I have to admit, I was pretty bewildered jumping into a preview build of Flying Wild Hog’s upcoming Evil West.
Not jumping in at the beginning of a game for a preview is a usual thing, and so there’s always the element of not being familiar with its characters or the situation you’ve found yourself in. But when it comes to gameplay, releases are typically so homogenous these days that you can slide pretty much into anything and have some kind of idea what you’re doing gameplay-wise. That’s not so much the case with Evil West. Within minutes, I found myself searching though the options menu to find out exactly what each button did. And even with that knowledge, I wasn’t sure if I was playing it right.
Ultimately, it boils down to this: Evil West wants to give you access to as many cool weapons and tools as it can all at once. Chances are when you start the game from the beginning they’re doled out piecemeal, but here I had access to at least a handful of them from the start. And you know what? Once you’ve got yourself accustomed to them all, playing Evil West is an absolute blast.
My time with a preview build of Evil West found me investigating a seemingly abandoned mine. Though while no humans were there, aside from my tough-cookie protagonist Jesse Rentier and his somewhat meek sidekick, it was teeming with monstrous creatures that seemingly weren’t too happy with my presence. And so my bouts of third person exploration were interspersed with heart-pounding combat sequences where my skills were truly put to the test.
Thankfully, Jesse is kitted out to deal with any adversaries thrown his way. Blind fire with the right trigger and he’ll whip out his pistols and fill his enemies with lead. It can be upgraded to have electrifying properties, too. Aim with the left trigger, and instead he attacks with his trusty rifle, able to target those weak spots for extra damage. But Evil West says: why stop there? Why not have access to more weapons? And so you’ll also find a shotgun mapped to a face button, as well as a device that once used, stuns enemies all around you for a short while. Both are on timers that replenish fairly quickly.
Rounding out Jesse’s arsenal for the preview were powerful melee attacks and finishers, as well as a multipurpose electrical device that allows him to quickly dash to enemies and leave them stunned, or yank them to him. Put everything together, and that’s a lot of options at any given moment in time. The full game is set to offer more, too. Though while it’s fun using them all to rip apart enemies, as well as objects in the environment such as stacks of explosives, when it comes to bosses it’s a requirement.
The shotgun, for example, came in particularly handy when taking on the final boss of the preview. Given time, the giant bat I was up against would heal while I was dealing with the small fry that he summoned. Getting up close and unleashing a shotgun blast, however, stopped him in his tracks whenever he attempted it. Needless to say, to truly conquer Evil West, it seems players are going to have to work out which weapons and tools are effective in certain situations and capitalise upon them.
It wasn’t just the combat that impressed me about Evil West though: it was the overall package. While the area I journeyed through was fairly linear, there was the odd opportunity to explore and find secrets. There was some light puzzling too, and a mine cart sequence that tested my quick-firing skills. Throw in RPG elements which sees you acquiring new skills and upgrading your weapons over time, and you have a game that I would have been happy sitting and playing for hours. Alas, the preview ended after only 40 minutes or so.
Evil West had my interest before going hands-on with it – Flying Wild Hog has made some genuinely fun action games over the years. Now, however, it’s shot right up my list of anticipated winter releases. Gameplay is king, and from my short time with it so far Evil West seems to be serving up a rip-roaring rampage of gunplay, fisticuffs and general insanity. And I’m right here for it.
Evil West launches 22nd November on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.