The sun is shining, but the world isn’t bright. The darkness of the past looms over the present. Not just the current moment but the moments to come. As James Savage, you aim to dispel the spreading force of evil. And what better way to do so than with guns? El Paso, Elsewhere is a third-person shooter that takes heavy inspiration from classic action titles, especially Max Payne. Despite the Max Payne influence being worn on the sleeve, there’s a unique twist and substance to this gritty experience.
The opening sequence has James go through an internal monologue which is both cheesy, yet, succinct. It has that typical noir atmosphere where the words have emotional depth yet maintain an over-the-top edge to them. After going through the tutorial, you make your way to what appears to be a normal motel. It is here where you must conquer the enemies of darkness as the motel morphs around you to become a tall structure of maze-like levels.
Combating creatures within this realm is fun and intuitive. You start with your standard sidearm and pick up more guns and weapons along the way. As there are a plethora of enemies scattered around the maps, resources are plentiful, so you don’t have to worry about running out of ammo. And for those who want to customize their difficulty, there are options for combat, such as reduced damage intake or infinite ammo.
The most satisfying aspect of the combat comes with the slow-motion shooting mechanic, similar to bullet time from Max Payne. While diving to shoot, controlling the cursor to aim your bullets felt smooth and intuitive. You are limited with this maneuver as it has a meter you must recharge over time, so it’s best to save it for moments in serious trouble. Making it out alive from waves of enemies can be tougher than you think, but even the deaths felt rewarding. If I died a certain way, I knew how to approach it more effectively for the next run. I was ready to fight back and kick some more ass.
While the fights are entertaining, the intensity is magnificently accompanied by the atmosphere and soundtrack. As you wander through each level, you see how distorted and warped each environment becomes. The ceilings are nonexistent, and you see this void of bizarre patterns in the backdrop, signaling your gradual journey into darkness. In addition, the original hip-hop soundtrack was upbeat and full of energy to go alongside the action. I was already eager to blow the heads off foes, but the beats and rhymes had me enthusiastic.
El Paso, Elsewhere manages to provide a profound impact on the player with its narrative and thematic structure outside of its gameplay. While it is fun to destroy every creature you encounter on your path, it’s also just as pleasing to see the consequences of your actions, such as indulging James’ reliance on popping pills—every symbol and visual meld into the overarching narrative, showing that everything has meaning. The PS2-like graphics with the gloomy textures enhance the dark reality that James is succumbing to. He’s not just fighting demons, but he’s fighting his inner demons as well. And I’m pumped to descend into the depths of madness with him.
El Paso, Elsewhere is coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC via Steam in Fall 2023.
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