I won’t lie. I have had unreasonably high hopes for the upcoming action game Evil West. All the trailers have looked wonderful, and I usually like it when action games really dare to be action games where excessive violence and oniony cheesiness are the watchwords. Both me and Mäki were then eager to review the above-mentioned adventure now that it is about to be released, but since our Finnish cozy editor is a true gentleman, he easily got me the assignment once the code landed in the inbox. Or… I’d like to think I got the code because of Mäki’s kindness anyway, but in retrospect I’m starting to wonder if that all-knowing oracle-fin didn’t get a whiff of what the end product was actually going to be like. Because Evil West fails to fulfill any of the many promising promises it gave off in both previews and PR clips, this is an extremely substandard and archaic adventure that would have needed at least 18 months of extra development time. And then we are talking about AT LEAST 18 months.
There is nothing wrong with the concept though. Mixing hard-boiled Western action with occult vampires and dark magic feels like a very good idea beforehand, and earlier this year we saw how a similar project called Weird West was met with relatively positive reviews. In the case of Evil West, however, you never manage to take the concept further than the idea stage, and I don’t know if it’s a matter of lack of competence among the developers or if there simply wasn’t time or money to finish the project. The end result is, for whatever reason, extremely mediocre, and it honestly feels more like a game pulled from 2008 than something set to be released in 2022.
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There is no innovation here, and for a while I was unsure if I had accidentally received a code for an Alpha version as the graphics are more reminiscent of the PS3 and Xbox 360 era than something you should be able to find as a novelty on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Sure, the cutscenes can occasionally be considered passable, but all the gameplay really breathes that plastic and luminescent graphic style that dominated many titles 10-15 years ago, and even if you can get nostalgic feelings for that very reason, it’s , on closer inspection, not particularly positive ones. Because in retrospect, Bioshock (2007), Gears of War 2 (2008) and Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) all look better overall than Evil West thanks to a better design and more well-made models, and if not is an understatement, I don’t know what.
However, as you know, graphics are not everything, but good gameplay can save even the ugliest abominations to be considered elegant. Once again, however, Evil West falls short, and that weight in the playability that seemed so promising from the short clips is blown away. Every punch feels weak and weak, and firing off your six-shooter or shotgun doesn’t offer any control feel or joy when the projectile hits its target. It’s simply flat and boring, and since both the graphics and the design, as I said, make it difficult to see what it is you’re even fighting against, there isn’t even any visual distraction to keep the interest up when the joy of playing is lacking.
The script is not much to hang on the tree, and of course it would not have been a big deal to get hooked on a hard-boiled action smoker if only the basic basics could be delivered and then let the experience live on its own premises. Here, instead, the dull and hackneyed story about bounty hunters and vampires becomes the most flamboyant and incoherent, and of course it’s not good when highly mundane voice acting efforts are probably the best thing about the presentation on the whole. In terms of performance, it’s not great either, and during my gaming sessions the image update jumped up and down while the whole game froze for a few seconds every time I took a screenshot.
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You probably don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that I am extremely disappointed with what I got to experience from this sleazy and smelly cowboy adventure. Part of this of course comes from the high hopes I had beforehand after soaking up all the marketing surrounding the game in question, but the biggest disappointment is probably that the game doesn’t even really try to succeed. Everything just feels so bland and limp, and it almost feels like I’ve spent more time on this extremely mundane review than the developers have spent creating an entertaining action game.
I could sort of live with the game being a little uglier than expected or that certain components felt undercooked in the shadow of a tight deadline or lean finances, but when everything just feels so pale, it’s not much positive I can say at all. Sure, the game isn’t broken in its fundamentals, and you can certainly find some entertainment here if you’re looking to play titles from a bygone era. If I’m going to be brutally honest though, you’ll most certainly have much more fun if you pick up a copy of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow for 29 kroner in the nearest sale or play relatively new Outriders to satisfy the action craving. Because Evil West only makes you more annoyed than happy. That this finally costs 500 bucks in store, alternatively 639:- digitally is a pure disgrace, and if you absolutely have to dip your toes into this bland mess then you should wait for greatly reduced prices or if the game possibly connects to one of the many subscription services. Because spending money on this is probably one of the stupidest things you can do at the moment.