Flying Wild Hog are stepping out of the shadows of Lo Wang and going full steam ahead with their own IP.
Evil West is set in the 19th century, in an alternate take of the Old West where a group of monster hunters are situated at the Calico Outpost as part of the Rentier Institute. The director, William Rentier, put his son Jesse into training at a young age, and now he’s one of their top hunters.
So when you step into Jesse’s boots you can expect plenty of gauntlet punching, foot stomping, shotgun blasting shenanigans against some of the most ferocious vampires and sanguisuges you ever did see.
And that’s the first plus point for FWH – they’ve got the combat feeling just right. You start out simple with your Rentier Gauntlet that you can use to power melee through enemies. You can uppercut them, cannonball them, and send them careering into traps and obstacles for satisfying fatalities.
But gradually the game starts to open up as you learn how to block with your shield, giving enemies a jolt up the ass while fighting. This is also used to interrupt their attacks when they’re about to cleave you in half, which may even leave them open to execution with a fatality as they glow yellow.
It starts slow but then the heavy artillery starts coming into play as you pick up a quick shot revolver that really makes you feel like you’re in the Wild West, a Rifle that buckshots through any foe with deadly force, and even crossbows, flame throwers, and crippling rods to even the odds.
In fact, each level seems to bring something new to the equation, whether that’s a different weapon type or new environmental blocker which means you’re constantly trying to learn something or trying to account for a different way to get out of a scrape. Which is just as well as the challenge definitely rises with each step you take.
From explosive wasters, to giants with pole axes and vampire highborns that scour through the skies and fire all manner of projectiles directly in your face, the game has variety and will keep you on your toes.
Evil West encourages you to mix things up as some enemies are weaker to certain attacks and styles. Some are weak to fire, so a blast of the flamethrower will do the trick, others struggle with electricity making it easy to pummel them into dust.
But that does throw up one of the issues I had with Evil West. Most of the battles are boxed in self-contained arenas which won’t open back up until you’ve beaten every enemy in it. It’s a formula Flying Wild Hog used to great effect with Shadow Warrior and they’ve done something similar here.
To be honest, I found it pulled me out of the experience here, and often causes the game to feel quite repetitive. Later on in the game, enemies do roam around the environments a bit more freely which actually opens the game up a bit more and keeps the action fluid and dynamic, but the bulk of the action remains in these mini arenas where you don’t have a ton of room to manoeuvre and often get overwhelmed by large numbers.
And the enemies are often pretty tanky. Some take a ton of hits, whether you hit them in the weak points which flash up from time to time or get them up close for a beating. This, unfortunately, makes the game quite grindy, adding weight and padding to the combat, which is more than a bit of a slog at times.
That is a bit of a shame as the narrative pacing and flow from one scene to the next is really punchy and keeps you captivated. The game has varied enough mechanics that sustain interest, the story is engaging enough with well-built-up characters, and the environments keep the experience fresh which might surprise you considering it’s all set in the West.
The story is all anchored at the Calico Outpost, which you’ll visit in between missions. This is usually the place where the story progresses but you can also upgrade your perks, tools and weapons while there. It’s not something you can visit at any point, sadly, but by the time you’ve levelled up, gathered enough coins or experience, you’ll visit frequently enough that it isn’t an issue.
There’s a ton of collectables to find off the beaten track as well, and usually those can be found behind a burned bush, if you swing across a ledge or through an abandoned shack where you can punch your way through a broken door. It actually started to feel a bit Gears of War esque as each item also explains more about the world and its denizens.
Speaking of Gears of War, another similarity is campaign co-op, though I didn’t get to experience it for myself in time for this overview. With some of the issues with enemy numbers and their overall toughness, it’s definitely something people will find beneficial as the game can teeter on the unbalanced for a solo player at times. It’s a real shame this isn’t available locally as well, though, because this is a game that definitely feels like it’d be at its best when played with a friend.
As for the rest, visually the game does struggle in Quality mode with regular juddering, so it’s one that plays best in Performance Mode. Colouring is overly saturated in a lot of cases and there’s some glitching, pop in and rough textures, which unfortunately don’t really make the best of the power and quality of PS5.
There’s some really standout voice acting performances, though, with actors really vibing in their roles and giving a good accounting of themselves putting over some lines.
It’s funny because while playing I kept thinking this would actually make a great, multi-season TV show akin to a Buffy where each week the group take on a ‘freak of the week’, learning about their weaknesses, using all sorts of badass weaponry, all while tying everything into a big bad they have to take down in the finale.
Evil West has serious franchise potential and while this initial instalment overly feels a bit too linear with some elements that don’t necessarily compliment the action as well as they should, I enjoyed the game a great deal, couldn’t put it down until the conclusion and hope to see more from the Rentier Institute.
Evil West has a fun, entertaining gameplay flow that is engineered very well, and moves along at a healthy, enjoyable pace, introducing mechanics gradually and smartly to keep everything feeling fresh. While the combat is first rate, it unfortunately gets bogged down by the game’s insistence on blocking everything into arenas, removing some of the dynamism. This is also coupled with some graphical issues.
There’s a strong foundation for a very exciting future here, though, and I hope to see more from Evil West in the future with a game that fully explores the scope of this interesting new world Flying Wild Hog have built.
+ A well-paced gameplay flow that keeps you invested right up to the end
+ Excellent combat that challenges and offers lots of opportunity and potential
+ Good environmental variety makes for an intriguing new world
– Small, boxed in arenas, and tanky enemies make the game quite grindy and repetitive
– Quite a few Graphical glitches, imperfections, and over-saturated colours
Evil West releases on November 22 on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X
Played on PlayStation 5
Code Kindly Provided by Focus Home Entertainment