The limited amount of time I spent in part of Flying Wild Hog’s West of Evil made me feel almost like I was traveling in time. A linear third-person action game? With hidden collectibles? No side quests? Checkpoints not related to fire? Open areas that double up as battle arenas to take out enemies before re-doing it? They don’t make them like this anymore, and a game like this really makes me wish they did.
Set in an alternate 18th century setting where the West is still wild but also full of vampires, you play as Jesse Rentier, the star agent and apparent heir to the Rentier Institute, an organization of hunters. Vampires are powered by sci-fi technology and government spending. As a nail-biting man, you’re the one to go to when a dirty job needs to be done. In the demo level I played, the job was to restore missing technology in a snowy mine.
Evil West Game Awards intro image
The story and character exploration are very light in this build. Even with a sort of side game to joke around, Jesse seems largely like your tough protagonist who would rather shoot a gun than with his mouth. Meanwhile, most settings are cool on the surface. Electronic technology inspired by Nikola Tesla is designed to be fussy and excessive in a way that is more appealing than objectionable. Unnatural technology also blends seamlessly with the supernatural brutality of many vampire designs.
When the match started, Jesse was more than prepared, with both more traditional and mundane guns, as well as mechanical tricks that created a magical power gap between him and his enemies. The basis of my offense is the shape of his gnarly gauntlet. You can combine to perform quick face-smashing combos or hold down the attack button to launch enemies in the air. Follow it up with a diving punch, or quickly pull out your pistol and fill them with holes before they drop. Making these decisions at once is understandable since every weapon either resides on its own dedicated node or happens in its own particular scenario. For example, if I want to shoot a pistol, I press the fire button. If I want to hit targets with a longer range with the rifle, shoot while aiming.
The Rentier Institute also offers you a number of other facilities. Your energy shield is not the kind you hide behind to absorb attacks for you, but if you time it correctly, any enemies that try to touch you will go into convulsion high voltage, leaving them open to deal massive damage. The paralyzing stick can do the same thing, but to all enemies at once. On the outside, all your tools feel like they’re tailored for specific situations, and none of them feel irrelevant or superfluous when compared to others. . I really like that the variety of actions doesn’t have to be stepped on by itself.
There are plenty of ways to upgrade and personalize your tools to your preferred playing style. You can add more functions to your weapon, such as being able to get refunded bullets spent when shooting at the weak points of monsters. Or you can add more character-focused perks that give you new abilities, or change and expand the perks you already have. The standard skill tree stuff at first glance, but as you start to see these knockback effects increase, Jesse really starts to be the good guy for a single army they recommend to him.
In the end, the vampire here is not your Bela Lugosi Draculas. Some are skinless wild beasts whose bodies hover on autopilot in search of your neck. Some are almost beehives for large glowing explosive insects marching to their death to secure you. These are creative and at times quite challenging creatures that definitely make me want to know more about the strange horrors lurking in the shadows of this alternate history America.
The linearity of the level that I played was well balanced by the number of nooks and crannies scattered around to find consumables, money or other collectibles. I’m not particularly moved to search every inch of the stage in this demo, but I can see more and more OCD gamers with a lot of boxes to check in a full release. Such a simple design might seem out of date with games forever today, but I really appreciate the focus on making the elements you can interact with feel alive and purposeful. No, I can’t “see the mountain in the background and climb it,” but each encounter feels like it was hand crafted to create a specific kind of challenge, making it feel like a puzzle. Quiz intentionally rather than a fun accident.
Evil West Game Award Trailer Trailer Screenshot
The little demo time I had with Evil West made me crave more Old West vampire hunting. In a year that somehow finds three remarkable games set in the dark and haunted Wild West, Flying Wild Hog remains unique not only among games of its kind, but also same genre as it. Easy action gets you up to speed quickly, but reveals new layers of depth and strategy with every new powerful upgrade, exotic tools, and canine enemies.