Evil West evokes a lot of memories in those who play it of the action games of yesteryear. It’s a nice, linear action game; no crafting, no open-world objectives, just you, a straight line, and a lot of vampiric monsters to fill with lead. As long as you’re cool with simplicity, there’s a good time to be had.
That said, even a deliberately simplistic game can’t be excused from less-than-stellar design decisions. It’s one thing to emulate the kind of action games we all liked from the late-2000s, but it’s another thing to do so without integrating modern quality-of-life improvements that we’ve come to expect from games these days.
7/7 Controller Remapping
First and positively foremost, controller remapping should be implemented. On the console versions of Evil West, you can’t remap your controls at all, meaning you’re stuck with the default, mildly uncomfortable controller layout. You can remap the controls if you’re playing on PC, but only if you’re using a mouse and keyboard, which isn’t really ideal given the amount of melee combat in Evil West. If you want to use a controller, though, it’s default or nothing again, barring external means like Steam controller layouts.
Yes, God of War did the whole “map your light attack to the right bumper thing” too, but that doesn’t make it the best spot for that. Considering how much you have to mash the melee attack button in this game, the button either needs to be somewhere more comfortable, or you need to let us pick where it goes.
6/7 Manual Reload
As most shooter players can attest, it’s a good idea to manually reload your gun whenever there’s a lull in the action. It’s kind of odd, then, that Evil West has no manual reload function for your revolver or rifle. You can’t just use a couple of bullets and rifle the whole magazine; you need to pump out the entire thing and then just wait.
It’s not as big a deal for the revolver since fanning the hammer is quick, but it’s more annoying for the rifle. Even if you empty the rifle’s magazine and see Jesse reload it, that only puts one bullet in the chamber. There’s no reason not to let us reload the whole magazine when we want to, at least for the rifle.
5/7 Quick Turn And Lock-On
Combat in Evil West can get extremely hectic, with enemies coming at you from all sides and attacking outside your field of view. The little warning arrows that show up around Jesse help with keeping you in control, but it’d be a lot easier if you had a better grip on your surroundings.
If enemies are coming at you from behind, which they often are, a quick turn would allow you to quickly whip around to face them instead of manually turning all the way around just in time for a knuckle sandwich. As for a lock-on, enemies have a tendency to bunch up, which can make picking them off in a particular order a chore. Sure, there’s an aim-assist, but something we can manually toggle would be better.
4/7 Graphical Improvements
For the most part, Evil West is a decent-looking game. Not exactly the most advanced graphics on the block, but the stylizing helps. That said, the graphics need a few major overhauls to keep your suspension of disbelief from breaking.
One particularly noticeable problem is the field of view. On both the left and right sides of the screen, if you move the camera around quickly, you can see the edges of your FOV, with the environment loading back in when you turn to look at it. Nothing ruins your immersion like seeing the edges of the stage.
3/7 Presentation Improvements
Speaking of improvements, there’s a distinct lack of polish on several aspects of Evil West’s presentation. When you’re in a non-combat area like Calico, NPCs will talk to Jesse as he walks by. This is fine, except that nobody’s mouth moves when they speak. It makes it feel less like a living town and more like a walking tour full of animatronics.
Another thing that needs improvement is proofreading. Multiple text boxes throughout the game, including tutorials, notes, and menus, have spelling and grammatical errors. It’s not enough to be a major problem, but just enough to be noticeable and irritating.
2/7 Clearer Critical Path
One of the first things the game tells you is to go off the critical path to search for Bucks and treasure. This is perfectly fine and a bedrock element in this kind of game. The problem is that the critical path is often not clearly distinct from side paths. Every point of progress, critical or otherwise, is marked by the same silver chain posts, utterly indistinct from one another.
Even if you want to go off the critical path and look for goodies, if you can’t tell which direction tangible progress is, you’re very likely to progress the level past a point of no return. Maybe you could argue that it’d be obvious when you can’t return from something, like a drop off a ledge, but that’s not always the case.
1/7 Better Co-Op Integration
Evil West’s co-op is a great idea on paper, letting you take on the vampiric hordes with a buddy, but the execution leaves something to be desired. For one thing, both players play as an instance of Jesse, which is a little disappointing when characters like Gravenor are available. A second Jesse would be fine if he’s supposed to be completely alone in the story, but otherwise, give us someone else.
For another thing, only the host of the game can save progress. If you and a friend progress through a good chunk of the game, and you have to leave, your friend can’t keep playing where you left off. Ideal co-op lets you drop in and out as you please, or at the very least, save your progress independently of your partner.