Generally, when people refer to something being old-school, they are usually talking about the '80s or '90s. Fortunately, one of the best parts of time slipping away from us all is the reinvention of those things we used to hold so dear. Evil West is undeniably old-school but harkens back to the days of the PS2 and early PS3 instead with a certain kind of no-nonsense fun.
This is to say it's a third-person action game with a linear story, small combat arenas and collectibles. It's a self-contained effort that you can finish in five to ten hours and move on from.
If you need something to chip away at over a long weekend or a project that won't take you a year to get through, Evil West does a great job at delivering that '00s nostalgia with a more modern look and feel. Despite its issues, it's hard not to love what it's trying to do.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Evil West puts you in the shoes of Jesse Rentier, a vampire hunter amidst the evil takeover of the wild west. You are part of an institute of hunters that aims to stop the spread of vampirism and decay with sophisticated equipment and enough punches to take anything down.
The story is pretty basic but the setting is great. Taking a steampunk feel and bolting it to the side of a spaghetti western, you combine old firearms with electric gauntlets and deadly contraptions. Jesse Rentier is a typical badass who ignores intellectualism for brute strength.
Generally speaking, the game's characterisation is pretty poor, overly relying on cliches and tropes. While it's not inherently bad to use cliches, Evil West never really tries to expand on them in meaningful ways. This being said, it gives a familiar backdrop to kill everything in. Luckily, you do an awful lot of killing in Evil West.
Though there are plenty of similarities one could point out to the likes of Gears of War, the closest relevant comparison I can make is God of War in regards to combat. Everything is quite weighty and close to the camera but heavily reliant on combos, cooldowns and special moves.
Combat out of hell
For the most part, Evil West manages to meaningfully add to combat consistently as you play. You start off with nothing but a gauntlet but soon add a revolver to your repertoire. Rather than aiming and firing, you can fan the hammer from your hip, doing lots of small bits of damage. It adds to your ranged abilities whilst giving you plenty of reason to close that gap.
Every thirty minutes or so, you are met with a new way of shaking up your gameplay and it manages to do this decently without losing steam up to the finale of the game. The pacing is great, filled with interesting locations and new weapons. A rifle gives you a more long-range weapon and new moves allow you to effectively leverage your gauntlet to juggle enemies and throw them. You are powerful in Evil West and the game wants you to know that.
Unfortunately, the game's enemy design does run a little thin by the conclusion, reusing minibosses and arbitrarily adding difficulty. I regularly found myself entering combat arenas only to be hit with twice the enemies I just killed. Rather than employing new ways of using gear, it makes you take combat slowly and widdle their health down. This is counterintuitive to the game's best moments.
Upgrades, Upgrades, Upgrades
If you struggle with the game, Evil West does have upgrade systems, using both perks and weapon upgrades. You can get exp from killing enemies and bucks from searching chests. All weapon upgrades are bought and you use points gained from levelling up for new skills and buffs.
They don't majorly shake up the game but add long-term progression to work towards as you make your way through the story. Levels have extra paths and small puzzles to solve to get skins for Jesse, bucks, and bits of the game's lore. They do a good job at building out the world and giving you a new reason to replay old levels. Generally, the game won't be replayed by most but, if you want to earn the platinum or really love the world, it adds just enough for another playthrough.
The game's great aesthetic is both one of the best things about it and one of its biggest problems. As you hit enemies, viscera flies out of them and blood spews in all directions. Some enemies have quick-time interactions where you can hit the right spot with your rifle to cause mayhem or stop their major attack. This is great and you are rewarded with blood and guts to match.
This being said, when the game starts throwing everything at you, plus a flamethrower, it can be a little unstable. Frame dips and stutters do happen in the worst moments. It detracts from the aesthetic just enough to be noticeable, even if you can ignore it pretty quickly.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5. A code was provided by the publisher.