When you go out to eat some food, you may find that a fine dining restaurant experience may well match the reviews, worthy of the praise it has received. However, sometimes you don’t want fancy, arty food. Sometimes you just want a good cheeseburger and chips.
Weird opening, I know, but put that into video game terms – Evil West is like eating a good cheeseburger and chips. Sometimes you don’t need the game to be a timeless masterpiece, you don’t need debates for years, you don’t need alternate meanings. Sometimes you want something that does what it says on the tin.
Cowboys and vampires. Yup, that’s your set-up in Evil West.
You play as Jesse Rentier who works for the institute set in an alternate history where cowboys fought the supernatural to bring order to the world. The Institute operate from their base of operations called The Manor, protecting the country from monsters and beasts across the Wild West. I don’t want to spoil any of the story as I cover Evil West, simply because I found it endearing and wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone.
Evil West is like the mad chef in the kitchen at Flying Wild Hog took a whole heap of Resident Evil, a pinch of The Evil Within, using it to marinate a fat burger full of Gears of War meat before serving it up on a bed of Army of Two. The food comparisons stop here, I promise.
Primarily, Evil West is a single player focused experience. Cooperative multiplayer is available, but never really highlighted as the way that the dev team want you to play the game. A bigger focus on pairing up with another cowboy could have led to some great moments, but the story mainly stays the line, telling Jesse Rentier and The Institute’s tale.
Over the years, the team at The Institute have dealt with vampires, monsters and a whole manner of supernatural threats to the world. Developing high tech weapons like the gauntlet to take down the beasts, the operation keeps balance and the general population (mostly) safe from the threat of monsters.
It is a refreshing change from the norm, mostly as Evil West is not open world. In fact, Evil West has more in common with the Gears of War series when it comes to level layouts. Each objective will further the story by placing you in a brand new area, as you are left to find the needed item or take out the rampaging beasts inhabiting the map.
Collectibles hidden down side paths often come in the form of notes that provide additions to the lore and background of the story. These are not required reading as the story fills in enough details as you progress, yet the collectibles will be of interest to those who want to find out more about the world and the events surrounding the main story.
Taking the side path may also reward eagle eyed players with new gear or cash; at least should they be willing to explore the area. These treasure chests aren’t hidden away too much and can often be found quite easily, and exploring more of each area is a treat, as the graphics in Evil West can be absolutely stunning at times
Being a game that pits cowboys against vampires and other supernatural monsters, Evil West obviously needs a meaty combat system in tow. I am happy to say the combat in Evil West is an absolute delight. Pressing RB punches with the steel fist gauntlet, hold RB to do cannonball, an uppercut followed by a punch that sends enemies across the area.
The melee is solid and becomes a base for the rest of the moves as they open up whilst you progress. B button heals, A actions the like of swinging with the rope from the gauntlet, used to cross gaps or pull down objects blocking the way, or indeed to make a new path.
LB will block enemy attacks, and after the cutscene at The Manor presentation, you’ll want to combine LB with RB for a sweet combo move that electrifies, then allows Jesse to lay into the demons at rapid speed. You can also pull enemies towards Jesse. It is all simple to learn and each move looks impressive as you build your skill tree out. Keeping on top of each new move is key to making it through later encounters.
Guns are also a part of your arsenal, pretty much as it would be weird to see a cowboy based game without them. You have a pistol which is great for short range, as well as a rifle to hit enemies that are positioned higher up or further away. There is a cool mechanic where if you quick fire the rifle at the right time, the enemy will receive greater damage. I really enjoyed the initial two guns, and the ones later in the game.
Boss fights are a test of your skills up to that point. Paying attention to each new tutorial for upgrades is highly recommended, as the boss in each area will usually require mastery of your latest skill upgrade. Practising them along the way will pay off when it is time to face the big nasties.
There is also a skill tree and this comes with unlockable perks that lower cool-down times or new moves like the quake punch/ Yep, you can punch the ground like the Incredible Hulk to send out a shockwave blast. Refreshingly, perks can be reset with no cost to reassign them however you see fit
There are also upgrades that can be purchased using bucks as weapons can be upgraded and new abilities delivered, providing you have the right cash. As previously mentioned, cash can be found down secret paths in levels and also lying around in the scenery. Upgrades can also be reset at no cost, which is great if you find yourself leaning to a different play style after getting a feel for how things work in Evil West.
The game seems to know exactly when a new upgrade will come in handy and provides them incrementally just as new enemy types are introduced. It’s great that every move combines with a previous one, and stringing them together makes for some great combos. The pacing for each being brought to the table is spot on too; every one will prove useful as you play further.
There is not a dull moment to be found in Evil West’s ten to twelve hour playtime. The storyline has the potential to ensure this could well turn into a massive franchise, and there’s just hope that any sequel may place more focus on cooperative play. Each section in Evil West has clearly been made with the direction of “Make It Cool” and, honestly, it’s able to deliver some of the best fun you can have in the Wild West. Expect solid combat, smooth movement and gorgeous colour palettes throughout.
Evil West is available on the Xbox Store