Flying Wild Hog is known for the Shadow Warrior license, classic but effective games that have proven themselves until the third installment released in March 2022. The developers have also tried Diablo-like with their free-to-play Space Punks released on PC. They return today to the formula of Shadow Warrior, but radically change the framework by proposing Evil West, a western in which we still fight demons.
A narrative in the background
In Evil West we play Jesse Rentier, a famous vampire hunter member of the Rentier organization led by his father. The plot unfolds very quickly. After a routine mission, we return to the HQ which organizes a gathering to present a new technology, but all does not go as planned. A horde of vampires attacks the lair, virtually decimating the entire organization. Our father is close to death and gives us this new technology that will allow us to fight the Devil’s henchmen more effectively.
Much like Shadow Warrior, Evil West weaves a backdrop that serves as context to give us purpose without further developing the narrative and plot lines. Evil West is a brutal action game that doesn’t go with the back of the spoon. We are a vampire hunter, our organization has been attacked, we are on the brink of extinction, at war with these demons and we must destroy them to survive, that’s all we need to know.
And this feeling of narration in the background will be felt throughout the adventure, there are a few cutscenes during certain levels and then at each start and end of the mission, but it remains very expeditious. Most often, they serve as an introduction for the boss and mini-boss fight phases, but also to explain very quickly why we go to certain places. In Evil West we don’t speak with words but rather with our fists!
Once this notion is understood, you will simply have to expect to chain missions while knocking out more and more demons.
An arsenal to rob banks
Our arsenal is enriched over the missions, we start to play melee and then recover different firearms. It is not less than eight weapons which are proposed to us. We have the classic shotgun and revolver, but also the crossbow, the minigun, the dynamite, the flamethrower, the sawed off cannon and the electric gauntlets. Each of our weapons can be upgraded for money. For example, the revolver offers an extended magazine, and the sawed-off barrel offers an increased reload speed. On the other hand, the last unlocked improvement of a weapon offers a variant of this one. Dynamites create an electric tornado and the crossbow creates electric bolts that create links between enemies while electrocuting them.
In addition to this weapon upgrade system, we can unlock gauntlet-specific skills for melee combat. The latter offers two skill trees, one for basic attacks and character reinforcement (hit points, dodges, etc.), the other for electrical skills and new combos.
There is no real leveling system, but with each mission we automatically gain experience to unlock a skill. It’s also rather strange to have an RPG system with experience when in fact we automatically level up during the missions.
The gameplay at the heart of the game
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Evil West is all about its gameplay. Flying Wild Hog offers us here an old school experience, typical of action-adventure games of the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation. A game with effective gameplay without the fuss, a well-balanced difficulty with a whole arsenal to brutalize our enemies.
When we say old school, it is not necessarily pejorative. This concerns more exactly the level design. We evolve in “corridors” alternating phases of enigma or combat, a succession of small areas where only one path remains possible. We thus chain environmental puzzles to activate levers and access the following areas, which boil down to arenas to face waves of enemies.
However, there are far too many scripted contextual elements to progress through the levels: breaking wooden planks, burning cobwebs or blowing up barriers to clear the way. On the other hand, the bestiary is really well supplied and diversifies over the missions, mini bosses from the beginning of the adventure will thus become classic enemies and the number of cannon fodder will increase. We find werewolves, vampires, demons, different undead type enemies, plus variations of all this beautiful world towards the end of the game.
Exploration enthusiasts will be disappointed, it is almost non-existent, and it will sometimes be necessary to search the contours of invisible walls to perhaps find a cul-de-sac where we can find a hidden cash box or a collectible that develops the lore of the game. Besides on this side, the lore is surprisingly well developed, but only by finding and reading all the collectible documents scattered throughout the levels.
The strength of Evil West is therefore clearly its gameplay. We can customize and revamp all our skills and upgrades at different times to perfect or adapt our style of play. Dynamic and versatile, the gameplay offers alternating melee combat and combos by pressing different keys at the same time. For example, we can bring an enemy closer to us with LB + the joystick down and then use RB + the joystick up to send him back into the air.
The weapons can be used via the A, X, Y, B keys and the directional arrows, which makes it possible to chain everything on the fly with fluidity. It’s terribly nervous and fluid but beware, even on normal difficulty, death is never far away if you don’t dodge at the right time. However, death is absolutely not punitive, most often it is resumed just before the combat phase. The title also offers four difficulty modes: easy, normal, difficult and demonic as well as a new game +.
To come back to the combos, we are rather surprised not to see a scoring system or even a combo score counter as the game lends itself perfectly to it. This would have even made it possible to go further in the attacks, if we reached a certain combo multiplier which would trigger a devastating attack. Shame !
The game is fully playable in co-op but does not offer a save game specific to the person who joins the host’s adventure. Experience and story progress will be saved only for the host. There is also no matchmaking, only people with the game in our friends list can join us. A clone of Jesse Rentier then appears and has equipment adapted to the current mission. Moreover, the difficulty and the number of enemies adapt to the situation. To complete the adventure, a dozen hours are necessary.
Hi-Res Carnage…or Not
Evil West offers two graphics modes: a Quality mode in 4K 30 fps and a Performance mode in 1080p 60 fps, we favored the Performance mode, due to the many camera movements and the dynamism of the fights.
Regarding the technique, we encountered a few problems, such as large framerate drops towards the end of the game, cutscenes that did not engage or some enemy bugs that got stuck in the backgrounds.
The game design reflects the western environment very well, we travel in classic settings of the genre: canyon, railway station, farms, villages and abandoned mines.
Tested on Xbox Series X.