Weird West Review: An Exciting Take on the Dark Side of the Wild West

by David Sanchez April 8, 2022 @ 8:30 am

Weird West

Reviewed on PS4

The Western genre is intriguing for its larger-than-life take on the actual Old American West. Tales of bandits, gunslingers, standoffs, saloon brawls, and wanted posters are all too common, and they’re exciting because they’re an often exaggerated take on what actually happened. Meanwhile, the weird west genre cranks the fantasy dial even more, introducing supernatural, fantasy, and horror elements. It’s no wonder then that the aptly titled Weird West from WolfEye Studios is filled with intriguing concepts and themes — and it capitalizes on those themes by delivering a genuinely interesting gameplay experience.

Revenge, Zombies, and Pig Men in the Wild West

Weird West follows a lot of the tonal and storytelling beats you’d expect from a game based on the Wild West. But like the subgenre it’s named after, it also drops bizarre creatures, monsters, witches, and magic into its world. For every gunslinging vigilante, there’s also a werewolf or siren. It’s a great mesh of styles, and it makes for a legit interesting world.

You play as Jane Bell at the start of the game. Jane is a retired bounty hunter who’s forced to dig up her irons once more when her other half is kidnapped by a gang of cannibalistic outlaws. It’s a great setup that leads to multiple playable characters, each shaping the game world and narrative for the next.

Weird West PlayStation 4

Throughout the course of Weird West, you’ll play as a pig man and a werewolf, among others. It’s cool to be able to play as different characters as it gives you a different view of the game world that they each live and breathe in.

There’s a little bit of voice-acted narration in Weird West, but the majority of the story and dialogue is presented in written text. Thankfully, the characters’ lines are written pretty well and true to that Old West style, so you can almost hear these characters talking to one another. The dialogue isn’t always super-exciting, but it works really well, and when it wants to, it gets gritty in all the right ways.

Wild West Meets Horror, Action-Adventure Meets CRPG

Just like Weird West is a mix of narrative styles, it also blends different gameplay elements quite well. It plays a lot like an action-adventure game with third-person shooter mechanics, but at times it also feels like an old school CRPG. While playing, I was reminded of my time with Wasteland 3. And though it never reaches that level of CRPG depth, there are a lot of awesome systems at play here to keep you hooked.

Weird West Skilltree

As you adventure through the game’s world, you’ll find new weapons, upgrades, and abilities. Jane Bell, for example, can slow down time while diving through the air as she fires away, a la Max Payne. She can also use a special ability that turns foes into friends for a few seconds.

When you arrive in a new area, you often have to take down enemies and engage in challenging real-time sequences where you’re heavily outnumbered. If you’ve met and assisted NPCs along the way, there’s a good chance they’ll show up to lend a helping hand, which is pretty cool and definitely useful.

After defeating gangs of enemies, it’s always a great idea to scour the area for items you can sell, upgrades, and better gear. I actually found these parts more interesting than the combat. Not that the action isn’t exciting — but the action gameplay mechanics in Weird West can sometimes feel a little janky. It’s nothing game-breaking, and the scrappy nature of the game is certainly charming, but it can lack a little polish at times.

Blood and Grit

Weird West Gameplay

Graphically, Weird West is like a combination of a graphic novel and the aforementioned CRPG genre. It can certainly look a little rough in spots, but it’s still interesting from a visual standpoint. The sound design is solid overall, too, with gritty Wild West-appropriate music and good sound effects. The audiovisual presentation as a whole could certainly be a bit stronger, but what’s there works well enough.

You can expect to spend around 25 hours playing through the five interconnected narratives in Weird West. That play time will increase quite a bit if you take the time to explore optional areas on the map (many with fun secrets to uncover) and take on bounties and other challenges that are a great deal of fun. While not mandatory, a lot of these allow you to experience more of the game and go deeper into its setting, which is definitely worth doing.

It can be a little sloppy in parts, especially in terms of its combat (which is still fun), but Weird West is a beguiling mesh of styles, bringing together horror and the Old West really nicely. It’s gritty, action-packed, and compelling, and it’s just a whole lot of fun.

Score: 8 out of 10

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