Weird West is one of those titles where you instantly feel like you should play it after seeing a trailer for it. It looks like a fascinating take on a familiar setting, and the fact that some of the people behind Dishonored and Prey are behind it certainly doesn’t hurt either. Was that anticipation justified? We checked out the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which is also available for Xbox and PC.
In cinema, it certainly feels like the golden era of the western is behind us – classics like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly are many decades old at this point, and you won’t find too many gamers that know who John Wayne is. Yet at the same time, the wild west has been an inspiration for a number of incredible games in recent years. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a great example, as well as Desperados 3. Go back a little further, and you’ve got Hard West and the Call of Juarez games.
Developed WolfEye Studios and publisher Devolver Digital are heading back to that backdrop here, although they do blend it together with a taste for the supernatural and occult. Over the course of the narrative, which is split across five shorter chapters/stories, you’ll encounter familiar “wild west” themes like murder and blackmail, but there’s also a fair share of dark rituals and witchcraft at play here.
As you’d expect, revenge is also a theme here, and you start off looking for it after a family member gets murdered. But rather than the slow paced affairs that many classic western films were, Weird West moves at a quick pace, and you can act violent and deadly towards nearly anyone you encounter. That’s a risky approach though, and it’s easy to fall in combat and be returned to a recent save point. It’s better to mix things up and perhaps avoid combat through stealth, or set up a fiery ambush.
It’s this freedom of choice in how you want to approach the game where you see the influence of games like Dishonored, even though this feels like a vastly different game. There’s a bit of a learning curve to the controls though, which include a few button combinations that need to be learnt and can take you out of the kind of flow that more intuitive/simple controls provide.
What’s fun is that, at times, Weird West also gives us Desperados vibes. Sure, you can go in guns blazing, but it’s a lot of fun to try and pick off enemies one by one by studying their behavior and catching them when they wonder off by themselves. And while you can stick to your standard arsenal, you can also specialize by unlocking special abilities. These are categorized, so you can select according to your preferred playstyle as well – boosting your skills with the knife if you prefer to get up close or getting better with a bow and arrow if you want to be silent and deadly from afar.
Little pathfinding and AI bugs can break the immersion for a moment, but ultimately Weird West is a blast to explore, and seeing the freedom in gameplay mechanics also translate to how you want to shape the story is a liberating and captivating experience. This is a game with a ton of replay value, and if the developer irons out some of the rougher edges then we can’t wait to play it again in the near future. Add a novel comic book-style presentation to the mix, and the anticipation was definitely worth it.