how the West was overrun
“Ware you in hell?” says Wicked Westits player character as you enter yet another flame-covered arena, ready to dish out some Old West justice to whatever type of supernatural beast comes your way.
Wicked West has a distinctly retro flavor, mostly because the design feels like it fell from the design bibles of schlocky PlayStation 2 hits like The suffering or The shadow of Rome, but updated for modern times. This means there’s a pointless story and some odd design choices, mostly in the service of providing a good time.
You play as Jesse Rentier, a vampire hunter with a large metal gauntlet attached to his arm. Rentier works for the Rentier Institute, a sort of Pinkerton-esque vampire-hunting outfit headquartered in an old mansion. As you might guess from the name, the institute is a family affair, and Papa Rentier runs the institute and wants you to give up vampire hunting. Unfortunately, this is not on the cards.
“I’m a field agent, not a paper pusher!” yells Rentier Jr during an early cutscene. Men like him are in short supply, which is why you must beat the living hell out of every vampire and monster between here and the credits to save humanity, but more importantly, to save America.
It’s bullshit, is what it is. But as you dodge past enemies, slash enemies into the sky and hold them in the air with revolver shots while you wait for the telltale golden ring on another enemy that means it’s time to shoot them with the rifle for critical damage, you won do not care. Wicked West is video game thrash metal, and you’re constantly throwing down a whole load of enemies, not because you have to, but because you want to, testing out new upgrades or abilities as the game serves them up to you.
There’s dodge rolling and melee combos mixed with swinging the revolver at enemies and taking precise shots with a rifle. Some people might see the dodge roll and think it’s kind of soulful, but Wicked West is the still warm corpse of the type of action game that souls-similar genre killed – a reasonably low-stakes hack and slash with some weight. Throw in a trophy kill mechanic that has you throwing a glowing enemy into nads to regain health, or knocking them into a nice fog, and we’re partying like it’s 2004.
Proof of the pure PlayStation 2 nature of it all are the glowing chains that indicate where to go: these can be wrapped around a stake in the ground to tell you that something interesting is here, adorned on a wall to tell you that this is a wall you should look at or in some cases wrapped around tree branches to tell you you can swing there. One memorable moment even had me grabbing a chain from a tree branch so that the chain would fall down and I could climb it.
The current generation technology has allowed the team to do some cool things as well. An early inverted pyramid is one of the coolest sights I’ve seen in video games this year, all gloomy concrete and soft red light. Yes, Wicked West is pulpy. But it doesn’t miss when it comes to making things crazy.
And oddly enough, comes into this on the back of God of War Ragnarokthere are many times when Wicked West feels more fun. The production values are probably a single-digit percentage of Ragnaroks, and this shows in the slight clunking throughout, but at least you spend a lot of time fighting, enemies popping like ripe grapes as you wade through them.
Crucially, it is not as good as God of War Ragnarokbut if having fun is what we’re all about, you could do a lot worse than that Wicked West. Especially when you take into account the co-op game, where you can learn some of the undead minions with a friend. The combat doesn’t feel particularly well-defined for doing it together: there are weird animation glitches and the endless cursing of every cutscene, including only the main character and not his awkward clone that’s also there. Still, having someone to chat with while taking out the bad guys makes it more fun.
Wicked WestIts greatest strength is that it knows exactly what it is. What we have here is a solid three-star action game that’s enjoyable to play and a little rough around the edges elsewhere. Do I care about the story? No. Are the characters well designed? Also no. Do I get to execute werewolves by putting a shotgun in their mouth and blowing their brains out? Yes. And isn’t that what matters?
Wicked West launches on November 22 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. This review was played on PC.