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In a hands-on demo, protagonist Jesse Rentier is thrown in at the deep end, forgoing any tutorial for an on-the-job learning experience. For Rentier, that job is hunting the vampires that have infested the Old West, and for this level he’s heading guns-blazing into a snow-swept mining outpost.
In minutes, you’re fighting off hordes of bloodsuckers with an arsenal of satisfying weapons. Instead of switching between guns, you’re able to fire any of them with a single button-press: aiming down your sights with a repeater rifle is perfect for landing precision shots on distant foes, but for any vampires that manage to close the gap, a messy re-death at the wrong end of a double-barrel shotgun awaits. With a hammer-fanned revolver and big punchy gauntlet thrown into the mix, Evil West‘s frequent intense shootouts feel fluid and explosive.
However, you’re not the only one that’s been well-equipped, as the Old West’s vampires come in all shapes and sizes. The most common of which are speedy Nosferatu-style ghouls that want to tear you to shreds up-close, but the hands-on also threw horrendously bloated flies, spore-slinging undead and gargantuan bosses at poor Rentier. Two boss fights – a gargantuan shielded vampire and an equally huge bat thing – turned Evil West‘s intensity up tenfold, and surviving both encounters meant becoming a dodge-rolling ball of death as each antagonist summoned in help along with their heavy hitting attacks. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the second boss fight to work properly – it’s an unfinished build, so the bat monster declined a gentlemanly duel in favour of staring unresponsively out to sea – but in the minutes it worked, it was a thrilling fight.
That being said, the demo started to feel very repetitive. The entire level boiled down to walking for a bit, surviving a few waves of vampires in a locked arena, and walking to the next arena to fight in. Between each scrap, there was the occasional bit of non-violent platforming to get through; but even this was fairly mundane as there’s no challenge or critical thinking involved – just running from one panel to the next and unlocking the way forward. Evil West‘s biggest strength – gory, chaotic vampire slaying – was diminished because of the level’s formulaic and repetitive design.
Though Evil West‘s level design felt monotonous, we loved our previous hands-on at Gamescom – so it’s possible that this area in particular is just a bit of a dud. Undeniably, there’s a lot that Evil West gets right: beyond the fantastic combat, the Western-meets-vampires setting is brilliant and the demo ended with the promise of a very interesting story. If you want nothing more than to sic a six-shooter on vampires, it’s safe to assume that Evil West will deliver – but whether it will keep its fangs sharp throughout its 10-15 hour runtime is another question entirely.