West of Dead
Developer: Upstream Arcade
Publisher: Raw Fury
Genre: Action & adventure
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 18/06/2020
Price: £16.74 – Currently part of Xbox Game Pass
The game was purchased by the reviewer.
“This is like Dead Cells but with guns,” is the first thing that came to my mind when I started West of Dead.
Developed by a four-person studio called Upstream Arcade, this Western aesthetic roguelike puts us in the shoes of William Mason, a mysterious character who has passed away and is in Purgatory. He remembers almost nothing of who he was in life, but that matters little now.
The Action As A Strong And Differentiating Point
The shootings are not bad for West of Dead, because after all, that’s where it has to stand out. What we have here is a twin-stick shooter with an aerial camera that stands out almost entirely from the frenzy that characterises this type of game. It’s not about moving very fast, shooting at full speed, and dodging thousands of enemy projectiles. On the contrary: West of Dead is a slow and methodical game.
The ammunition system sets the rhythm. Depending on which weapon we carry (up to two at a time), these will have a series of bullets in the magazine. They are not usually too many; five are already considered many, in fact. When spent, the weapon will reload automatically, and we will not be able to fire it again for several seconds. The bullets are unlimited; we don’t have to pick them up from the environment or anything of that style, but it’s essential to know how to manage when and how we shoot, because those seconds where we will have to reload will leave us in a very bad position.
The Importance Of A Strategy
Enemy attacks don’t go easy on you since any of them can drain a good chunk of the health bar. This is where the covers come into play, present in practically every room where we fight with these creatures. Nor is the cartwheel missing, which is exhibited in a very cool slow motion if we successfully dodge an attack at the last moment. All this gives rise to a highly strategic action in which you have to know who we are facing, when to shoot, where to shoot from, and when to hide.
In a short time, we will be performing manoeuvres worthy of an action movie, and that’s where the West of Dead’s forte lies. The game wants to make us feel that we are the coolest in the place, the most “badass”. The animation and sound of killing an enemy with an accurate shot from our rifle are highly satisfying; running away from bullets by jumping over a cover and hiding behind it, and then counterattacking from our safe point is also great. Don’t forget the aforementioned slow motion.
Successes And Mistakes In The Game’s Inspirations
West of Dead is a roguelike, and yes, its structure is very similar to Dead Cells. Throughout the levels, we will get Sins, which are the equivalent of the Cells of the game of Motion Twin, and we will be able to exchange them for improvements at the end of each one. New weapons that will appear in the random cast, more potions to heal us and have more chances of survival, etc.
Even the structure is quite similar. By defeating certain bosses, we will obtain abilities that will allow us to open other paths and explore alternative routes.
Voices From Beyond The Grave
A narration that we are discovering through the raw voice of Ron Perlman, the actor who gave life to Hellboy in the two film adaptations of Guillermo del Toro. Transfer that makes all the sense in the world when we see that the aesthetic chosen for West of Dead is a cel-shading indebted to the grim drawing of the Mike Mignola comics.
Perlman does his job perfectly, nothing to object to, but when all we have is the amnesiac protagonist of a dark story – the kind that creates a mental image of whiskey, cigars and guns – speaking in voiceovers all the time, ends up getting tired.
Almost all the sentences are written with a pessimistic talk about how dead the protagonist is. How difficult it is to get out of here. How little he can trust the different characters that appear, and so on. It’s not that he is especially a fan of this pretended mature tone, so seeing how the protagonist continually turns on the same topics without contributing too much outside the main scenes, as good as Perlman’s loud voice is, is not my thing. In a short time, it ends up becoming a hum with which you have to live with.
As I said before, it is a more than a correct excuse to approach the shootings from different perspectives, enough to continue starting a new game after another. Weapons and abilities are usually very different (in terms of the effects they produce, rather than handling and gameplay) and each one has its utility if we know how to handle them well.
But as I said, where West of Dead stands out is in action; it is above all a game about feeling cool. If it has cost me to swallow that sour and melancholic narrative about the suffering of a man trapped in Purgatory, it’s because when it comes to playing it, it’s anything but sour and melancholic. He is stimulating, forceful, and a lot of fun when he knows how to do things well. Although from time to time he stumbles over himself and ends up diminishing this feeling, the action of West of Dead knows how to shine with its own light.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase West of Dead from the Microsoft Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.