Evil West is a confident remix of familiar third person shooter action – PAX East 2022 preview

Evil West was one of the most entertaining games of the show.

Image via Focus Entertainment

From the start, you know what you’re going to get with Evil West: Guns, loads of brutal enemies to fight, and high-intensity action. While many games like Uncharted and Gears of War can offer similar thrills, Evil West’s unique aesthetic is welcome within a competitive genre. Plus, the one boss fight shown at PAX East 2022 shows off the promise of a grand adventure in the third-person shooter genre.

Boring protagonists, intriguing environments

Image via Focus Entertainment

Evil West takes place in the wild west, where you play as a vampire hunter looking for monstrosities within the barren landscape. In the demo, the main characters lack any sense of a personality, but the events and environments that surround them make up for it. The mix between a western and horror title has barely been covered in the triple-A space. 

The game is absolutely beautiful while you’re exploring the wild west elements of the world. The lighting looks glorious as you’re running around a ransacked ghost town corroding over time. It’s very different from the grays of the Gears of War series. As you’d expect from the developer of the Shadow Warrior series, Flying Wild Hog, the gore explodes from each enemy you kill, and the explosions pop in color as you fire barrels up with a slew of bullets. The particle effects accentuate the satisfying combat on screen and the added flair 100% makes you feel like a badass. 

However, once you go into the depths of a cave to search for some vampiric enemies, that’s where the dark and gray visuals rear their ugly heads. The lighting still looks beautiful whenever an eek of light emerges. The red and green mood lighting also helps with the atmosphere too. However, the cave from the demo has no spectacular landmarks to gaze at. It’s also quite dark, making some elements of the game hard to see. In addition, the combat starts to get repetitive as you see the same killing animations time and time and time again.

The killing animations work similarly to the recent Doom games. When they take enough damage, your foe will stagger with a yellow light. This is where you can charge in with a melee attack. Once performed, it will give you HP. I wish Flying Wild Hog offered more ways to kill enemies, like placing the enemy on a sharp rock or throwing them off into a deep cavern below. In the demo, the game reuses the same two animations that look cool at first but grow tiresome quickly. Taking inspiration from the variety in a game like Sleeping Dogs could help with the melee combat in this instance.

What I love about Evil West, in a sea of open-world games nowadays, is the linearity of the levels. Like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or the Uncharted series, there are nooks and crannies around each location that give you extra currency or collectible files with lore. It doesn’t feel as exhaustive as an open-world title, and as a linear game, it was entertaining to go behind a wall or inside an abandoned house to find a surprise.

The linear level design also helps with how the enemies are distributed. Flying Wild Hog shows their creativity with the enemy designs as you have flying bugs teleporting from one place to another, shooting plasma, while zombie-like foes charge you. It was quite the challenge at times to deal with them. Thankfully the impeccable controls help you fight these foes. 

Satisfying gunplay

Image via Focus Entertainment

Aiming feels perfect while using the protagonist’s pistol. It is satisfying when you nail a headshot that is marked for you in the game’s UI. Also, being able to either aim for a precise shot or go for a flurry of aimless blasts from the pistol adds some creative freedom on how to dish out damage to your foes. Sure, it feels amazing at first, but if the game is like this throughout the entire experience, it will grow tiring quickly. Hopefully, more weapons will be on the way. That’s likely as, judging from the marketing of the game, we’ll be wielding the power of electricity in a later part of Evil West. 

What isn’t tiring is the boss that I faced at the end of the demo. The vampire commander faces you off with air attacks and requires you to evade them, making it an exciting bout. Also, you can’t just shoot the boss to take it out; it will require you to use your melee attacks, changing up the flow of a typical battle. However, when it tries to reclaim its health, you’ll need to precisely shoot the boss in the heart, leading to some tension as his minions swarm you. It’s an exciting and challenging battle that shows potential for future bosses in Evil West.

In Evil West, Flying Wild Hog certainly shows its experience in creating an entertaining combat system and beautiful visuals. However, the dark environments of the cavern feel lacking. If there are not a variety of guns on offer, the game may struggle to keep your attention. There’s so much potential in Evil West, so let’s hope Flying Wild Hog and Focus Entertainment don’t miss their shot.

Evil West is scheduled to release sometime this year for the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC.