Developers Flying Wild Hog have been on a hot streak of releasing games this year, starting back in March with Shadow Warrior 3, followed by Trek to Yomi in May. Their newest release, Evil West, is a third-person action-adventure game where the player takes control of Jesse Rentier, a stereotypical tough and gritty cowboy who comes from a long line of vampire hunters. Set in a Nikola Tesla/steampunk inspired version of the late 1800s, the game is filled with amazing setpieces and awesome weapons that will surely show anyone who is a fan of the developer’s Shadow Warrior trilogy a rootin tootin’ good time.
At its core however, the weapons, gameplay and setting is really what carries Evil West throughout its entire 12-hour long experience. The God of War, Devil May Cry and DOOM Eternal inspired combat is extremely fun, but the boring characters, laughable dialogue, and bad story make Evil West fall just short of the finish line, especially after releasing just a couple of weeks after the critically acclaimed God of War: Ragnarok.
The Tiring but Fun Gameplay
Evil West’s classic monster-slaying gameplay evoked a feeling of joy in my body that I haven’t felt since playing DOOM Eternal. The arsenal of weapons you slowly build up throughout the campaign is awesome. Every weapon feels as though it has its place and, once the game gives you a new one, it gives you a giant wave of enemies to let you test out your new toy. From the basic revolver that you get at the start of the game to the devastating flamethrower that’s acquired near the end of Jessie’s story, you soon find out that there is always a tool for any job. Every weapon has three upgrades that you can unlock too. Some upgrades are tiny such as giving you some more arrows for your crossbow, but others are much bigger such as turning your rifle into an electricity-firing railgun. These upgrades can be purchased with a currency known as “bucks.” Some weapon upgrades and perks, however, can only be unlocked by finding hidden chests scattered off the main path in certain levels. These hidden unlocks can offer a big advantage, like making all health and energy drops explosive or giving you an invincibility shield whenever you use the Gatling gun. These items, however sparse, reward exploration through all the little nooks and crannies that are in the game world.
You can also upgrade Jessie’s perks along with his trusty gauntlet, the weapon that you’ll attack with most throughout the game. The perk upgrades are fun as well, allowing yourself to unlock new abilities and tricks to splatter more undead spawn. Some of the perks that you can give Jessie can really switch up how you play the game, such as the perk “Blood and Thunder” that makes it so your health slowly drains in exchange for energy, which can be used to pull off some lightning-based special moves. One thing that is also worth mentioning is the addition of co-op multiplayer, which means that you and a friend can battle the undead together if you so choose, but be warned that performance will probably be hindered if you choose to play co-op.
Although the amount of enemies is large, amounting to almost 20 different types, the variety that is seen throughout the levels gets a bit repetitive after a while, especially once you learn which abilities can be used to cheese which enemies into submission. There are only four boss fights in the game as well. Something that was weird is that the first true boss battle appears on level six, which is almost halfway through the game. The arenas in which you maim these enemies are fun and full of individual flair. From creepy abandoned mining caves, to the open wild west countryside, each area seems fun and creative in almost every level.
One thing about the game that is undeniably boring however, is the couple of minutes it takes to traverse to each arena. Some levels like to add some variety to these areas such as an area where you need to move train cars around to get to a certain area, or electrifying switches through the power of your gauntlet. The game tries to further distract you from the boredom by adding collectibles such as journal entries or other forms of exposition in order to add onto the lore, but these items are definitely unnecessary, and really don’t feel like they add anything to the overall bland storytelling that this game has.
The Evil Writing
The story of this game follows Jessie Rentier, one of the most hardcore men of the west. Jessie is a part of the Rentier Institute, a group of undercover vampire hunters that work with the United States government to try and keep the country free of the undead. When Jessie’s father, William Rentier, the director of the Rentier institute, is put out of commission after an attack on the institute’s stronghold, Jessie seeks revenge on the person responsible for the attack while saving the United States in the process.
Jessie meets many friends along the way, including the innocent and naive engineer, Vergil Olney, and the highly opinionated Dr. Emilia Blackwell, who is always willing to throw exposition your way in the secret lair, placed inside a saloon, that serves almost as a hub. One of the more exciting bad guys that you’ll run across in the story is Senator James Harrow, an obnoxious loudmouth who constantly tries to get in your way. The main antagonist however, is a creepy little girl, fit with a voice that is ready to sing the Nightmare on Elm Street nursery rhyme at a moments notice.
For a game that is being marketed as “narrative-driven” by the developers, the story is lacking in many facets. The game is filled with dialogue that is so phoned-in that I laughed out loud many times throughout its multiple cutscenes. The story is filled with so many cliches that it makes me wonder how much effort was put into the story during development. The plot twists that are present as well are far from a surprise if you’ve played any classic action-adventure from the Xbox 360 or PS3 era.
If you want to play a game that is filled with the gore and ultraviolence of DOOM and you don’t have a PS5 to play God of War: Ragnarok, then I would definitely recommend this game. Through its faults, beating up swarms of the undead using the Rentier gauntlet will always be fun. There are admittedly few things more satisfying than shoving a shotgun in a giant bat’s head, and pulling the trigger. Something that I cannot recommend however, is spending $60 on this game. Wait until it goes on sale because you are not going to get $60 worth of awesome monster slaying along with a good story if that is what you are looking for. Evil West’s gameplay is a diamond in the rough of sorts. Surrounded by bland characters, a bland story, and an even blander ending.
Contact Conor Butler with any comments @cmbutlerbsu.edu