In Evil West, developer Flying Wild Hog presents an enticing premise. Imagine an action-adventure game set in the old American frontier, add a vampiric twist with over-the-top combat, and you’ve got the idea. Evil West is a classic Gothic Western gunslinger, taking the reins that Darkwatch left behind two decades ago with a suitably absurd premise. Going hands-on with a 30-minute demo at Gamescom 2022, it didn’t take long to become one of our most anticipated games this year.
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Playing as Jesse Rentier, a cowboy working for vampire hunters, we’re joined by fellow cowboy Edgar Gravenor as a two-man band. While Edgar’s unavailable in single player, something we’re told is due to “last-gen constraints”, there’s two-player online co-op, and we’re told it’ll take 10-15 hours to complete this campaign. Jumping straight into the second chapter, we found the pair towing a coffin with a bound vampire inside, using Chester to enter a tomb. For someone who’s been kidnapped, there’s surprisingly lighthearted banter here, with the trio exchanging casual quips, and it sets a welcoming tone.
Once this cutscene ended, we began traversing a devastated town above the surface, gradually making our way underground before finishing on a major boss fight. Jesse’s restricted to a mostly linear path, using a grappling hook to cross gaps, though Evil West does reward you for exploration. You won’t stray too far from the main path, though anyone feeling more thorough can find coins — used to purchase improvements for your weapons — plus enemy notes with fresh lore.
Unsurprisingly, Jesse’s path is littered with enemies and combat is where Evil West truly shines. Combining elements of God Of War and Devil May Cry, there’s a good mix of ranged and melee attacks, which Evil West encourages you to cycle through. Further options are unlockable later on, like a flamethrower, but for this demo our only ranged option is Jesse’s rifle. Dealing extra damage should you hit an enemy’s weak spot, it does the job as an all-rounder but if you’d prefer some fireworks, nothing like shooting a few explosive barrels for a quick kill.
For those who like getting close and personal, Jesse is a powerful figure. He can strike down bandits with a powerful kick, use an overcharged fist strike, and more, making them explode from the impact’s sheer force. You could even knock them off a cliff edge or into a spike trap, each area presents an advantage and it’s satisfying every time. While Jesse can self-heal, this comes with a cooldown but melee attacks cause foes to drop extra health, rewarding those who risk getting close.
Flying Hog hasn’t held back with combat and in this mission alone, each enemy came with their own quirks and attack patterns to learn. Playing on normal difficulty, we died a couple of times as hordes overwhelmed us, but you never lose much progress. If anything, you feel encouraged to try again, remembering your mistakes and taking care to avoid repeating them. Finding that right strategy and weapon feels excellent, doubly so when you finally defeat that troublesome horde.
Kills are all incredibly gory too, we’re ripping apart these foes in a way that’s reminiscent of Doom Eternal. We can build upon this further through Jesse’s skill tree and though we weren’t able to unlock many new abilities during this demo, it’s clear he’s got room to grow upon levelling up. Between improving existing abilities for additional damage, reducing cooldown times or gaining new attacks, the choice is ours.
This might’ve been a short demo but already, Evil West feels like a winner. Thanks to its light humour, satisfying combat and intriguing narrative, Flying Wild Hog’s latest feels fresh yet familiar. Sure, ripping apart enemies won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but as things stands, it’s one of the more promising games we’ve played in a long while.