Depending on how old you are, you might remember the concept of “The Weekend Game,” as in the title you rented or borrowed from a friend and beat in like 2 or 3 sittings between Friday and Sunday. And that was it. Maybe you replay a few levels to grab some collectibles, but nothing more than that. You had a good time, saw the credits roll, and moved on. Western-horror hybrid Evil West, out now, feels like a weekend game. In a world filled with ongoing updates, complex endgames, long battle passes, and endless loot, it’s been nice playing something linear, simple, and fun.
Developed by Flying Wild Hog, Evil West is a third-person action-adventure game set in an alt-history version of the classic Wild West era of America. Unlike reality, this version features a lot more vampires, steampunk-like machinery, and magic. Evil West stars Jesse Reitner, a man that looks a lot like Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption II.
As part of the high-tech and secretive Reitner Institute (founded by his father) Jesse fights off evil monsters, vampires, and other creatures of the night to help keep the country safe. But when a new type of vampire arrives and begins creating a massive, hard-to-kill army of undead bloodsuckers, Jesse and his friends are the few who can stop them and save the day.
There is no getting around it: Evil West is silly, but in a good way. Its narrative has a lot in common with the best B-movies and pulp stories from the past. Characters act more like people pretending to be people, than real humans. Dialogue is filled with swear words and exposition. All of it is cheesy and silly in the perfect kind of way. Combined with the steampunk gadgets, monsters, and violence, it really does play out like a grindhouse flick you might have caught on TV at like 2 am back in the 90s on TNT.
One key strength in Evil West’s favor is that it’s a good action game, mixing fast-paced melee combat with precision gunplay where you combo everything together. When you start Evil West, the game really focuses on teaching you each new element, slowly building you into a vampire-killing machine. This is nice as there’s a lot to learn and by the end, you’ll be juggling a few different weapons and devices during some of the tougher combat encounters. Frustratingly, I did find a couple of fights at the end that got really hard, so be prepared for some difficulty spikes.
For a western-themed game, it might be surprising that the star of the show isn’t a revolver or rifle—though they are both are good and useful here—instead, it’s the silly-looking gauntlet Jessie wears. This thing is great. You can use it to electrically yank over enemies, stun them, send them flying into other monsters or off cliffs, and more. As you upgrade Jesse you gain access to more electrical attacks and counters, eventually becoming a one-man, lightning-spewing, vampire-killing army in a trenchcoat. And no, it doesn’t make much sense how this gauntlet can do so much, but who cares. It fits perfectly in this B-movie world and universe. It also is another piece of Evil West that reminds me of those PS2 games of old. Games that were more concerned about fun over trying to make everything feel realistic or logical.
But what really helped me fall in love with Evil West isn’t the heavy, solid combat. Nor was it the horror-infused western vistas and locations, though those are nice, too. No, what I love about Evil West is that it’s just a (Hank Hill voice) simple, honest-to-god, linear and fun, goddamn video game. There’s no battle pass or microtransactions. No crafting and no loot to collect, upgrade or trade. No MMO-lite features or other players running around doing things. No copy-paste side quests or giant, but empty open worlds.
It’s a 16-mission linear action game with some simple skill trees to make your character better and that’s it. Most players will beat it in about 11-13 hours. This might seem like a weird thing to praise, but in effect stripping out all the superficial elements you come to expect out of modern games means that Evil West hones in on what it does best, rather than expand beyond its strengths.
Sure, if you look closely, you’ll notice the seams and corners that were cut in Evil West, likely due to its smaller budget compared to other single-player action games like God of War. Characters outside of cutscenes don’t move their lips when they talk, audio quality can sometimes dip, and levels only look nice if you don’t poke around windows to see beyond the linear area of the mission. But where it matters, Evil West works great. Playing on PS5, I ran the game in its performance mode and found a rock-solid 60fps experience, with only a few dips during one particular moment in one late-game mission. Camera and movement controls are responsive and work fine at all times. This might be a budget game, but Flying Wild Hog spent the money in the right places.
For me, Evil West is the kind of game I miss these days. I’ll fully admit, I love games like Destiny and Fortnite, games that never end and are filled with battle passes, crafting, loot, etc. Those games can provide hours of fun and are great to play while chilling with friends or listening to a podcast. But I don’t want everything to be a complex, all-encompassing, time-monopolizing social experience that continues to grow and evolve as time goes on. And Evil West is a wonderful example of the kind of games I want more of moving forward. Not everything needs an endgame or a crafting table. Sometimes, I just want to move forward, hear some bad banter and punch some monsters in the face for a few hours. And Evil West gave me exactly that. No more. No less.