Evil West, the review: not a simple God of War clone

It’s just you and the American frontier… or rather, you, an electrified gauntlet, a massive arsenal of weapons, and hordes of demons. Here you are Evil West.

Evil West might seem, to an inattentive or reductionist eye, a low-budget God of War clone (that of 2018). Scratching the surface, and making it past the first hour, however, one discovers something that manages to stand out quite clearly. Sure, it’s played in third-person and over-the-shoulder, and there’s a marker right around the character to point him in the direction of the enemies’ next attack. Once you get beyond the most obvious comparisons, what you’re left with is a solid adventure with a satisfying combat system.

Jesse Rentier is a supernaturally empowered gunslinger on a mission to rid the American frontier of all manner of supernatural bestiality. A basic premise, and there’s honestly not much else you should know in terms of story. There are so many dark forces at work here, like vampires, mutants, zombies and demons, but it doesn’t really matter – Jesse has a big electrified glove with which he can tear them apart with just his fists. And he’s fantastic.

Jesse’s movements are heavy, with each step “responding” with a deep bass. Like in God of War Ragnarok, you can press the side-flick button to avoid an attack or double-press it in quick succession for a roll. Jesse will almost constantly change the weapon he’s using in the middle of a combo, because yes, punches are great and melee fights take up a large part of the game time, but a shotgun, a sniper rifle and a classic western pistol are what really characterizes the paraphernalia in Evil West.

The sniper rifle can smash enemies from a distance and becomes particularly useful when the title begins to highlight its weaknesses. The pistol is clearly a good idea in close quarters, allowing you to hold down the trigger to empty the magazine in moments. The “boomstick”, for its part, pushes away waves of enemies and shatters or damages shields and all other defensive measures that they could present moving forward in the story.

It starts slowly, but then… —

The game starts at a slow pace but once you learn the combos and how to finish off enemies as efficiently as possible, things will speed up in no time. Hold down the melee button and you’ll throw an enemy, then fire your pistol at them to keep them in the air. A forward dodge followed by a melee attack will result in a superman punch, which can be upgraded for splash damage, punishing hordes of enemies. Holding down the melee button and pressing the d-pad forward combines this with a jump and punch to knock the target back down to earth – bigger enemies are a little different, but you can still push them back with this move , directly towards obstacles such as spiked walls, to kill them instantly. Creative kills and finishers are rewarded with items to restore health, meaning that as long as you’re stylish, you don’t have to worry about going down.

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But Evil West introduces new mechanics at a brisk pace, giving your fat gauntlet the ability to draw an electrified shield, parry and even teleport into enemies, or drag them towards you alternatively, to follow it all up with a barrage of electrified shots. Reasonably, you can finish each fight with just dodging and using the shotgun to finish off your opponents – it’s powerful and enough to justify the shooter-style framing. However, you will quickly receive more powerful and fun tools, and after all the key to enjoying Evil West is to use all the tools at your disposal, sometimes in a single combo.

What’s good, and what’s not —

The story, however, is a little bland. The supernatural American frontier is a fun setting to visit, even years after Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare or recent titles like Weird West and Hard West 2, but Evil West doesn’t tell a really interesting story in this setting. There are demons at work around here and it’s pretty obvious, a wicked little girl, some moustachioed bad guy… well, the usual. You shouldn’t play Evil West for the story, but for the gameplay.

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This is where the game really shines: it’s heavy and believable, but also arcadey and silly. Unlocking abilities that allow you to charge your fists with precise button presses, or fend off waves of enemies – they all add up to something that seems ridiculous, and yet feels so powerful and satisfying with every hit. As we said, it’s easy to compare it to God of War and it’s easy to see why you would but, while Ragnarok manages to create a splendid cinematic experience with incredible actors, Evil West is content to let you literally punch demonic creatures until they explode in a thousand pieces. And you can easily imagine how satisfying it is.

Evil West, the verdict —

Evil West is at its best when exploding demons, and at its worst when it tries to take its derivative mythology seriously. Thanks to the ever-evolving arsenal, the fights manage to stay fresh, and overall it’s a surprisingly solid action-adventure to end the year with.

Written by Dave Aubrey for GLHF

Evil West, the review: not a simple God of War clone