West of Dead
Upstream Arcade/Raw Fury
Video games set in the Wild West have been somewhat of a novelty throughout the years. I got my first taste of this genre when I tried out developer Neversoft Wild West sandbox game, Gun, which debuted back in 2005. It was a great game, with excellent writing, strong voice acting, and its famous ‘QuickDraw’ slow-motion aiming mechanic, which made gunfights over-the-top and cinematic. Since then, with the exception of the Red Dead Redemption franchise, there really hasn’t been anything that has captured the gaming public’s attention.
Indie developer Upstream Arcade takes a more surrealistic approach to their new Western-themed game, West of Dead. When I first checked out the game’s eye-popping, cel-shaded, edgy aesthetic style, I thought it really stood out, not just within the Western genre, but among games in general.
West of Dead is a straight-up blast from the past in that it’s a twin-stick shooter, where your reflexes are paramount to success. It’s also a rogue-lite experience that can be pretty challenging at times and make you want to pull your hair out because of matters that I’ll discuss in a bit.
You play as William Mason (voice acted by gravelly-voiced Ron Perlman), a man who has died but has no memory of how he bit the dust, nor anything about his former life for that matter. Now, you must fight your way through purgatory against legions of foes, in order to find a priest who could be able to help you out with some answers.
Control-wise, everything is set up in pretty standard fashion—as with other twin-stick shooters, you control William’s movement with the left stick, while the left stick and trigger button aims and fires your guns, respectively. The longer you depress the trigger button, the more accurate your shots are.
There’s a witch that you can visit in-between levels and you trade sin (that you acquire) in exchange for shields, weapons, and health. You’ll want to get these as high as you possibly can because you’ll need every bit of help you can get (especially health).
Depressing your bumper keys allow you to interact with objects, activate abilities, and wield William’s handy machete for up-close engagements. You can also quick-heal by drinking health flasks, which you’ll have to do quite often because of the game’s difficulty.
Each room that you enter is purposefully dark, so you’ll initially be at a disadvantage since you can’t see your enemies, but they can see you. Therefore, you’ll have to light up rooms using candlelight or gunfire (or both). Unfortunately, the game’s camera frequently gets in the way of the action, so you won’t always know if you’re behind proper cover, since walls may obscure your line of sight.
West of Dead boasts that it has procedurally generated levels, but the only thing that is switched around for each rundown is your enemy’s placements, as well as where all of the loot chests and weapon locations are.
William doesn’t have bottomless magazines for his guns, so you’ll frequently have to dive behind cover in order to reload them, which can take some time. While he’s stuck in his reloading animations, enemies can get a bead on him and blast away until he’s a goner, so you’ll constantly have to be on the move.
West of Dead’s gunplay is pretty solid. You enter rooms and dive over, and around, cover while blowing foes away in an almost John Woo style. However, this bullet ballet is somewhat marred by the game’s clunky camera as well as the fact that your enemies are virtually perfect shots. Linger in a spot for a millisecond too long and you’ll end up deader than dead—and that happens a lot.
West of Dead has a novel appeal that oozes with style. While its gunplay is fun for a while, it eventually becomes rather repetitive, at least for me. I can see enjoying it in small segments, but that’s about it. However, if you’re into Western-themed games and twin-stick shooting action, you may want to try this game out, just don’t expect too much depth behind all the visual flair.
West of Dead has some pretty good looking graphics that make its shooting gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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