Evil West Review

Published: November 21, 2022 2:00 PM /


Jesse Rentier surrounded by vampire monsters in the key art for Evil West

Whether or not the Wild West was as dangerous as it's made out to be is a subject of hot debate amongst historians. Some say the Wild West was just as violent and lawless as the movies say, while others think this reputation is largely unearned and that the frontier wasn't so bad after all. Whichever side of the fence you fall on, Evil West should convince you that at the very least, Jesse Rentier's Wild West isn't one you'd want to visit on vacation.

Rentier is effectively a monster exterminator; think Hellboy with more leather. He works for the Rentier Institute, an organization dedicated to destroying evil, and he's out to murder some vampires after an attack on the Rentier Institute leaves it without most of its personnel and resources. Also, vampires aren't very nice, and the world would probably be better if they were all dead. Evil West's setup is refreshingly uncomplicated, and that's a philosophy that mostly extends to its gameplay as well.

Evil West Offers Rootin' Tootin' Vampire Shootin'

Jesse shooting an enemy with the rifle in Evil West
You can shoot enemies' guns out of their hands in Evil West, in true cowboy style.

Evil West is pleasingly evocative of a very specific era in gaming, namely the mid-2000s just before the seventh console generation hit. It's reminiscent of games like Resident Evil 4 and God Hand, mixing crunchy melee combat with a variety of weapons and tools you can use to dispatch your enemies. It's also got the ridiculous high camp of those games; its setting is knowingly silly, tasking you with protecting Grover Cleveland's institution from monstrous vampires who have an agenda.

Enemies explode in showers of blood and body parts that are as disgusting as they are rewarding.

Combat is the star of the show in Evil West, as you'd expect from a Flying Wild Hog game. Evil West is essentially a series of combat arena challenges broken up by token exploration and what can charitably be described as "puzzle sections", although they usually amount to finding the next thing to press A on in order to move forward. 

Thankfully, the combat in Evil West is excellent. Each and every one of Jesse's weapons is punchy, satisfying, and cathartic. Taking enemies apart with the melee gauntlet feels great thanks to the weight of each blow, while ranged weapons like the rifle and revolver have a surprising kick to them. Evil West is also a gleefully and gloriously gory game. Enemies explode in showers of blood and body parts that are as disgusting as they are rewarding.

Exploration Isn't Much Fun In Evil West

Jesse trying to figure out how to solve a puzzle in Evil West
Puzzles kill the pacing in Evil West, and they're not much fun to solve.

Unfortunately, the adrenaline high that combat inspires can't quite sustain the downtime between battles. Exploration in Evil West is, to put it bluntly, boring as hell. When combat stops and Jesse's wiped Count Orlok's blood off his face, the game becomes a slow trudge from contextual prompt to contextual prompt, all of which resolve themselves with premade animations.

Evil West's levels contain a number of collectibles to find, including gold (or "Bucks") to upgrade your gear, as well as special perks and other bonuses. Finding them, however, is a chore. It usually just entails going down one of two branching paths, pressing A on something, and then opening a chest. 

It's a shame because there's a lot of diversity in Evil West's levels. You'll explore snowy mountains, deep caves, and, of course, the requisite one-horse towns of the Wild West. The flat, two-dimensional nature of the exploration just renders all of these levels identical, though, making them all feel like Wolfenstein 3D-style mazes. Some more platforming or intelligent puzzle design might have helped to break things up, and although it might go against Evil West's emphasis on combat and simple nature, what the game has now just feels like a pointless stopgap between battles.

Evil West Wants You To Make The Most Of Your Arsenal

Jesse firing an electrified weapon at the Bruch boss in Evil West
Yes, that's lightning arcing from a revolver. Evil West offers that and so much more.

When you do get into combat, though, Evil West shines. This is not an easy game, and it's not one that will hold your hand. Right from the get-go, you're expected to have sharp reflexes and an eye for detail if you want to succeed in combat. Each of Jesse's weapons, from the group-destroying flamethrower to the boss-shredding Gatling gun, will be essential for taking down your enemies.

Evil West's enemy design and variety is impressive, too. While repetition does threaten to set in during the back third, Jesse's enemies are distinct, and they all require a different strategy. Evil West is constantly finding new and exciting ways to put those enemies together and tax your fightin' brain, which is impressive.

Flying Wild Hog really is the master of retro throwback shooter combat, and Evil West demonstrates that mastery with aplomb. 

It takes a little while, but the clear highlight of Evil West for me was getting to use Jesse's entire bag of tricks in combat. Swapping from the electrified revolver to the explosive charge and then burning the remnants with a flamethrower gives an in-game combat high that's hard to match. Flying Wild Hog really is the master of retro throwback shooter combat, and Evil West demonstrates that mastery with aplomb.

If you're tired of looter shooter skill trees, you'll be pleased to learn that although Evil West has a perk system, it's meaningful and rewarding to use. Every single perk alters a weapon or tool to make it behave in new and interesting ways. Whether it's a ground slam that dispatches groups more efficiently or a perk that transforms health into energy for your supercharge mode, perks always feel satisfying to unlock.

Evil West's Cowboys Are Riding One-Trick Ponies

Jesse hurtling down a railroad track in a cart in Evil West
Despite the occasional diversion, Evil West's gameplay doesn't have much to offer beyond combat.

Perhaps this is a redundant thing to say about a Flying Wild Hog title (these are the guys who brought us the Shadow Warrior reboots, after all), but if you're not enamored with Evil West's combat, there's absolutely nothing else to sell you on it. This is an experience that foregrounds its strengths and essentially ignores its weaknesses.

There might only be one trick up Evil West's sleeve, but it's a very good trick indeed, and it never gets tiring. I clocked in around 10 hours with Evil West, and I was genuinely sad when it ended, which indicates that it didn't outstay its welcome. Exploring its levels might not be much fun, but it's easy to forget that boredom when you're in the thick of the high-octane combat.

Thankfully, there's a lot of replayability in Evil West as well. There's no scoring system like in Devil May Cry (which is one of the game's explicit inspirations), but there is a New Game Plus mode to let you test out your full arsenal against early-game enemies and situations. You can also revisit individual missions to find collectibles you missed, and since many of them are genuinely game-altering perks, it's worth doing so.

Evil West Review | Final Thoughts

Jesse punching the Parasiter boss in Evil West
Who among us can say they've never wanted to punch a tentacle to death with an electrified gauntlet?

It's a good thing Evil West's combat is so utterly brilliant, because the rest of the experience is somewhat lacking. Its campy tone and self-aware story never stray over into cheap self-parody, which is good, but the narrative is hardly the main draw here. Exploration is flat and lifeless, but when Evil West comes alive in combat, it gets the blood pumping like almost nothing else can.

TechRaptor reviewed Evil West on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

Review Summary

Evil West successfully revitalizes the third-person shooter genre with intense, satisfying combat, even if its level design isn't much to write home about. (Review Policy)


  • Excellent Combat
  • Diverse, Rewarding Arsenal
  • Great Enemy Design
  • Genuinely Meaningful Skill Tree


  • Boring, Lifeless Exploration
  • Gets A Little Repetitive
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November 22, 2022 (Calendar)
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