There’s Hard West, Weird West and now this, Evil West. All are very different games that are very much worth sinking some time into.
If you like over-the-top action, Evil West is for you. Playing as Jesse Rentier, you’re a member of the Rentier Institute, an organisation created to fight the monsters that trouble innocent civilians across the frontier. But in the course of doing your job, you piss off an adversary that has more power than you anticipated. Now your organisation is in disarray, but you’re not going to go down without a fight, are you?
Evil West feels a bit like a blast from the past, but in a good way. Devoid of any open world or live service elements, it’s a game that you won’t get lost in or feel like you’re missing out on anything if you don’t play it every day. And while its story might not be anything special, its gameplay more than makes up for it, combining melee and ranged combat with just a slight hit of puzzling and exploration.
It’s easy to look at screenshots of Evil West and assume it’s a third-person shooter – and it is, to an extent. Mr. Rentier has access to pistols from the outset, and through the course of the game other ranged weapons such as a rifle, shotgun, and even a flamethrower can be acquired. They all have unlimited ammo, too, though in the case of the flamethrower, for example, you have to wait for it to recharge.
When it comes to putting down most enemies, however, your fists are just as effective at the job, if not more so. Multi-hit combos do decent damage, but what’s even better is knocking an enemy up in the air before punching them straight back into an object such as a box of TNT or an iron maiden full of spikes. And did we mention that you also have a gauntlet that can conduct electricity? It somehow enables you to bring enemies closer to you or warp to them, leaving them stunned so you can deliver a quick bevy of hard-hitting blows.
Amazingly, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Evil West. As you battle your way through one location after another, you’ll acquire even more tools for your arsenal, as well as upgrade your weapons and acquire new perks. Overall, it leads to a combat system that’s fast-paced and rewards creativity. You need to move seamlessly from close combat to ranged combat, take advantage of anything useful littering the battlefield, and effectively dodge or block incoming attacks to keep out of trouble.
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It can be tricky, especially if you don’t take advantage of the critical hit system that allows you to easily take down certain foes or stop them using troublesome abilities. But that’s a trick of the game in general – learning to use certain weapons or tools instinctively. A well-timed kick or shotgun blast, for example, can stop an enemy attack before it lands and leave them open to counter-attack. And those useful objects littering the battlefield are limited, so do you really want to waste them on weak smallfry?
Thankfully, the button configuration has been carefully considered so that you have access to nearly all of your arsenal without much fuss. Firing your shotgun is performed by pressing a face button, for example, while the right trigger fires your pistol unless you also have the left trigger held, which raises your rifle instead. Pressing the d-pad to switch between certain weapons is about as troublesome as it gets.
Playing Evil West on PS5 for review, the only thing that’s not impressed us very much is its graphical options. Quality mode offers a crisp 4K experience with a 30fps target, but the framerate does seem to dip at times. Performance mode, on the other hand, offers a smooth 60fps experience albeit at 1080p. The result is a soft image that really doesn’t do the visuals justice. But still, it’s definitely the way to go as the combat shines at 60fps.
With the combat being the heart and soul of Evil West, it’s a relief that it’s so engaging and enjoyable throughout. It’s just a shame that a better balance hasn’t been struck between performance and visuals, as neither mode is particularly ideal. It’s still very much worth digging into Evil West, however: if you can look past the blurry visuals at 1080p, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this old-fashioned action-adventure – and you can even bring a friend along for the ride.