Sometimes, you just want to smash some monster skulls.
If I imagine what the world would look like if it was overrun by werewolves, vampires, and shambling corpses of zombie-like creatures, the fictitious apocalypse doesn’t inspire nearly as much maniacal cackling as the one in Evil West. This old-school action game featured some of my favorite monster killings, including the Tesla-inspired electricity weapons and the gratuitous bloodshed. Unfortunately, the formulaic structure makes it repetitive.
Evil West’s 12-hour-long linear campaign is divided into 16 missions, each following the same format. Every level has a clear beginning and ending point. Collectibles are scattered along the way. Until you get a dialog break, you will be attacked by a multitude of enemies. Although you are technically allowed to explore the levels to obtain lore items and gold pouches (aka “bucks”) for upgrading your equipment, the main focus of your adventure is to walk from fight to fight, ending with a boss battle. The environments between combat encounters are stunning sights with plenty of picturesque backdrops to make even the most grumpiest cowboy weep.Evil West Steam Screenshots
Except for a handful of unique situations like a mine cart segment or walking around base camp while being fed exposition, the formula of Evil West’s levels rarely gets mixed up. This story places you in control Jesse Rentier, a member of The Rentier Institute. Jesse’s father founded the institute to eradicate all kinds of vampires. Flying Wild Hogs, the developer, really embraced the whole “Wild West but Weird” idea and ran off screaming. There are floating pyramids that look like the Illuminati, portals to hell and demon little girls who have skin-crawling voices. The story is filled with funny expletives and distinct characters like Emilia Blackwell, a fiercely opinionated doctor. It’s an entertaining tale, but I wish the story was more complex than Jesse chasing down bad people to get revenge.
You’ll unlock new weapons, power, and upgrades over the course of Evil West. These will allow you to alter Jesse in new ways. You can increase the number shots your pistol fires in one magazine, add electrical damage to your rifle, or even include new abilities such as ground pounds and aerial combos. This will allow you to expand your arsenal. Evil West’s level layouts are often monotonous because combat is constantly expanding. You won’t find a time that is longer than 20 minutes where you don’t unlock a new ability or augment an existing weapon with an entirely new effect. Or, you will not discover a completely new gadget to dismember your enemies in amazing ways.
Evil West Steam Deck
Evil West was still unsupported on Steam Deck during the review period. This is likely due to it not being released or certified yet. Although I played mainly on my desktop computer, I found that I preferred using a gamepad to a keyboard and mouse. It is clear that the UI was designed to be easy to reference. Some commands, such as pulling enemies towards you using the electric gauntlet.
To this end, I installed it on my Steam Deck (I am using 512GB model). It was worth a shot. It is necessary to use the touchpad or touchscreen to install Unreal Engine support files. However, it worked great after that. The UI is already optimized for controller support, so the prompts for gamepad use are immediately switched over.
At first, performance was inconsistent. The frames dropped to the 20s on Epic and High settings. However, after turning off motion blur (yuck), leaving V-Sync on, and lowering to medium settings it was much more stable, hovering at 40-60 frames per second. To get consistent performance, I set a 40 FPS frame limit on Steam Deck’s performance settings menu. This was not too bad as my RTX2060 Super desktop PC could play at 60 fps without any stutters when I used High settings.
Combat has a fast, fluid flow that is great for moving. You can zoom around the map to stun your enemies, then grab a melee combo and uppercut them in the air before jumping up to smash them down again into a pool full of blood and bones. You can also charge your weapon with high-powered electricity, which ricochets among enemies and unleashes your flamethrower to end them all. This is a ridiculous selection of weaponry, and it’s very easy to switch between them. Nearly every piece of gear has a dedicated button and cooldown timesr. There’s no need to track bullets or ammo. It’s easy to wait for things to recharge and then use something else.
One thing that made the combat a little dull was the absence of variety in the enemy. Slow-moving, sluggish zombies that can swing heavy winds up are no challenge. Even the most powerful monstrosities with shields have little power after their first fight. Even in chaotic battles, it can be hard to see what is happening because everyone bleeds together and all of them end up looking the same. It’s not hard to miss the notification arrow that lets you know when someone is attacking.
It is especially noticeable in larger enemies with health sponges. Evil West loves to copy-paste baddies from previous bosses and make them mini bosses. These enemies can attack in groups at subsequent meetings. This is chaos and a real symphony. However, every combat encounter is essentially a round arena that you dodge and strafe in as you fight. This could make it difficult to keep my patience up for long periods. Every fight feels like a mushy, muddy puddle of goo regardless of how it is laid out.
This doesn’t mean that hopping around in the goo (gross), wasn’t enjoyable. It just means that this is the type of game you play when you don’t have time to think. Although it’s predictable and repetitive in many ways, I didn’t mind because I enjoyed killing monsters. Evil West shares many of the same DNA with Flying Wild Hog’s previous chaos action romp, Shadow Warrior3. Even though the genre is completely different, both games focus on the most important aspects and obscure plenty of others.
Evil West is a refreshing relic from the past, which captures the best parts of the old-school vampire-hunting action. Although the combat is fluid and entertaining, it can become monotonous after some time due to the low enemy variety and similar level layouts. Although this is not the most innovative or complex action game I have ever played, it does allow you to have fun smashing into monster skulls.