Evil West manages to feel like a breath of fresh air, although it still feels familiar and comfortable. The game carries with it a lot of old-school sensibilities and thus it offers players of a certain era a sense of nostalgia, whilst simultaneously appealing to a younger generation.
As much as I enjoyed the game’s over-the-top cinematic intro sequence, it was the moment that Evil West introduced the mechanic which allows the player to uppercut an enemy into the air, – and then keep them airborne using revolver bullets, – that I was totally sold. This game knows what it is and it fully leans into its tongue-in-cheek ridiculousness. This sort of self-aware fun used to be more prominent in the industry and is just another area where Evil West recalls the ‘good old days,’ of console gaming.
One of the things that players will immediately be greeted with in Evil West is its glorious sense of style. Not only is an exceedingly stylized tone used to convey the game’s opening cutscene, but the art direction in Evil West is also dripping with style. The game clearly isn’t aiming for the highest level of realism with its visuals, instead opting for a gothic, steampunk style reminiscent of a beautifully drawn comic book.
The tone in the game calls to mind a few other pop culture influences. Whilst things like Van Helsing and Wild Wild West were likely on the developers’ minds when making this game, the biggest parallel is Robert Rodriguez’s 1996 crime/horror classic: From Dusk Till Dawn. Characters like Earl McGraw and Sex Machine would not feel out of place in the violent, grindhouse-inspired universe of Evil West.
Whilst Evil West has no interest in taking itself too seriously, it still manages to deliver a plot with a surprising amount of emotional nuance. When I booted up the game for the first time and was greeted with a menu screen featuring a tank of a man sporting metal spiked gauntlets, I could never have anticipated that I would see that man’s bulging sense of pride be challenged.
Granted, these moments are fleeting. However, the fact that the game even flirts with the idea of brazen masculinity getting in the way of human relationships, in the same game where you can electrocute a vampire with your magic glove, just goes to show the versatility of Evil West’s writing.
On top of the striking art style and cheesy-but-fun plot, Evil West absolutely nails its gameplay. From beginning to end, – regardless of how many new gameplay mechanics are introduced, – the whole thing just flows and feels great to play. The visceral melee combat is smoothly mixed with the ranged weapon combat seamlessly, allowing the player to create all sorts of creatively deadly combos.
The finishing move animations are also gloriously violent; tearing a werewolf in half with your bare hands has never looked this stylish. The finisher animations that can be performed at the climax of each of the game’s boss-fights are particularly satisfying to watch, so long as you aren’t overly squeamish.
Playing Evil West is some of the most fun that I’ve had playing video games all year. The game doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to fun third-person action and nor does it have to. Evil West nails the fundamentals of what makes an experience like this fun to play through and that is all that it ever had to do.
Evil West was reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by Indigo Pearl.