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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Evil West in test: The counter-design to modern shooters is not for everyone

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A linear shooter without an open world or live service sounds like a wonderful change of pace to you? Then Evil West is made for you

One thing you certainly can”t accuse Evil West of: That it pretends to be something it neither wants to be nor can be. Nowadays, games in general and shooters in particular have to tick off countless checkboxes: it has to be multiplayer and live service is best, open world if possible, or at least not with strunzlinear levels.

Evil West offers none of that, it”s an action game from another time, loud, stupid and inspired by oldschool shooters. Those who simply expect a whimsical (but short) shootout through an entertaining solo campaign (with optional co-op mode), like to stake vampires by the dozen and like complex combat systems will therefore have a lot of fun with Evil West, as long as they lower his or her expectations of graphics and story beforehand.

Gruesome Entry

Evil West does not leave a good first impression. The graphics are old-fashioned, the many cutscenes often start and end completely abruptly and sometimes have abrupt jumps in the story, the combat system is initially very tough. This starts with the fact that the protagonist with the Christmassy name Jesse Reindeer deals with his opponents mainly in close combat at the beginning. You do find a revolver a short time later, but it causes so little damage at first that it is more frustrating than fun.

(In the pale moonlight we fight vampires in front of a burning church.)
(In the pale moonlight we fight vampires in front of a burning church.)

A while later you get a rifle, which also causes rather little damage and is primarily used to interrupt boss attacks or to shoot at occasionally exposed weak points of some trash mobs.

This is followed by a shotgun that hits with the brute force of an ant”s flatulence – the sound of the shot is often completely lost in the somewhat unfortunate sound mixing, the damage effect is hardly worth mentioning without upgrades, and after only one shot, the whippersnapper has a cooldown of what feels like half an hour. Flying Wild Hog has actually managed to make a shotgun boring in a shooter! They”ve done better than that in Shadow Warrior.

Keyboard for squids only

You can play Evil West either with a gamepad or with a mouse and a piano. Praiseworthy: You can freely assign all keys. If you have one, however, you should definitely play with the gamepad, because the keyboard … let”s put it this way: You hit it with the left mouse button, unless you hold down the right mouse button, in which case you shoot with the gun.

E fires the revolver, F operates the shotgun, with Q you can block, Q+W is a rush attack, with W+S you pull enemies towards you. If you keep the left mouse button pressed, you start a heavy melee attack. If you hold down W at the same time, you will throw an enemy into the air. If you do this in a sprint instead, the jump attack will follow.

Use R to kick and interrupt. There is also an electric punch, a shock bar, and separate buttons for super mode, for Gatling gun, crossbow, explosives, as well as flamethrower. I”ve played flight sims where the keyboard controls were less extensive.

I”m not saying it can”t still be learned and mastered, but if you”re more of a casual gamer and take the occasional two or three day break between sessions – have fun trying to remember how Evil West is played in the first place! Gamepad control is easier and more intuitive, if only because the interface is completely designed around it and not much help when using the keyboard.

(You destroy heavily battered enemies with bloody finishers.)
(You destroy heavily battered enemies with bloody finishers.)

It gets better

After the first handful of missions, the game slowly becomes more enjoyable. Level ups and in-game currency unlock upgrades and perks that improve your damage output, then the battles become more fluid. Nevertheless, larger enemies can take a lot of punishment before they finally die, even on the normal difficulty level.

I was too proud for the story mode, and not masochistic enough for the difficulty levels above normal and the permadeath mode. Don”t misunderstand: The game isn”t too difficult on Normal, some of the fights just take a long time, especially the handful of big story end bosses.

Generally, quick reflexes for dodges and parries are helpful, even if the parry window here is much more generous than in Dark Souls or Elden Ring, for example. Good play is rewarded in Evil West and looks really cool! However, if you”re hoping to just comfortably shoot everything away, the title might overwhelm you. The guns here serve more as situational tools than weapons of mass destruction.

For me, Evil West feels overloaded with its moves and options. On the one hand I have a huge smorgasbord of explosives, big and small guns, the minigun and a flamethrower, on the other hand all of it has extremely scarce ammo and forever long cooldowns like in an MMO. Everything wants to be used wisely and strategically.

(Many areas are bright red and on fire. The look of the game often seems a bit dusty.)
(Many areas are bright red and on fire. The look of the game often seems a bit dusty.)

Half as many weapons would have been enough for me if they had more power and shorter cooldowns in return. Or maybe a shotgun with more than a single shot per cooldown. Most importantly, Jesse looks like a walking scrap metal collection with his arsenal fully unlocked because every weapon is visibly displayed on his body.

Unsympathetic types

You will encounter two types of characters in the game: Bad-tempered creeps who yell four-letter expletives at the world non-stop and socially inept nerds who are used for lame gags. Instead of any cool one-liners, there is swearing, none of the characters are in any way likeable or interesting. When Jesse”s companion Edgar”s life is in danger during the course of the story, I care zero because neither of them has a personality. The story is full of the usual clichés, any deaths or dramatic moments don”t trigger any emotion.

(The cutscenes are not up to scratch, the story is full of lengths and clichés.)
(The cutscenes are not up to scratch, the story is full of lengths and clichés.)

The gaming experience is rounded off by problematic technology. My system exceeds the recommended system specifications by far, yet there are annoying jerks and hangs every now and then in my test version.

The flamethrower sound effect regularly ends up in an endless loop that pours out of the speakers until the end of the level or at least until the restart. After a larger puzzle, Jesse decided to get stuck in the ground during the test and from then on did not move.

The only solution: back to the title screen. With the following overlay: “Are you sure? All unsaved progress will be lost. Last saved: 15 minutes ago.” The many automatic checkpoints didn”t help either.

Cool moments

This may all sound totally bad now, but Evil West does have its strengths. In the later stages of the game there are a few levels that are really worth seeing and are well staged, and there are also some nifty effects when you create cracks in the apparent reality in order to get on the trail of hidden vampires.

The vampires get more and more outlandish and dangerous. The story picks up nicely in the final third and, while never really surprising or original, at least pushes the action along in a reasonably entertaining way.

(Sometimes you create cracks in the supposed reality to reveal hidden vampires.)
(Sometimes you create cracks in the supposed reality to reveal hidden vampires.)

When you fully master the fights and understand which weapons and manoeuvres are suitable for which situations, the brawls look really good and are also good fun. Heavily wounded enemies can be killed with spectacular finishes, artfully eliminated enemies leave behind more pickups and fuel better, faster battles.

It feels good to wear down legions of critters that were intermediate bosses just a few missions before, and eventually not get a scratch. You can feel yourself getting better at the game. The upgrade system is also interesting for the most part.

(Weapon upgrades are fun and make a lot of weak shooting bats a lot more entertaining.)
(Weapon upgrades are fun and make a lot of weak shooting bats a lot more entertaining.)

Yes, occasionally there are a few lame upgrades like an extra round in the magazine or slightly shortened cooldowns, but when your thrown explosives suddenly set off tornadoes or your revolver shoots electro bullets that travel from enemy to enemy, it has a noticeable effect on your combat prowess and thus on the fun of the game. How nice that all this can be taken to New Game Plus after completing the story!

(Thick hunks that appear at the beginning as intermediate bosses later become regular opponents. You”ll need your entire arsenal!)” src=”https://www.global-esports.news/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Big-chunks.jpg” width=”1920″ height=”1080″ /☻

At around nine hours, Evil West was almost a bit too long for me, because despite the great variety of enemies, they repeated themselves quite often towards the end, but at least you have plenty to do here. In addition, despite the tube design, there are hidden boxes with perks, skins and other goodies everywhere, so that playing through several times is rewarded.

Editor”s Verdict

To warm up to Evil West, you have to accept and learn its unusual combat system. Close combat is just as important here as firearms, good timing for dodging rolls and for blocking is mandatory. You can target enemies from a safe distance with the rifle. But even when I fully upgraded it to a railgun, the damage was simply not worth mentioning, fights against really thick monsters took forever. Your opponents are supernatural bullet sponges that absorb massive amounts of damage.

In principle, I have nothing against complex combat systems, but I find the implementation here at least in parts unnecessary and often more frustrating than fun. What the hell am I supposed to do with a shotgun that I can fire exactly once every five minutes? Yes, this is intentional in the game design, but it is polarising. I find weapons as tools only moderately turgid, others may like it because it”s more tactical that way.

I also don”t need lame switch puzzles in otherwise fast-paced shooters. Or a good three billion cutscenes when the story is dull and predictable for long stretches and the characters have zero personality. Especially when there are often confusing scene changes and the presentation feels so dusty. The bottom line is that the fights still look sexy and play fun when you”ve got them down.

Evil West is a typical AA game that can”t deny its modest budget. The question remains whether it”s worth the 50 euros or whether you”d rather wait for the next sale. For the time being, I won”t devalue it for the technical difficulties I encountered, because my colleague Fritz didn”t have any problems on another computer.

Flo
Flo
Age: 28 years Origin: Germany Hobbies: Gaming, Biking, Football Profession: Online editor

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