When I went to my preview of Evil West at PAX East 2022, I was expecting something crazy. After all, its trailer at The Game Awards certainly looked enticing, and developer Flying Wild Hog recently released Shadow Warrior 3. When I actually played the demo, though, I was blown away. The game is a violent, chaotic adventure where your objective is to murder humans and demons alike. Its Wild West setting is certainly a welcome change of scenery, and it is a cool environment to mix with vampires and steampunk.
A Gory Introduction to Evil West
The demo started with a friend and I taking a prisoner to an undisclosed location. After some dialogue, (I swear the prisoner is voiced by Paul F. Tompkins.) I was in control of the vampire hunter, Jesse Rentier. Defense-wise, there is a dodge roll and potions you can utilize. Squeezing the right trigger without aiming empties your six-shot pistol, while squeezing the trigger while aiming blasts your rifle instead. The right bumper employs a melee attack. I was told that you can mix and match all three attacks for combos. Also, using the melee attack on a weakened enemy in a flashing yellow state would execute a fancy execution. This had the added benefit of a health refill.
The game looks great in motion and is running on Unreal Engine 4. Baddies explode in a shower of blood when you off them, and wood houses will crumble if you shoot at parts of them. There are flammable barrels you can detonate near foes, spike traps you can throw them into for an instant kill, and usable chains Jesse can swing from, which are clearly highlighted. Combat is fast-paced, with the only slowdown being your health refills and reloads, which are automatic but on a cooldown timer. There are also light RPG elements, as you can level up and gain new abilities.
Boss Fight and Inspiration
One of the things I was most impressed with during my time with Evil West was the main boss fight. Jesse was up against a giant vampire who was immune to long-range attacks, so it was imperative I use my melee attacks. This proved to be frantic, as I had to get in, do some damage, and dodge away at the right time to avoid getting clobbered. Not only that, but the boss summoned other minions to fight in an effort to distract me. Knowing when to deal with which threat was exciting to figure out. I loved the strategy involved in it all. And while battling this fearsome foe, I ultimately realized I actually could damage him from far away if I shot at his body while it was glowing. This was during a charge-up attack, so it was risky, but I dig a good risk/reward system.
A producer beside me confirmed my suspicions that Evil West is inspired by God of War and Devil May Cry. The camera angle, combat, and melee finishers are highly reminiscent of PlayStation 4’s God of War. Meanwhile, the ability to combo using different weapons and attacks seamlessly is just like with Dante from Devil May Cry 3 onwards. And of course, Evil West was influenced by westerns, as well.
After this preview, I am quite excited to play Evil West in its entirety. It doesn’t relent for a second, the combat is a bit on the harder side but feels perfectly balanced in capable hands, and its aesthetic is gorgeous. Plus, it will contain full online co-op for its entire story! Look for it to launch later this year on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, and PC via Steam.