-kill a monster, you’ll gain a health orb which became crucial to look for. Aim assist worked well on the Xbox to hit these weak points, which you can turn off, but I still did miss many shots. Bosses will have weak points at times too which are well worth aiming for, but only if you can find yourself some space with swarms of monsters to tend with.

As the story goes on, Jesse and his crew come across some key vampires that put up a hell of a fight and you can see Jesse lose some of his nerve, particularly when his father gets injured badly. The mystery around the vampires in Evil West was cool to unravel as each mission progressed and Felicity’s introduction was very well done. It reminded me a little of the first time I played Fear all those years ago. It’s not a scary moment but just the fact she’s a small girl yet has devastating powers. I was glad to have these cutscenes break up the intensity of combat at times. Some fights took me a few attempts to get right or to not get stuck on the environment as a back pedaled away trying to get a better angle. The time running around between battles also helped to calm the nerves, so I thought the levels were well paced and balanced for exploration and combat.

You can play Evil West in two-player co-op, but I didn’t get a chance to try this in the review period. Co-op works where only the hosts story and character progress continues. The person joining is there just for extra punching power, and their avatar is just another Jesse. I imagine the combat would be fun as heck with two of you teaming up to take down these bad guys, particularly as you started to unlock some damn cool moves, like punching a monster up in the air then slamming them back down or into a hazard.

Overall, Evil West was a joy to play through. Pure monster smashing combat that is up there with one of the most fun games I’ve played this year. The linear levels and clear kill zones kept you focused on the glorious face-smashing and weak-point-shooting combat which exceeded my expectations. The story was engaging enough to keep me wanting to find out what happens next, which got me straight back into tougher fights. I had an absolute blast with this game and it’s well worth the purchase price.

This review utilised an Xbox Series X key provided by Five Star Games and Evil West will release on November 22, 2022, on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One and Series X/S and PC.


Written by: @ChrisJInglis

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