Flying Wild Hog has been on fire this year, pumping out banger after banger with Shadow Warrior 3, Trek to Yomi, and now Evil West. This title is not to be confused with other games that also came out this year with “West” in their names, such as Hard West 2, Weird West, or Blood West.
You see, there’s something enthralling about supernatural renditions of the wild west with badass cowboys and nasty monsters that I just can’t get enough of. And Evil West captures the essence of what makes old-school shooters in that setting awesome with an engaging throwback experience filled with action-packed combat, tons of blood, and even a co-op mode!
You play as Jesse Rentier, the heir to the Rentier Institute, living in an alternate history of the United States, where a raging war ensues between humans and vampires. Fellow gunslinger Edgar Gravenor accompanies you on your journey across the North American frontier as the two of you pursue Felicity D’Albano, an evil entity who leads the nocturnal monstrosities.
While the narrative isn’t anything to write home about, it does a great job of embracing a steampunk-inspired interpretation of 1800s America. It also wouldn’t be a Flying Wild Hog game without foul-mouthed humor and dialogue between characters that don’t take themselves too seriously. The outstanding voice acting carries what otherwise is a subpar story.
The gameplay is third person over the shoulder, featuring evident inspiration from 2018’s God of War regarding combat and movement, with the obvious exception that Jesse carries a selection of guns rather than Kratos’s axe. Instead, you have a technologically advanced gauntlet created by your father’s company to clobber enemies with melee attacks.
An arsenal of ranged weapons is acquired as you progress through the ten to fifteen-hour adventure, including a revolver, rifle, shotgun, and even a gatling gun! A generous auto-target and an array of flashy melee combos, such as an electric dash and yank, allow for a frantically good time. Hits feel weighty and impactful, even with most enemies being extremely spongey, especially on harder difficulties. Still, despite how repetitive it can get, the game manages to be enjoyable across each encounter.
Gunslinging ain’t no fun if you can’t upgrade any of your abilities and weapons, right? You level up by gaining experience, which then awards points to use in a fleshed-out skill tree. Are you someone who loves punching vampires with your electric-powered super glove, or do you prefer shooting from a distance with your trusty rifle?
Of course, you have your basic unlockables, such as an extra bullet in your revolver or a generic health upgrade, but some other ones are legitimately insane. There’s a perk that allows you to juggle a large group of enemies at once, doing incredible AOE damage. Evil West openly welcomes experimentation, as the game will let you reset your perk points and money purchases with no consequence. It’s an excellent mechanic that I wish more games would implement nowadays.
Level design is mostly linear, with hidden areas off the beaten path sprinkled in occasionally between stages. Environmental puzzles are never too challenging, and collectible lore documents don’t feel tacked on. Both act as a nice change of pace from the hectic battle scenarios. You are always rewarded with extra cash and cosmetics for your weapons and outfit during exploration.
The entire game is mission-structured, with you traveling to impressively diverse locations based on the progression of the narrative. Enemy types are also quite varied as you come head to head with giant shield-wielding tentacle brutes and deformed werewolves. Bosses, on the other hand, are a memorable spectacle, with each feeling distinctly unique and requiring every trick up your sleeve to defeat.
As previously mentioned, this game does offer a multiplayer co-op mode, but I wasn’t able to test it out for this review. This is a rare feature for games now and one that undoubtedly adds more replayability. Unfortunately, there’s no couch co-op, and only the host of the online session saves story progression, but the feature is a nice bonus, nonetheless.
I also forgot to mention that Evil West comes with new game plus at launch, which is a massive bonus for those wishing to tackle the game on the hardest difficulty. Trust me; you’re going to need a fully upgraded arsenal going in, considering how brutal the Evil difficulty level is.
The only real thing weighing Evil West down is its shoddy visuals, especially on next-gen consoles. Don’t get me wrong, the art direction is phenomenal, especially regarding character, environment, monster, and weapon design. Though, the game offers two modes, one that favors 4K graphics but caps the framerate at 30 fps and one that favors performance with a smooth 60 fps but brings the graphical fidelity down to 1080p.
Yep, you heard that correctly. Sadly, Evil West renders at 1080p on PlayStation 5 if you choose to run the game at 60 fps. This is a definite bummer, considering most, if not all, games are offering at least 1440p 60 fps on next-gen consoles. Given that this is an action-heavy experience, you’ll probably want to stick with a higher framerate, but just keep in mind that the visuals can get quite muddy and blurry at times. Here’s to hoping the developers can push out a patch that enhances the resolution.
Flying Wild Hog absolutely nailed it with a damn fun old-fashioned shooter beat’em up that embraces its linear-level design and fluid combat. Sure it doesn’t have that AAA polish and budget, nor is it reinventing the wheel, but it does a fantastic job showing the world that even nostalgic games can be appreciated through a modern lens.
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