I’ve been blown away by Evil West from developer Flying Wild Hog since it was unveiled at The Game Awards in 2020. So much about it immediately caught my attention. Despite Red Dead Redemption’s best efforts, I’ve always felt that there’s a lack of Wild West in video games, although some games use the formula of a Western to tell a story set elsewhere. Evil West’s premise is also reminiscent of something you’d see in the PlayStation 2 era: cowboys protecting mere mortals from the secret horrors of the world like vampires and other creatures. My mind can’t help but stare at Darkwatch, a game I used to play over and over as a kid whenever I watch Evil West.
More generally, this era was great for third-person action westerns – Gun, Red Dead Revolver, the aforementioned Darkwatch, and Call of Juarez (although Techland released this during Next Gen, its 2006 release year is close enough to the PS2 that it feels at home here). All of this is to say that playing Evil West makes me feel like a kid again in the best way.
Aside from its setting, which made me feel nostalgic even before its release, almost every aspect of Evil West presents itself as I remember playing PS2 games when I was around ten years old in the early 2000s. It opens with a film directing Jesse Reintier, the son of the head of the Reindeer Institute, an arm of the government that works specifically against the forces of evil that are hidden from plain sight. Jesse is a gunslinger with an electrified gun on one arm, wolverine claws on the other, and three guns in tow, like his father before him and his grandfather too. He has a work partner – what good cowboy walks the Wild West alone? — and over-the-top clothing to match his cartoonish physique, and of course the personality that every leading cowboy has in virtually every western game.
In Evil West, the Sanguines, an underground vampire council, are seemingly divided by a young, angry daughter who, like her father, believes it’s time for her kind to stop hiding in the shadows, and it’s up to Jesse to do so stop her. The story is okay so far. I would be satisfied if that was the whole story the game gave me. It gets the job done, and it harkens back, perhaps accidentally, to the darkwatches of the world. Sometimes I just need a simple reason to slay countless vampires and enemy creatures. I certainly don’t need every game with a story that makes my hair stand on end or bring me to tears. And in the case of Evil West, I get to follow Jesse to the furthest corners of this strange frontier to stop evil.
The gameplay also speaks directly to my PS2 nostalgia, although I’d be remiss not to mention that this is one of the first games I’ve played that fully wears its God of War (2018) inspiration on its sleeve . The combat plays out almost the same, from the close-up over-the-shoulder third-person camera that keeps the action in your face, to the finishers that unlock when the enemy glows orange, to the the exaggerated guts and blood spurting with every enemy kill. Even traversing this wild west feels like walking through one of God of War’s nine realms. You’ll use a rope mechanic to reach new locations, destroy chests by smashing through their tops, and stumble across one battle arena after another between more exploratory sections.
It’s in these battle arenas that the game reminds me most of my PS2 days. Recall that, probably due to hardware limitations, the levels are a linear mix of “explore to find a chest or two while getting an extra story” and “time to fight waves of enemies until an indefinable, seemingly random amount of time has passed? I do, and while it doesn’t sound that flattering to write it down, it’s kind of refreshing — though that might just speak to my nostalgia. Evil West wants you to focus solely on combat when it’s time to kill, and when it’s not, you want you to find this random chest with gold inside.
Even the presentation of Evil West feels nostalgic, from its 2000s-inspired fonts to the presentation of collectibles and more. And the visual style wraps all of this up with a nice bow on top.
I suppose comparing Evil West to my childhood PS2 games might be viewed negatively, but I’m really enjoying my time with it so far. It knows what it is and revels in it, putting its bombastic combat front and center, its story behind it, and its lovingly insane characters somewhere in the middle. Evil West, like countless games from the PS2 era that I still look back fondly on, is a game I’ll mostly forget about soon after going through its credits. But maybe every now and then, in 5, 10, 15 years, I’ll think about it for a few days and the fun I had. Not every game has to stay with me long after it’s over, and sometimes it’s okay if games feel like yesterday’s. After all, it’s not every day that a game makes me feel like a kid again.
Do you play Evil West? Let us know in the comments below!
This article was previously published on Source link