There are many who dislike film and TV character narrations. But not me. I love someone commenting on what they are doing, or seeing the story taking place before their very eyes. In films, it takes me back to the black and white detective noirs of the ’50s, as the protagonist would poetically comment on the action.
In games, that self-narration is not a stranger either and in El Paso, Elsewhere we have one of the best uses of this technique. But it’s a strange, hard-boiled game and you need to buckle up and get ready.
Let’s start from the beginning. You play the role of a monster hunter called James Savage who is – at this point – living in a motel in El Paso. He fell in love with Draculae and now is travelling to put an end to her, mostly before she ends the world. He ends up in a strange void where he travels down an escalator, one floor at a time, rescuing innocents and killing vamps, mummies, werewolves, and angels. It’s a simple affair, but beautifully told.
The premise is good, but my word, the writing and performances on offer in El Paso, Elsewhere are outstanding, with the writing being bold, clever, and witty, all while feeling like it has been ripped out of a pulp fiction novel. The story is told brilliantly as well, through well-crafted cutscenes and bits in the levels where you find out more about the love relationship between the two polar opposites. Honestly, El Paso, Elsewhere is so, so good.
Gameplay wise and you’ll want to think of this one like Max Payne; you’ll then be pretty much on the money. It borrows a lot from that game in terms of visuals, slow-mo attacks, and pill munching, all in order to keep that health bar high. Each level starts with you in a motel maze, moving around from room to room as you go looking to rescue innocent bystanders and kill the enemies. When you have rescued enough then you go back to the escalator and move on to the next. As the game progresses the levels get weirder, taking us to graveyards, mansions, and castles. It also gets a lot more hectic.
You are armed with a set of pistols, at least to begin with, and some stakes for close melee as well. Later on, you get a shotgun, machine gun, uzi, and rocket launcher. And whilst you find yourself with a roll to get you out of trouble, it is the opportunity to use the slow-mo effect in short bursts that really excites. This is as much fun now as it was when playing Max Payne back in the day. Getting into a tight spot, and going slo-mo while diving all over the shop never gets old.
El Paso, Elsewhere is as hard as nails in parts, yet luckily in the opening menu you can add infinite health and ammo; frankly, for me, this is a game-changer. But equally, if you want a challenge then this game is definitely for you. If I had one criticism it would be that El Paso, Elsewhere is perhaps a little too long and after a while, especially in the middle section, the levels get a bit samey.
The visuals are very early-2000s, almost like the first Tomb Raider games. But it isn’t the size of the graphics, it is how you use them and there’s no doubt that El Paso, Elsewhere uses them very well indeed. There are some brilliantly crafted cutscenes that will make you feel like you are watching a movie directed by an Oscar-winning director. Yes sometimes it can feel clunky, but there is a charm to the game that is hard to pinpoint.
El Paso, Elsewhere also has one of the best soundtracks around. It comes with original music that rocks, with you shooting and rolling and diving perfectly. The effects are brilliant and the voice work is right up there with the best of the best. A seriously superb job has been done all-round.
El Paso, Elsewhere is one of those games that will have you smiling from ear to ear, all whilst ensuring your action vibes are jumping. It’s a clever game that does so much with so little. It helps that it is as cool as hell too, whilst the slow-mo action never gets old.