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Evil West review – ‘Satisfying demon punching’

Evil West is a surprisingly great action game, and a great way to close out 2022
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Sometimes you just want to punch. Not anyone or anything in particular, but gosh, a good punch would feel really satisfying right now, wouldn’t it? If it weren’t for my 31-year-old wrists, I know I’d be well up for punching something right about now. A good slap to the cheeks with a solid fist is a part of human nature, something we’re familiar with in every culture. And it feels damn good in Evil West.

A reductionist take could reduce Evil West down to a low-budget God of War (2018) clone, but scratching beneath the surface – and past the opening hour – reveals something that manages to set itself apart. Sure, it’s all played from a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective, and it has that little arrow radar around your protagonist to point out off-camera foes, but once you’re past that comparison, what you have is a solid adventure with satisfying core combat.

Jesse Rentier is a superpowered gunslinger who is on a mission to rid the American frontier of supernatural beasties. That’s the basic premise, and honestly, you don’t need to know much more than that. There are a lot of dark forces at work, which could be vampires, mutants, zombies, demons – it really doesn’t matter, because Jesse has a big electrified gauntlet with which he punches enemies to pieces. And it’s great.


Jesse’s movement feels heavy, with each footstep leaving a deep bass thud in its wake. Just as in God of War: Ragnarok, you can tap the button to do a quick side step around attacks or double tap to dive and dodge roll out of the way. Jesse will be swapping between his arsenal of weapons mid-combo almost constantly. Yes, punching is great, and melee combat is definitely the primary way to play here, but a close-range boomstick, precision rifle, and a slick Western pistol are just what Jesse’s armory starts with.

The precise rifle can pick apart enemies at a distance and becomes particularly useful when a very obvious weakpoint marker hovers over them. Your pistol is better for up close barrages, allowing you to just hold the trigger in order to let loose your cylinder. The boomstick meanwhile pushes back waves of foes and can shatter or damage shield and other defensive measures foes might come at you with.

Things starts slow, but once you’ve learnt how combos work and how to finish off foes most efficiently, you’ll be on a roll. Hold the melee button to launch a foe, and then fire off your pistol to juggle them in the air. A dodge forward followed by a melee attack results in a superman punch, which can be upgraded for splash damage, punishing crowds of foes. Holding the melee button while holding forward combines your launcher with a jump and a punch back down to earth – bigger enemies won’t be launched easily, but you can still push them back with this, directly into obstacles like spike walls to kill them instantly. Creative kills and finishers are rewarded with extra health pick-ups too – as long as you’re stylish, you won’t struggle for health.


But Evil West introduces mechanics at a brisk pace, quickly giving your chunky gauntlet the ability to bring up an electrified shield, parry, and either warp toward foes, or drag foes toward you, to follow up with an electrified rush of blows. You can reasonably finish every fight solely by dodging and using your rifle to finish off opponents – it’s strong, and justifies the shooter-style perspective – but you’ll be given much more powerful and enjoyable tools quickly. The key to enjoying Evil West is using all of the tools at your disposal, sometimes in a single combo, let alone engagement.

The story, however, is a bit bland. The supernatural American frontier is still a fun setting to visit, even years on from Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, and recent games like Weird West and Hard West 2, but Evil West doesn’t tell a truly interesting story in this environment. There are demons at work, an evil little girl, some nefarious-mustache types, you know the deal. You shouldn’t play Evil West for the story, you should play it for the gameplay.

That’s where it excels. It feels heavy, but also arcadey and silly. Unlocking abilities that allow you to power up punches with precise button presses, or splash back crowds of foes – it all adds up to something that feels ridiculous, yet still weighty and satisfying with every blow. Again, it’s easy to make a God of War comparison, and it’s easy to see why you would, but while Ragnarok manages to create a beautiful cinematic experience with incredible acting talent, Evil West lets you punch demonic creatures until they literally burst like a pimple. And we all know how satisfying that is.


Evil West is at its best when you’re bursting demons, and at its worst when trying to make you take the derivative lore seriously. Thanks to the evolving arsenal, combat manages to remain fresh, and is a surprisingly solid action adventure to close out the year with.