Flying Wild Hog as a studio is in an interesting position as it seeks to reach beyond being “the studio that makes Shadow Warrior”. And, while Shadow Warrior 3, the latest game in that series, was solid, albeit short and a little buggy, Evil West seems like the studio’s first big hit beyond that series which made it famous.
After going hands-on with the game for 30 minutes at Gamescom 2022, I had a lot of fun, shooting and pummeling demons with powerful punches and snappy, lock-on aiming. But, as I got to grips with the combat, the real golden nugget embedded within Evil West is how it replicates the recently rebooted Doom games but with a third-person twist. It also offers a combat dance of intertwining mechanics that, when mastered, make you feel like a god.
The boss fight at the end of my demo showed me what Evil West‘s dance is like. Fighting the giant creature felt like the best moments from Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal as I dodged attacks from the boss, landed a punch or a hit, dodged again, and fired my weapon to hit weak points when they revealed themselves. It all flowed beautifully and felt amazing.
Controlling the arena, rolling out of the way, and managing the mobs that spawned as I was fighting the giant winged Highborn creature was adrenaline-pumping, and some kick-ass music also added to the intensity. From my brief time with the game, one of Evil West’s strongest assets is how responsive it feels.
Punches feel meaty and impactful and watching bits of your enemies fly off as you land hit after hit is as satisfying to watch as it feels to perform. Your gun can be aimed manually or fired from the hip, but the game makes great use of auto-aim and even has a snap-lock system that allows you to automatically target enemies at the right moment to obliterate their limbs and leave them stunned.
As I played through the demo and got a handle on the combat more, I found great satisfaction in switching between these two modes of attack and developing a rhythm. That rhythm is different to the one you experience in boss fights as you are managing a crowd of grizzly-looking creatures or western gunslingers.
So, instead of honing in all my focus on one target, I was dodging and darting between enemies, landing hits where I could, or spraying bullets in a direction before closing the gap for a finisher.
These elaborate combat dances all take place on a stage where blood paints the floor, body parts fly as enemies shatter, and bright orange fire rages from TNT stockpiles you blow up. It’s a true spectacle and the over-the-top effects and explosions compliment the over-the-top chaotic nature of its combat, creating a great sense of synergy and vision between the whole experience.
Playing Evil West was probably the most enjoyable 30 minutes I had at Gamescom and all I want now is more of it. If the game could make me feel this way in just 30 minutes, I can’t wait to see what the full experience does to me.