Evil West Review (Xbox Series X)
Release date: November 22, 2022
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows
*NO SPOILERS BELOW*
Evil West is a high-energy monster-slaying, vampire-hunting third-person action game that takes a lot of queues from others popular franchises, such as Doom, God of War, and most notably, Devil May Cry. My hype for this game was pretty real, as the trailers reminded me of Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare DLC, which to this day is still the perfect blend of western and monster.
Set right before the turn of the 20th century, you play as Jesse Rentier, an agent of the Rentier Institute, who is tasked with hunting down and eliminating anything supernatural. The story starts with Jesse and his fellow hunter, and retired agent, Edgar Gravenor, hunting down a vampire named Peter D'Abano. D'Abano seeks to start an all-out war with the humans in an attempt to subdue them before their monster-hunting techniques develop to a point of no return for the vampire race. While we encounter, and slay, D'Abano near the beginning of the game, we come to learn that he had an ace up his sleeve, Felicity, D'Abano's daughter and the main antagonist. As Jesse, you shoot, punch, and tear your way through various monstrosities, meeting new folks along the way, all in an effort to put a stop to this vampire uprising.
The game focuses primarily on its combo-based fighting system and thus gameplay is strictly linear. There is no open-world exploration and when progressing through each chapter, where you need to go next is highlighted by either a glowing chain or an exclamation mark. Honestly, I didn't mind this as it is made abundantly clear that the developers wanted players to just have a fun rock-em, sock-em time and have less focus on strategy. The strategic moments that are presented are incredibly easy to navigate. As a result, much of the world-building is left to the menu where you have tab for "Lore" explicitly dedicated to every ghoulish monster you encounter as well as read any collectible notes, story updates, and supporting character backgrounds.
The same aforementioned menu feature also has tabs for "Perks", "Upgrades", and "Character". "Character" is pretty straight forward. As you progress through the story, you can unlock some skins that help you customize Jesse's outfit and a couple of his main weapons. "Perks" and "Upgrades" are similar in that they do require loot and progression to enhance. "Perks" are leveled though acquiring perk points, which you gain when you level up. Most of mine were acquired after big monster fights. "Upgrades" similarly help improve the perks and features Jesse already has through the coins you can find scattered across levels in crates, chests, and bags.
Many people were upset with developer, Flying Wild Hog, for choosing to stabilize the game at 30FPS. I've mentioned this before, but even if we do have the technology for such with this latest generation of console, it is by no means a defining component for quality gameplay in my opinion. In fact, despite Gotham Knights getting panned for the same reason, it had a fair bit of success with everyday gamers. On the Series X, I encountered no frame rate issues at any point in my playthrough. I found the combat sequences to render perfectly and smoothly. Controls were actually very smooth, and I found no lag in between what I pressed and what happened on screen.
I think my biggest issue with this game is that as much as I wanted to like it, there was nothing that seemed unique to it. The developers were transparent in admitting that the third-person style was inspired by 2018's God of War and the combat was heavily inspired by Devil May Cry. In fact, for the latter game, I found Evil West to play almost exactly like 2013's DmC: Devil May Cry reboot -- which in my opinion got WAY more hate than it deserved. The combo queues on-screen, the linear mission layouts, even Jesse's personality was much like Dante's (the protagonist in the Devil May Cry franchise). I would go as far as to say that Evil West was almost a simplified version of that game, which is not necessarily a bad thing, since it was a good game. But as I mentioned previously, it didn't feel like I was exploring uncharted territory.
Flying Wild Hog missed a bit of an opportunity in trying to make this game their own, by exploring a greater variety in final kills (same type of final blow for each type of monster, no matter your combo), more diverse monster designs (many of the monsters have similar base designs), a better cultivated combat system that combines moves and provides a streak system, and creating depth to their world building that wasn't dependent on collectibles.
The Western genre is misplaced in this game as even though it serves as the backdrop, the combat system nor the characters feel particularly reflective of the Wild Wild West. Very few of the secondary characters carry dialogue you would expect of the time and the choice of voice actors seem off. When the Wild West does shine through, it is most definitely in the environments, which are of a nice variety and will make you feel like you've got some spurs on. I'd say the genre is more along the lines of Steampunk, like Bioshock Infinite, as opposed to Western.
Most notably, as many other reviews have pointed out, Evil West has a very short campaign. While it is still a pile of high-octane fun, you'll find yourself breezing through it pretty quick. My playthrough was done in under 9 hours. There's some replay value if you choose to play it again on "Hard" or "Evil" modes, try out co-op, or if you generally like combo-based fighting games. Honestly, for these other reasons, I don't think the price tag is warranted -- and I say that as someone who paid full price.
My final verdict? Evil West is a lot of fun if you're into high energy monster-killing games. I had a blast playing this even with my previously mentioned critiques, as despite it being a bit copy-and-paste, it was reminiscent of early 2010s gaming. If you're new to this style of game overall, this would be a solid introduction to it. So, if you're fan of Devil May Cry and just want to enjoy some gory vampire hunting, I recommend picking this up for a nice throwback to one of the peaks in gaming.
Evil West is available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows for $59.99.
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