NextGen Take - Evil West

Devil May Cry with vampires



By Paul Hunter

Saddle up, it's time to do some vampiric cleaning! Evil West is a game that, as its title suggests, takes place in an uber-cool Weird West setting combining fantasy, science fiction and classic Western genres. The game is made by Polish developer Flying Wild Hog, a studio that's been incredibly busy this year having already released Shadow Warrior 3 and Trek to Yomi.

Set in an alternate late 1800s timeline, Evil West puts you in the shoes of Jesse Rentier, one of the last remaining members of the Rentier Institute, a covert organization that protects America from supernatural creatures like the Sanguisuge vampires and human "Familiars" infected with vampire blood. As enticing as the setting and story are, the real draw for this game is its engaging combat combining parts of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and classic God of War games. Let's venture into the American frontier to see what this game is all about, here are three things I liked about it...and two I didn't.

Liked: Brutal, Badass Combat

Evil West has a great modern aesthetic but its combat is surprisingly classic, reminiscent of God of War or Devil May Cry with its small gated arena battles where it's you against the demons. Jesse Rentier is like Clint Eastwood meets Arnold Schwarzenegger with his large arsenal of firearms and brutal fisticuff strength. I had a stupid amount of fun shooting and pummelling the nice variety of vampires, werewolves, insects and demons into a bloody pulp.

You begin the game with a basic Rentier Revolver that fires six fast shots, great for damaging enemies at range or juggling them in the air after delivering a fierce uppercut. Jesse also gets a huge metallic gauntlet capable of bashing vampires into mush or slamming opponents into one another for high damage. Later you get the ability to "zap" pull far away adversaries to your spot for a punishing melee combo, or you can quickly zap dash across the battle arena to close the distance between you and the enemy. Combat has such a satisfying rhythm of shooting, zapping, uppercutting and slamming the supernatural beasts.

Over the game's 16 chapters you'll unlock new weapons at a fast clip, including the long-range Rentier Rifle, an X-Bow with continuous fire, a sawed-off Broomstick shotgun and even an ultra-powerful health-shredding Gatling gun. Jesse also gets a few special weapons like the Scorcher flamethrower and my personal favourite, his Explosive Bundles. What I love about this game is you can never run out of ammo—your entire arsenal either replenishes over time or can be infinitely reloaded. And since a bunch of your weapons gradually auto-reload, you're encouraged to cycle through your weapons over and over again. Fry foes with the flamethrower, blast them in the face with your shotgun, spray them with your Gatling gun and then rush in for a final death-blow uppercut: combat in this game is so much fun!

Jesse has a few other tricks up his sleeves, too, that can save your butt in battle. He can block, parry and dodge roll, and there's no stamina bar which keeps the action continuously moving at a fast pace. You can also kick flashing enemies to stun them and follow up with a devastating gauntlet smash combo. Over time you'll learn the benefits of each weapon and how they play into your combat strategy, such as how the Broomstick shotgun can stop enemy combos and leave them temporarily dazed. As if Jesse wasn't already fully equipped to defang vampires, he can also enter a supercharged mode by pressing L3 and R3 where he deals massive damage.

What ultimately makes the combat in Evil West so enjoyable is how it doesn't take itself seriously, like, at all. You can volleyball spike enemies into each other for hilarious effects and devastating damage. Arenas are also riddled with TNT and sharp heaps of junk that let you power slam adversaries into for extreme damage. Your weapons also have individual skill trees, with the final, most powerful unlock typically adding chaining electricity strikes that not only look awesome but damage and stun groups of enemies. The combat is so slick and anyone who enjoys classic action games will likely have a total blast.

Liked: The Bestiary

The bestiary in Evil West is vast. It features many creatures inspired by various folk legends, each with distinctive powers to keep you on your toes. The main faction you'll wage war with is the Sanguisuge vampires that consist of zombie-like Infected Vessels all the way to oversized Jenu Giants and large Leecher monsters with spiked shields. Most vampires battle you from the ground, but there are tough-as-nails Vampire Highborns that fly around the combat arenas and can regenerate health if you don't target their weak spot.

There are all sorts of other beasts to contend with, such as werewolves that travel in packs. Just to piss you off, an alpha wolf always ends up hiding in the arena and will howl to strengthen its allies. There's also a whole bunch of nasty insects to contend with, like giant Wasps, flying Hive Crones and the deadly spider Stalker that can gum you down with sticky webs. Imposing and memorable mini-bosses also punctuate the action and provide the true tests of your abilities.

Liked: Location Variety

Each level in Evil West offers a distinctive environment with its own elaborate set pieces. Over the roughly 10-hour campaign you'll visit sandy deserts, vast canyons, damp catacombs, spider dens, a parasitic forest, a frozen mine and many more locales. All areas have elaborate visuals and unique colour schemes that are generous in detail and steeped in atmosphere.

Between missions, you can rest up and resupply at the Calico Saloon, which contains the Rentier Institute's secret base. This is also the place where a lot of your team strategizing takes place, delivered through high-quality cutscenes. Personalities you'll interact with here include Edgar Gravenor, a retired agent now working with Jesse, along with Jesse's father William Rentier. There's also Emilia Blackwell, the leader of the local Rentier Institute, Vergil Olney the resident tech-savvy engineer and James Harrow, a pompous Assistant Secretary of War reporting to the United States President. They're an eclectic bunch with sharp personalities and, ahem, rather flowery vocabularies. The entire game has a strong '80s cult B-movie aura to it, which I totally adore.

Didn't Like: Performance Issue

Evil West offers two graphics modes: a Resolution mode that runs at a native 4K with 30fps, and a Performance mode rendering at 1080p and 60fps. I originally began the campaign in Resolution mode as I wanted to really see these luscious environments in all their glory, but unfortunately, I quickly found that this mode stutters and has large frame-pacing issues.

Once I switched over to the 60fps Performance mode the gameplay was a lot smoother and the camera movement felt more natural. Considering the dynamism of the fights, you really do need that buttery-smooth 60fps.

While I ended up feeling content with the gameplay fluidity, it is a shame resolution has to take such a large hit. Considering I was playing on PS5, a console that can handle massive open-world games like Horizon Forbidden West at 1800p/60fps, it's disappointing to see Evil West, a linear action game, run at just 1080p. If you've got a good-quality gaming PC that's probably where you should play this game for the best graphics and performance.

Didn't Like: Jesse Rentier

Not that it matters a whole lot for a game like Evil West that's all about its action, but I thought Jesse Rentier was such a generic protagonist. His gruff voice and flat personality did nothing to make me care about him personally or whether he succeeded or failed. He's a blank super cowboy by design who doesn't seem to know whether he wants to be a tough guy or a light-hearted wisecracker. Jesse is the type of guy who finds a bag of coins and flatly says "money", then will torch spiderwebs and says "burn". Yeah, he's a total bore.

The Verdict

Evil West is a silly slaughter-fest that has gameplay I instantly got into and enjoyed. I liked the Western setting, which reminded me a lot of Van Helsing, and the many monsters you battle are entertaining. This is a title laser-focused on gamers who like classic action hack and slashes like God of War on PS2. As much as I enjoyed the game, it's a shame that the PS5 version has big performance issues in Resolution mode, so your only real option is the 60fps Performance mode.

Final Score: 8/10 - Great


Evil West details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Genre: Third-person Shooter
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)


A key was provided by the publisher.