My latest Game Pass obsession is a vampire-punching action game that could be Red Dead Redemption 2's wacky alternate timeline

Evil West on Xbox Game Pass
(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

There are few moments in Evil West as satisfying as the meaty wet thud of uppercutting a vampire for the first time. Don't get me wrong, I love a well-placed headshot as much as the next third-person shooter fan, but there's something so deliciously, comically visceral about introducing Jesse's gauntlet to the jaw of a Sanguisuge Vessel and watching it stagger back in confusion. 

I've had my eye on Evil West since it launched back in 2022. Like many of us with monstrous backlogs, however, I never got as far as clicking "add to basket". Cue my excitement at seeing the rootin' tootin' vampire shooter getting added to the Xbox Game Pass roster last month. I'm on a bit of a cowboy kick, having recently played Red Dead Redemption 2 for the first time as well, but this Wild West is teeming with far more bloodsuckers than Arthur's. Coming off the back of something so intense, I'm grateful for Evil West on many accounts.

Vampire bat country

Evil West screenshot

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

One thing I noticed – and loved – immediately about Evil West is its simplicity. In a game landscape filled with sprawling 100-hour RPGs, each brimming with dense main and side quest material, collectibles, craftables, complex combat systems, and more, this no-fuss single-player action game feels like taking a full-bodied sigh.

Evil West is a love-letter to mid-2000s action games in the best of ways. It cuts through the noise to deliver punchy yet intuitive combat that doesn't take hours to master, a dynamic setting with an immediately likeable protagonist, and from what I've played so far, the start of a focused, linear storyline to keep you barreling ahead. I was sold almost instantly. But as I race through this veritable feast of vampires, gore, bandits, and more, my mind keeps circling back to a very different video-gamified take on the perilous Wild West.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the kind of game I love to death and probably won't replay anytime soon because of it. Rockstar's wide open plains of the American heartlands paint a beautiful, troubling backdrop, and as gruff outlaw Arthur Morgan stares down the barrel of a life of sin, the catharsis of it all is a unique kind of gut wrenching. Meanwhile, Jesse Rentier is an entirely different hero; he's here to have a good time, and he doesn't feel bad about it.

Evil West screenshot

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

When it comes to riotous, nostalgic joy, Evil West more than packs a punch.

I don't feel bad about it either. I'm not comparing Evil West and RDR2 as games, but as totally discrete Wild West adventures that represent two contrasting takes on an action-packed epic. 

It's fun to imagine Arthur Morgan tearing monsters to shreds in the afterlife, but I probably wouldn't have even put the two games in the same sentence had I not recently rolled credits on one of them. Sony Santa Monica's fellow 2022 offering God of War shares way more of a similarity when it comes to combat feel – and perhaps that's why Evil West feels like such a breath of fresh, blood-tinged air to me right now.

That being said, the older-school gameplay doesn't come without its fair share of lovable clunk. The frame rate and picture quality leave much to be desired on my Xbox Series S, but toggling the camera shake off helps alleviate a lot of that sluggishness. There are moments early on where I kind of wished for a peek behind the curtain at who Jesse Rentier really is, from his motives to his background, and being walked through each of his combat mechanics can feel a tad like too much hand-holding. Similarly, I can see anyone who feels strongly (note: not me) about the whole yellow paint on interactable objects debate having a field day over the white-highlighted ledges dotted throughout the environment, serving as directional signposting. This is a 2022 game that has all the reckless abandon of a time long before we had the energy to nitpick stuff like that, though, so it's not phasing me at all.

If you also never got to check out Evil West a couple years back, take this as a sign that it's more than worth your while in 2024. It might not possess the razor-sharp technical mastery you'd expect from the best action games of our time, but when it comes to riotous, nostalgic joy, Evil West more than packs a punch. And a few bullets to boot. 

I finally got around to playing Red Dead Redemption 2 for the first time, and it's changed my opinion on fast travel in open world games.

Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.