Evil West (Xbox Series X) Review

A Western With Bite

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Evil West

Brutalist Review Style (Version 2)

There are plenty of shooters out there and each tries to develop their own identity without borrowing from their predecessors too much. Flying Hog Games set out to create a fictionalized United States overrun by a vampire menace in Evil West. These are not the Twilight brand of ‘just trying to fit in’ vampires, these are bloodthirsty killing machines. Evil West proceeds to drag the night creatures back to their bloody roots, the threatening menaces that would make Dracula himself turn in his coffin.

Evil West kicks off in traditional ‘cowboy game’ fashion, with lots of western slang and banter between the two characters that clearly have history. You are Jesse Rentier, son of the seemingly famous William Rentier the director of the Rentier Institute, and a vanguard of humanity’s side of a vampire-human war. Right off the bat, comradery is established between Jesse and a retired hunter named Edgar Gravenor — get it? Grave-nor? — and the start of Evil West is a wild one with explosions and high stakes, and what feels like humanity’s last struggle. The characters also ramble back and forth calling vampires ‘Ticks,’ their version of a slur for the bloodsuckers and I’m here for it.

Evil West is a call back to grizzled action games.”

There are echoes and nods of other games in this one that are impossible to miss. The first town the player is dropped into is known as Belmontsville, a clear nod to the Castlevania series main protagonist bloodline, and like the Belmonts, the Rentier Institute serves as a training ground for hunters against the night horde.

As son of William Rentier, Jesse is immediately slotted into the ‘next in line for the throne’ role, as he has been trained for becoming the next Rentier Institute director since he was born. References are made to his upbringing that would make the younger audience groan with relatability, Jesse’s father has repeatedly told him to “never get old, and never get married” the ramblings of a bitter person wearing the heavy burden of duty.

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Evil West – Review Images Provided by Focus Entertainment

The title’s protagonist cast is all a close-knit bunch that fulfills all the shooter-type casts. Edgar Gravenor is the grizzled veteran who has seen some stuff, William Rentier is the though-as-nails leader who takes his job too seriously, Scott Bloom is a quirky character with too much interest in the vampires, Vergil Olney is the genius IQ engineer who knows everything, and Emilia Blackwell serves as a doctor levelheaded type that keeps the conflicting personalities in check.

I was even treated to a self-entitled politician named James Harrow, who expects the royal treatment wherever he goes and constantly throws vile insults at the rest of the Institute for being so inept, while only complaining the entire time. This reflects real life well, and it’s hard not to want to wish for his demise during the narrative. Loathe as I am to admit, Harrow is apparently a war veteran who’s already earned his stripes, but I wouldn’t have known that without the robust lore page that outlines everything from a vampire bestiary to character biographies, a nice touch to add depth to the story that was not overlooked by Flying Wild Hog.

“The action is SMOOTH in Evil West.”

Where the title truly bares its teeth, is the combat. Jesse is equipped with many ways to dispatch his adversaries. Basic melee attacks, a single action army revolver akin to Revolver Ocelot from Metal Gear Solid 3 fired in the same fashion from the hip, an old school pump action rifle for accuracy, a double barrel shotgun for crowd control, and the best inclusion, the Zapper gauntlet — a Rentier brand of vampire slayer whip — that adds a Sci-Fi flair to the chaotic combat.

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Evil West – Review Images Provided by Focus Entertainment

While this may seem like a lot of controls, the rifle is relegated to the LT aiming button with RT to fire, and the revolver shoots with just the RT. This seems weighty and slow at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a great time dispatching waves of enemies with a flurry of tricks up your sleeve.

The action is SMOOTH in Evil West. Jesse whips the rifle out with unmatched dexterity and fans the revolver as fast as your finger can. The dodge mechanism is quick and there is no stamina bar. Let me repeat that, there is NO stamina bar. This is a great aspect, instead of slowing Evil West down, more enemies are thrown at the player of varying types and instead of being hunkered down by one more cooldown metre — such as the shotgun requiring maybe 20 seconds to utilize after firing — the player can dodge to safety while regaining bearings. As a great addition, the title can be fully played in co-op.

Enemies can be kicked when they glow during ‘unblockable attacks’ by pushing the left stick in, which stops them cold and made me feel invincible. While the Ticks charge super attacks you can unload rifle shots into blinking weak spots to do critical damage in small windows which is satisfying to pull off, and again made me feel like an unstoppable train of carnage.

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Evil West – Review Images Provided by Focus Entertainment

The Zapper can also reel in enemies or charge Jesse forward to combo basic trash mob enemies, while facing boss enemies, you can electrocute them using an Evil West branded stagger metre around their health bar. There are MANY ways to destroy vampires without needing the sun, and it’s always fun to uppercut a tick and blast them with your revolver.

There was a nagging feeling of nostalgia while getting through Evil West, and I’ve finally figured it out. The banter between characters and vampires being called ticks is reminiscent of Gears of War’s locust and ‘grubs’, the Zapper pulls enemies with an ability that SLAMS them into the ground like in BulletStorm, and the melee combat is a marriage of Devil May Cry chaos and 2018’s God of War without a Devil Trigger or Leviathan Axe but with the same feeling of glee to execute enemies and reliance on timing to maim the Ticks.

Best of all, defeating hard enemies gives a triumphant ‘Greater Enemy Slain’ Elden Ring feeling. This Frankenstein’s Monster of a title mixes these elements to destructive effect, while maintaining its own gruff identity. A triumphant blend of action.

There are some hiccups with Evil West though. The first level of Evil West is a huge eyesore, everything is red and glaring and although it’s all on fire, adjusting the gamma setting doesn’t help whatsoever. Some segments are incredibly frustrating, as when mini-boss and boss enemies are firing projectiles sometimes they lock on and change straight-firing projectile flight patterns and other times they don’t. This just feels cheap and not the player’s fault. Enemies rushing at the player sometimes curve their path to unfairly punish a player that had gotten out of the way early, which can warrant a controller toss in rage.

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Evil West – Review Images Provided by Focus Entertainment

The lock-on mechanism can cause the player to miss weak spots by centimetres, which hits the adversary but misses the weak spot, and unfairly punishes the player for utilizing it. The worst part about these combat hang-ups is the seemingly random inconsistent nature of them. Combat combos sometimes don’t do what the player demands, and sometimes heavier enemies will stagger and other times they won’t. None of this is game-breaking, just incredibly irritating.

Evil West is a call back to grizzled action games. The frenetic combat mixed with ranged capabilities is a breath of fresh air with a genre that traditionally follows a cookie-cutter mould. Excellent visuals from the Xbox Series X coupled with smooth gameplay and brutal sound effects create something truly memorable. In a game that’s inspired by so many other incredible titles, it still retains its own identity which is a herculean feat. Flying Wild Hog created the artistic Trek to Yomi, and the Shadow Warrior series, but this is their best title to date.

Final Thoughts

Philip Watson
Philip Watson

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