Flying Wild Hog is taking us to a version of the Wild West overrun by vampiric blood-suckers in this action title.
This November has been a big one. Between blockbusters like God of War: Ragnarök, returning massive franchises such as Pokémon Scarlet/Violet, and even surprising acclaimed projects as was the case with Pentiment, it has been a very, very busy month indeed. And while the next few weeks have some other big games making their debut, one that might have slipped past your radar is Flying Wild Hog's Evil West, a story-based, action game that puts players in the shoes of a veritable Wild West superhero fighting back against hordes of vampires and supernatural terrors.
First things first, you aren't actually a superhero in this game, rather you are equipped with enough firepower and unique tools that there's a real power fantasy with what you're able to do with them. From a host of firearms, be it rifles, revolvers, boomsticks, gatling guns, crossbows, to pipe bombs and even a lightning-powered gauntlet, there are so many ways to deal with the blood-sucking vermin that are overwhelming the American West, and while it may often seem like too much bang for anyone's buck, the tasks and odds you'll have to overcome at times will make it very clear why the options are so varied and plentiful.
The story for Evil West basically revolves around Jesse Rentier, a famed vampire hunter chasing after a deadly vampire adversary known as Felicity, who has plans to essentially take over the world. The story has personal beats to it however, as early on, Felicity and her army of vile horrors attack your home base, the Rentier Institute, an attack that sees Jesse's father being bitten and changed into a vampire. From here on out, there are elements of revenge weaved into the duty of the job, which drives the narrative forward, and sees Jesse and his allies heading to a collection of locations across the Wild West in the hunt for Felicity and to undermine her nefarious plot.
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While it is mostly entertaining and there are interesting parts to it, the story comes across like a big-budget and typical Hollywood action flick, where the intricacies and finer details that make something elite are looked over in favour of mindless explosive action. It does make for some exciting scenes and gameplay sequences, but it never comes across as particularly memorable.
And as for the gameplay, this is mostly split into two areas. There's the wandering through the mostly linear levels, where you can pick up gold and other collectibles, and then there's the combat encounters, which essentially drops you into an arena you can't leave and asks you to kill anything that doesn't have a soul and yet moves. It's a very dated gameplay design, one that feels like it belongs in a PS2 game, which is a shame because the combat is actually very fun, fluid, and challenging at times.
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The ability to engage in an array of melee combos, to then switch to a rifle repeater to take down some vampires clinging to a wall, to then whip out a boomstick and blast some attacking foes into chunks, to dive rolling out the way and then fan-hammering six rounds of your revolver from your hip into more enemies, all while letting your gatling gun charge up so you can unleash a tornado of lead down range, is a very fun system that gives the player tons of agency in how they tackle combat encounters. And that freedom to face combat as you see fit is important, because the range of enemy types will force you to think differently in each fight.
Some enemies are slow but massive and deal tons of damage when they hit you, whereas others are weaker yet faster, and to add to this, there are ranged enemies, mini-boss-type foes, and actual bosses every now and then, and it's not always easy to overcome the challenges they pose due to the fast pace of combat and the typically small arenas. But when you do get things under control and sink into the motion of the combat, it's hard not to feel well and truly badass, and this is one area that Evil West really excels.
But it's also the only area that Evil West really excels in, because the exploration and the collectibles are not at all interesting to find and discover, the progression is fairly basic and rudimentary to account for the fact that the storyline isn't too long (you will need to play New Game+ to unlock every upgrade), and I've already touched upon the issues with the narrative itself. Add to this the strange art style and visual design that puts an odd orange shading effect around Jesse and enemies, all inside a world that is either dark or overly washed with red colours, and you get a game that is far from striking in any sense.
As you can see, there are moments in Evil West that impress, but generally speaking, this is not a title that will blow you away at all. The best way to describe Evil West is to think of it like a movie directed by Michael Bay: sure, it's entertaining at times, but do you walk away desperate for more? Not particularly.
5 / 10
Combat suite and system is really fun and thrilling. Great enemy variety. Narrative has its moments.
Level design falls flat. Very ugly at times. Exploration is dull. Tons of just mindless action sequences.