Review: Evil West Xbox Series X

Ever wanted to hunt Vampires in the Old West? Well now you can!

Evil West is a 3rd person action horror game from developers Flying Wild Hog. You play as vampire hunter Jesse Rentier, one of the few remaining hunters that works for the Rentier Institute, a Government funded organization run by his father.

The Institute’s sole purpose is destroying the Sanguisuges, a breed of vampire led by head tick (as Jesse refers to them) Peter D’Abano. D’Abano wants to go to war with humans before their technology becomes so advanced that they can threaten vampires, who currently use magical glamours to hide themselves from the world. The older Sanguisuges refuse D’Abano and sentence him and his line to death, at this point Jesse and his friend and retired hunter, Edgar Gravenor, ambush D’Abano and your first boss battle begins.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. When the game begins you are looking for a vampire called Chester who know’s D’Abando’s location, you begin with only your gauntlet available which is kitted out for vampire slaying and is your main weapon. You basically punch vampires to death with it. All weapons can be upgraded with bucks, which you can find around the levels in sacks or chests, and so you can increase its damage and add moves to the singular combination of punches you throw with the RB button.

Early on in the game you also gain your revolver and rifle. The revolver is fairly weak, especially as the enemies seem to be quite resistant to ranged attacks, but fires quickly and helps chip away some health as the bloodsuckers approach. The rifle is more powerful but slower and only carries four bullets. Unlike the revolver you have to aim to use the rifle, a glowing circle will appear in front of enemies at times which signifies a weak point, if you shoot it with the rifle it does increased damage and often kills lesser enemies in one shot.

Evil West gives you the option to have an aim assist, I found this to mostly be a good thing as when you are in combat there are always multiple enemies around you and you often don’t have time to properly aim to hit those weak spots. It can also be slightly annoying though, as in many combat areas there are stacks of TNT to shoot if you can get your enemies to bunch up near them, but when you aim at it and there are a lot of enemies near, your reticule will target the enemy and stick a little when you move it. Of course you can turn this option off if you prefer.

Combat itself is quite simple, there is a button for each action, melee, shooting, blocking, dodging and aiming. Through perks and upgrades you can combine these to make extended actions, for example you can uppercut an enemy into the air and with good timing, use your revolver to keep them in the air, or you can uppercut an enemy while pressing forward on the left stick and perform a hero punch to send them flying across the level or into set breakable objects. Once you gain the zapper (a story upgrade for the gauntlet) you are able to block most attacks if you have enough electrical charge (you can find recharge points around the levels) which electrocutes your enemy and allows you to perform a flurry of punches and sometimes a finisher if their health is low enough.

Enemies will perform unblockable attacks though which will be heralded by them glowing gold just before they attack, all you can do with these is dodge. Many enemies will drop health when they die, but you can heal yourself by pressing B which will restore a portion of your health, followed by a cool-down which can be reduced with upgrades. I worried at first that the combat would make the game too repetitive, but while it is easy to master, I found myself enjoying it as the game progressed, between more powerful enemies showing up, upgrading my current gear and unlocking new weapons. You can also upgrade yourself with perks, you earn the points for these perks as you level up. There are a few perks you can find in special chests in the levels, the first one I unlocked makes TNT crates explode with a 50% larger radius.

Your enemies aren’t all vampires. Aside from a variety of bloodsuckers to fight, which range from lowly infected vessels to vampire highborn, you also battle familiars and monsters. Familiars are servants of vampires and are mostly ranged combatants, allowing for some interesting shoot outs and the feel of the traditional cowboy game. Monsters are a mixed bag, one of my favourites is the Nagal, a werewolf type creature that bursts out of terrified humans.
Boss battles are enjoyable and will find you shooting and dodging like a mad person, with some lesser enemies thrown in for health drops, but they are not terribly difficult. I found some of the regular battles to be more challenging as the game will sometimes throw you into a battle with many varied enemies, sometimes the combination of numbers, ranged and fast enemies can get the better of you.

Throughout the game you can find collectables, scraps of information about people and enemies, these are read out when you access them, though there is also a bestiary telling you about the creatures you encounter as well as your allies, but you will have to read these for yourself. These can be found amongst the levels and non-combat areas. While the levels are mostly linear with directions you can travel being marked with silver glowing chains, there are small areas you can reach which always have something in them, either collectables or bucks. Be careful which way you travel though as quite often if you travel onward into the level you won’t be able to go back and look around for anything you may have missed. You can also find items which change the appearance of Jesse’s hat, coat and bandanna.

Evil West can be played entirely solo or in a co-op campaign, it comes with an option for true death for those who really want to challenge themselves. The developers have stated that the campaign is only 10-15 hours long, though you have a choice for new game plus once completed, and those that take advantage of the true death option will certainly prolong the games life. In Evil West you will enter a part of a mine with spiders crawling everywhere, a notice will pop up immediately saying that for those who suffer with arachnophobia there is an option to turn off the spiders. While they do not bother me, I thought it was a very nice and thoughtful option to give players.

I enjoyed playing Evil West. I thought its levels could have been a bit more open and explorable though they look good, with some places being nice to just stop for the view. The story is not overly complex, but it is interesting and being both a western and vampire fan myself it kept me moving forward. Admittedly there are games that do both themes better on their own, but Evil West really blends the two together well and doesn’t try to be anything more than it’s intended to be.

Review code provided by Focus Entertainment

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