The cycle of nostalgia is seemingly closing in on itself. Tamagotchis are back on sale, My Chemical Romance is cool again (they always were), and now that we’re two console generations on from the heyday of dumb (fun) action games, Evil West brings that particular niche back with aplomb.
It is the apex of how I, as a particularly try-hard, edgy young teen, imagined the potential future of video games. You play as the sort of bloke who swears and doesn’t look back at explosions, who’s armed with as many quips as he is actual weapons, and has daddy issues to make Oedipus’ own look tame by comparison.
And beyond this quipping faux-badassery lies a genuinely stellar brawler, the likes of which we don’t see all that often anymore, making Evil West one of 2022’s surprise hits as a result.
The levels here are varied and interesting aesthetically, often belying the fact that they are mostly linear fight corridors. There aren’t even that many enemy archetypes — a small handful — but given the game’s title, you already know what these are: monsters and cowboys, and sometimes hybrids of the two. These are both things I’m usually fairly stern about with action games, but Evil West is such a blast from start to finish that I just didn’t care at all.
Given that most of what you do in Evil West is scrapping, I’m pleased to report that it doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Combat is chunky and satisfying, and each punch lands with a satisfying weight. And wow, what a flow state game this is; a few hours and a few upgrades in, everything falls into place as you effortlessly do away with the bigger bads that griefed you in the opening hours while looking damn good doing so.
There’s a surprising similarity to the recent God of War entries — 2018 and Ragnarok — in terms of combat, too, with the fixed over-the-shoulder camera angle only adding to that vibe. Though you’ll not get the same feels from the mid-level patter, it’s gotta be said. You even smash open crates the same way.
Your arsenal of tools that grows as the game progresses makes fighting back the horde varied and fresh throughout. While it’s fairly humble beginnings with a six-shooter and the heftiest knuckle duster you’ve ever seen, things escalate into the absurd quite quickly as you unlock more ranged weapons, electrical abilities, and a whole heap of stuff that’s just altogether too much fun to spoil here.
A handful of the games’ 16 levels fall down a little when they deviate from the formula of punching your way straight through a pre-determined path, and I found myself once or twice running around trying to find whatever objective it is that I’d missed in a level now strewn with enemy carcasses, but these moments were rare.
Evil West could maybe do with a few more set pieces, as there isn’t a great deal of in-game spectacle beyond the combat, and though the world itself looks fantastic, I do wish I’d seen a bit more of it come to life.
There’s a story, but it’s a knowingly tropey B-movie affair in service of you going to places that are fun to punch vampires in. The writing in Evil West is full of anachronistic gibberish, too — there are some particularly contemporary swears mixed in with old-timey cursing, and protagonist Jesse Rentier loves to call his support staff nerds. Which, for all the pedants reading, didn’t see an uptick in usage until the 1950s. So, erm, there.
Evil West Review — The Bottom Line
- An endearingly silly great time, start to finish.
- Superb combat.
- Excellent graphics.
- Non-linear levels disrupt the pace somewhat.
- Fairly short run time, though this is offset by co-op replayability.
Much like Flying Wild Hog’s flagship series Shadow Warrior, their latest release in Evil West is again an entirely over-the-top and bombastic affair designed to elicit a chuckle as much as it’s meant to appease your lizard brain with its almost non-stop action.
But Evil West has done something fairly remarkable by dragging the sort of shlocky, B-tier, 360-era action games into 2022 with basically all of the quality-of-life upgrades you’d expect from a modern title. This is how you remember games of 10-odd years ago, as opposed to how they actually play now.
[Note: Flying Wild Hog provided the copy of Evil West used for this review.]
Evil West Review: Doesn’t Suck
Evil WEst lets you punch, blast, and generally smart-ass your way through an undead horde.What Our Ratings Mean