While there’s been something of a resurgence in “AA” titles in recent years, games like bad west still don’t come so often. Schlocky, violent, and just plain fun, it’s a linear action game with a strong emphasis on an ever-expanding combat system. It also has big early 2000s vibes, with characters with cartoonishly proportioned limbs and creature designs that could have come straight from the mind of Spawn creator Todd McFarlane.
Structurally, Evil West is about as simple as it gets. The campaign is divided into chapters, each marked by cutscenes, and the levels are a balanced mix of combat, corridors, and the occasional puzzle.
Perhaps surprisingly, the gameplay has a lot in common with 2018’s God of the war. From the one-button tagged platforming to the increasingly complex combat mechanics – and even the way protagonist Jesse rides large metal chains – Kratos’ Nordic adventures have clearly been inspirational. And while Evil West obviously can’t match the polish and reach of a Sony blockbuster, it does manage to capture that same satisfying feeling of weight.
The game’s backdrop sets it apart though. Proving once again that cowboys and horror go hand in hand, this is an alternate America in which vampires pose a constant, unseen threat to the general public. Government agencies across the United States keep these monsters under control through the use of steam and electric weapons, as well as good old-fashioned Christian iconography.
Playable hero Jesse Rentier is a hot-headed field agent, flanked on a crusade for justice by his blunt mentor, Edgar Gravenor. The plot is just as pulpy as you’d imagine, but it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously and, for the most part, it’s pleasantly silly. Some of the vampire lore is also pretty interesting, and it’s hard not to smile wryly every time Jesse pulls out a sad one-liner.
What we’re trying to say is that with your expectations firmly in check, you can get a healthy dose of pleasure from Evil West throughout its 12-hour runtime. And as mentioned, it’s really the combat that brings the experience. Chunky and packed with cool ideas, smashing bloodsuckers is the main reason to keep playing, especially since Jesse unlocks new weapons, abilities, and upgrades on a regular basis.
There’s a touch of jank here, but it’s not enough to detract from the carnage. You start with a mechanical gauntlet, pushing the vampires into submission, but it’s not long before guns are thrown into the mix. Jesse’s trusty revolver can be fired from the hip for quick bursts of damage, while his rifle is perfect for taking out flying enemies or shooting weak spots. Combining melee and ranged weapons like this doesn’t always work, but Evil West battles provide a particularly nice flow.
The enemy variety, however, leaves something to be desired. There’s a point, roughly in the middle of the campaign, where fewer and fewer new enemies are introduced, and you’ll find yourself having to face increasingly familiar opponents, but in greater numbers. Things get a little repetitive – especially when repurposed bosses start creeping in – but again, the depth of Jesse’s arsenal is just enough to keep you engaged.
By the way, you can experience all of this in two-player online co-op. It’s a weird and somewhat underwhelming implementation (only host progress counts), but the option is there if you and a friend just want to go through the schlocky story together, complete with rebalanced encounters.
And before jumping to the conclusion, it is worth mentioning the performance of the title. You’ll want to play this one at 60fps because of all the combat, but the trade-off is a sometimes muddy 1080p. It’s not a dealbreaker, but the game also uses a pretty aggressive motion blur effect – which can’t be dimmed or turned off. Combine that with the resolution, and every once in a while the action can get lost in an indescribable madness of color, like someone placing a wet oil painting on a turntable.
Evil West is one of those really enjoyable 7/10s. It’ll never win any awards and probably won’t be remembered for long, but give it a few years and someone, somewhere will swear it’s actually an underrated classic. It’s a big action game that knows how to have fun, both in and out of combat.