Evil West is a remarkably straight-forward take on third-person action, a linear, propulsive fighting game with no open-world diversions, loot, crafting, or side-quests. The core combat system is fast, responsive, and fair, and the B-movie-style plot is well told through a series of high-quality cutscenes.
Unfortunately, the game caused controversy ahead of release thanks to a fairly unexciting set of resolution options, as reported by the game’s publisher – a 4K30 quality mode is normal, but 1080p60 performance modes for PS5 and Series X have many worried. Meanwhile, the Xbox Series S is getting a basic 1080p30 mode. The question is, if we look beyond the raw pixel count, is there engaging gaming underneath – and is performance really as simple as a simple 30fps/60fps split?
Before we get to these issues, it’s worth mentioning that Evil West does a few things well in terms of assets, lighting, environmental design, and render quality, with beautiful environments that range from deserts to sand snow-capped peaks and wet catacombs. It’s very much an Unreal Engine 4 game – expect a heavy reliance on baked-on lighting in fairly static environments – but I like how the visuals often come together.
Evil West’s visuals impress given his AA roots, but a few smart changes could really make him shine.
What really impresses here is the huge variety on display. Each level takes place in a whole new area with unique assets and a new visual language, which means that every thirty minutes to an hour or so you are transported to a unique place with new sites and many works of art interesting. Some of the views here look excellent and a lot of effort has clearly been put into making the game look fresh, without really compromising on the quality of each area.
This extends to the game’s cutscenes as well. There’s a surprising amount of high-quality pre-rendered cutscenes, largely based on in-game assets, but with improved lighting and animation. It’s a very action-packed game, so I was surprised to see so much time and attention devoted to delivering an engaging narrative experience.
Evil West offers an impressive variety of beautiful locations, bringing the countryside to life.
The fight is obviously the highlight and the results don’t disappoint. The game mixes melee combat with rapid fire and a nice variety of special abilities and cooldowns. All the animation work is really neat and responsive with smooth transitions. Each hit launches a lot of stylized blood and guts into the air, which is really satisfying and provides useful visual feedback. This is all backed up by extensive per-object and per-camera motion blur, which some may find excessive, but I liked. On the move, the action is fantastic, especially with lots of enemies and particles on screen.
Really, Evil West’s production values are just awesome in general. Coming from previous Flying Wild Hog titles, which were mostly more limited, low-cost gaming experiences, this feels decidedly different and much improved. Evil West stands neck and neck with other full-priced releases of recent times, with deft use of the Unreal Engine and many artist hours poured into this game.
So what’s wrong? This is clearly a cross-generational project and a keen eye will spot all sorts of concessions to 2013-era hardware. Asset quality, for example, feels good for the most part, but there’s slightly chunky geometry and low resolution textures in places. This is normal for most games, but no special effort seems to have been made to make these areas well suited for a ninth generation console.
The player character, enemies, and NPCs may exhibit an unusual specular glow that looks a bit out of place.
All the visual signatures expected from the eighth generation are there, including a reliance on screen space effects like SSAO, SSR, and screen space shadows. In still images the effect is superb, some disocclusion issues are visible in motion, especially with the shadows of larger geometric pieces. The lighting looks very good overall, with convincing bounce and dramatic light placement, but there are a few issues.
For example, baked global illumination solutions tend to struggle with dynamic objects and here the player character sometimes has a bright specular glow on his back in indirectly lit areas. This also occurs on enemies and NPCs in the game, although it is usually more noticeable on the player during typical gameplay. It helps that the game takes a semi-stylized approach to character rendering so that a bit of odd-looking specular doesn’t feel as out of place as it might in a more realistic title, but it still does not look great.
Interior spaces can sometimes appear pitch black even at midday, potentially a probe coverage issue.
There are also some issues with the game’s baked-in lighting: larger environments and large outdoor areas look great for the most part, but the small details don’t convince as much sometimes – perhaps due to the resolution of these effects. Real-time shadowmaps also feature quite limited resolution with some aliasing. Some interiors fare particularly poorly and seem to lack proper GI – not a particularly common problem, but one that could be fixed with some tweaking and more probe coverage.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with Evil West’s graphics, but the image quality and performance are a bit more difficult. According to Focus Entertainment, there are 4K30 and 1080p60 modes on Series X and PS5, with Series S being limited to just 1080p30. That doesn’t sound great for a cross-gen title, as something like 1440p60 or higher would be typical for most similar endeavors on PS5 and Series X, often paired with a bit of oversampling to resolve a more detailed image than the resolution of base. imply. The 4K30 mode at least looks about par for the ride, if a tad unexciting. However, the reality is more complicated. The Series X and PS5 versions in their quality modes seem consistent and stable, but a little softer and the pixel count shows 1728p resolution on PS5 and Series X instead of 2160p, which explains the discrepancy. Performance modes come in at 1080p as promised, as does the Series S.
PS5 and Series X are nearly identical except for slightly sharper shadows on PS5, but the presentation is softer than in many contemporary titles.
For a cross-gen game without boundary-pushing visual features, that’s a little disappointing. The experience can get a little blurry at 1080p and the quality modes on PS5 and Series X don’t deliver the kind of image clarity we’re used to seeing in games at 30fps on premium consoles from the current generation. Maybe Evil West is particularly taxing for some reason, but even if it is, oversampling or dynamic resolution would likely provide a more detailed result on a 4K display panel.
Aside from resolution, the consoles look very similar across hardware and visual modes, with only slight differences to shadow filtering – on PS5, shadows appear sharper with more defined edge detail. This has the unfortunate side effect of making the relatively low resolution shadows more obvious, so I tend to prefer how shadows look on Xbox platforms.
Unfortunately, there are some performance issues. I couldn’t spot any load-related drops on any of the current-gen console platforms or modes – but the 30fps modes suffer from intrusive frame-pacing issues. Essentially, you frequently get batches of 16ms and 50ms flickering frames, giving the game the appearance of little stutters and inconsistent movement. I think the game is otherwise well set up for a smooth 30fps experience with lots of motion blur and responsive animation, but the broken frame rate ceiling really needs to be fixed. It’s particularly pressing for the Series S, which doesn’t have a 60fps mode to use instead. If you get the chance, I think Series X and PS5 Performance modes are definitely the way to go right now, though all modes on current-gen consoles may need some work.
PS5, Series X and Series S unfortunately suffer from incorrect frame rate in their 30fps modes.
Evil West is an excellent action game. The combat system is fast and flexible, mixing melee and ranged weapons with a host of special abilities without feeling overwhelming, hit responses are satisfying, and enemies hit hard but have clear, properly telegraphed attack patterns which are fun to learn and operate. I really enjoyed my time with the game and I think Flying Wild Hog achieved something special here. It helps, of course, that the game generally looks great, with great environments and a ton of visual variety. This is of course a cross-generational effort and there are some lingering issues with the lighting, but overall I’m pretty happy with the visual composition of this game.
Unfortunately, the image quality isn’t great, with a smoother-than-usual presentation on current-gen consoles that doesn’t resolve a lot of fine detail. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it falls short of expectations for a cross-gen game. Game performance is harder to excuse, with unnecessary stutter thanks to the incorrectly paced output of frames when targeting 30fps. If you can ignore these issues, it’s a very enjoyable title – but with a little extra TLC and some fixes, Evil West could really shine.
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Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/digitalfoundry-2022-evil-west-tech-review-ps5-vs-series-x-series-s