Evil West Review – A fun throwback to simpler times

Bad West on PS5

I often wish that developers would trade quantity for quality, so I’m happy to say that Flying Wild Hog’s latest Western follows exactly that Bad West blueprint. Instead of forging a huge open world and overloading it with flat objectives, it’s instead a linear affair that still manages to capture a sense of wonder and adventure. As a result, it’s a fun throwback to simpler times, even if it doesn’t make the landing with everything it’s trying to achieve.

Entering an alternate timeline where the Old West is now the Weird West, players step into the shoes of Jesse Reindeer, part ruthless gunslinger and part extraordinary vampire hunter, who employs equal parts firearms and sci-fi technology in combat the scourge of vampires. As the son of William Reintier and the heir to the reindeer institute, his name and the fate of the world rest heavily on our hero’s shoulders.

Fight against the evil west
Image Source: Twinfinite via Focus Home Interactive

Needless to say, things take a turn for the worse just a few chapters into Evil West when the elderly reindeer is badly injured as the vampire conspiracy deepens. Despite his rebellion, now is the time for Jesse to face the situation; Thank goodness there are plenty of monsters and beasts knocking everything out of his head.

Combat is at the core of the Evil West experience, and this is where the game really shines bright. Integrating ranged and melee combat into an elegant ballet of gore and blood is the best way to survive the horrors that await, and reindeer have numerous tools at their disposal to achieve this.

Perhaps most important of all is the Gauntlet, a combination of science fiction and good old metalworking. This nifty piece of work allows players to chain devastating melee strikes, send enemies airborne for aerial combos, or smash them to pieces. Add to that a variety of firearms and you have an explosive package of fun that can be adapted to any situation.

As you progress, things will open up more, and soon you’ll be harnessing the powers of electricity, fire, and more to expand your arsenal. With practice comes proficiency, and it won’t be long before you’re zapping through the arena stringing together attacks like the famed vampire slayer that you are. However you choose to fight, Evil West wants to cater to front-foot aggressive actions, and it largely achieves that goal by keeping the fight fast and removing the overall need for fine aiming.

Still, the game does a good job of keeping you on your toes, even if there are usually more sections with cannon fodder enemies than I would have liked. From the dangerous wolf-like Nagals to the intimidating Highborne, the vampire bestiary is always going to be a problem, especially when they’re in a group. Even the human enemies you encounter can cause a problem if you’re not smart about exploiting vulnerabilities and keeping moving.

Evil West upgrades
Image Source: Twinfinite via Focus Home Interactive

Dodging, blocking, and countering become muscle memory, and that’s important when bosses get in your way. These entities are not to be trifled with, but with a good grasp of the basics and monitoring their patterns, they too will fall prey to Jesse Reindeer and his arsenal of vampire-hunting gear.

Success earns more XP, which also impacts Evil West’s character development, making Jesse a more formidable presence in the wild with new and powerful abilities. Nothing feels quite as satisfying as uppercutting an idiot, ramming them into the ground, and watching every other nearby enemy be fatally punished with area damage.

Of course, Evil West isn’t just about throwing you into combat in each instance, with each level usually offering different environments for players to explore in search of treasure and secrets. Evil West has a style of its own, and while it doesn’t look that great on closer inspection, it works in motion. The sandy plains soon give way to some truly remarkable environments that draw players further into this bizarre rendition of familiar sights, even as it remains a linear experience without an open world like you might find in a game like Elden Ring. Plenty of rewards await for those willing to venture off the beaten track.

These rewards come in the form of more Bucks, the currency used to upgrade your gear with even more helpful upgrades to unlock more powerful perks and skins that you can use to customize your vampire hunter. Of course, the more you can retrieve, the better prepared you are for this fight. Therefore, it’s always a good reason to scan your surroundings before setting out on your next destination.

Exploring the evil west
Image Source: Twinfinite via Focus Home Interactive

While Evil West offers 16 missions of varying length and tension, it’s not without some annoying issues. Narratively, the writing isn’t exactly the cream of the crop, but it fits the action-heavy emphasis the game tries to deliver. Exposure is usually delivered in cutscenes, but the transition from plot to story and back again can be harrowing, so be prepared to move once the talks wrap up.

Also, the game includes some pre-mission hub area sections that tend to slow things down and serve no other purpose than rewarding the curious player with more lore and cash pickups. Just playing the cutscenes would save players a lot of time going back and forth.

As for the technical performance, it rarely falters even in the busiest of moments, but during my 12 hours of play there were a couple of occasions to freeze and a crash or two. There were also some visual glitches when the camera was moved too fast while my scorcher’s hose didn’t materialize, even when everything worked perfectly. Balancing can also be improved, with the final parts of Evil West unleashing large groups of enemies that can prove daunting for even the most seasoned hunter. It’s one thing to be a challenge and another to lay the cards so firmly in the enemy’s favour.

Despite these issues, with some tweaking and a patch or two, Evil West is sure to be a better experience. As far as I’m concerned, its core formula is entertaining, taking players on a linear journey into the Wild West and unleashing the darkness of vampires. For those looking for an enjoyable time taking down evil with their fists and guns for 10-15 hours without the stress of having to do too much, Evil West should be firmly in your sights as your next adventure.

Bad West Criticism

Reviewer: Jake Su | Copy provided by the publisher.