PS4 Review Weird West Weird West PS4 Review

Weird West Review (PS4) – The Richest, Weirdest Game World In The West

A new horror Western game from some of the great minds behind Dishonored and Prey? Weird West comes with lofty expectations. Can it win that particular duel or will it end shooting itself in the foot first? The short answer is, Weird West is pretty quick on the draw.

As a result of that pedigree, Weird West did admittedly feel a tad underwhelming at first. The story starts strong at least. A mysterious opening segues into a former bounty hunter’s life in the immediate aftermath of the murder of her son and the capture of her husband by cannibals.

She comes out of retirement to pursue vengeance as she travels across desert, swamps, towns, and mines in her bloody quest. That alone would be a fine story to tell, but Weird West goes oh so much further.

Weird West Review (PS4) – The Richest, Weirdest, Game World In The West

A Horror-Westerner With Fine Pedigree

You see, Weird West lives up to its name as the story transitions to multiple viewpoints from very different characters, and throws witches, werewolves, pigmen, zombies, and even a Wendiigo into the pot, with an intriguing overarching story binding it all together.

The action is viewed from an isometric vantage point, and visually speaking, Weird West utilizes a cel-shaded look to its world, albeit one without the cartoonish excesses of Borderlands in tone, both visually and narratively.

Combat is gleaned largely from the twin-stick shooter school of thinking, with the analog sticks moving and directing fire, while the actual aiming and shooting are triggered by the back triggers like most third/first-person titles. So on the surface, it appears to be an action-heavy isometric story-based game, but somehow, developer WolfEye has crammed a whole set of RPG and Immersive Sim mechanics in there as well.

An Open World Packed With Dark Humor And Darker Secrets

You travel between areas on a darkened map, finding new areas as time progresses ever on. When thrust into an encounter, or indeed when arriving at your intended destination, it drops the player character and any buddies into a literal piece of map that holds the actual landscape, where the current objective plays out, and then you go back to the main map, and travel to the next map piece.

It’s a cleverly consistent and streamlined way of doing an ‘open-world’ without bogging down the game’s greater ambitions by focusing on building something more physical. It’s just as enjoyable to explore as well. Full of dark humor and darker secrets to uncover. What sets Weird West’s world apart the most however, is how it shifts and changes with the passage of time, and as a result of your actions.

It’s no exaggeration to say that entire towns can rise and fall in your time out in the Weird West. Inaction on your part has just as much effect as getting involved in a situation. There are certain events you can’t avoid in order to progress the story, but the world at large goes on in the background. Several groups are warring across the West, and the poor public get caught in the crossfire in multiple ways.

Five Consecutive Stories Told Through Unique Characters

Loose ends from your hostile encounters can also come back to bite you and others. Foes don’t always stick around to get ventilated, and can scarper off to report to their boss or other nefarious pals. That can end up with you facing down an ambush or a town massacred because of your association.

You jump through five consecutive stories, where time is constantly passing by. You can head back to where you left a previous character at the end of their story and potentially recruit them to the current character’s quest.

Smartly, WolfEye has managed to ensure each of its protagonists is largely unconnected beyond the overarching story, so it allows for a lot of different flavours in the storytelling, and a giddy curiosity in making them meet up as you progress.

Each character’s introduction adds another layer to the weird of Weird West, and enriches the tidbits of information picked up in each story. Every character has their own set of upgradable skills specific to them and their unique abilities, but the five also share an ongoing set of upgrades that carry over from one story to the next.

These are obtained by collecting golden tickets found throughout the world, and increase things such as health, sneaking speed, reload time, how many shots you can fire off in the game’s version of bullet time, and how much damage you can do off a stealth shot.

You can see the Arkane roots in WolfEye’s largely ambiguous, ambitious presentation, but Weird West’s setup allows it to go even harder, creating a deeper world with more memorable characters. Then there’s the freedom of the immersive sim mechanics that stack another juicy layer on top.

Fights can be avoided, entire areas can be cleaned out without firing a shot, and the right piece of information can stop mass bloodshed. Weird West is surprisingly flexible in how you approach any given situation considering it seems set up for gunplay first.

Minor Issues Don’t Hold Back This Twisted Version Of The Old West

Much of what you find in the Weird West is cash, junk, and guns. There’s not many stealth weapons (a bow and arrow plays a significant part in one of the stories, though), but there’s plenty of tactical advantages to be found in any given map such as explosive barrels, secret passages, environmental hazards, and even pushing rival factions together to wipe each other out. It’s not Dishonored levels of sneaking required overall, but it comfortably flips between stealth and action throughout.

I say comfortably, but if there’s one little rock of discontent jammed in Weird West’s spur, it’d be how the combat works on a controller. Now, obviously the idea is never to go in all guns blazing because it’s simply not that kind of game, but the control setup is so particular for combat that it can be unnecessarily convoluted in the heat of the moment.

Now, it’s something I believe the game grows into as time goes by, but even later on, moments of fiddly chaos come because Weird West seems better suited to a mouse and keyboard setup. You can tell this most clearly when trying to ‘look’ at one item on a table that has multiple things on it. Outside of just picking everything up, you have to find exactly the right angle to get what you want at times.

It’s a good thing then, that the rest of Weird West is so utterly fantastic that I don’t much care about that issue in the grand scheme of things. I’ve loved every downbeat, moody second I spent in this twisted version of the Old West.

The twangy notes of the excellent soundtrack soak every moment in a rich, salty atmosphere, and the dark hearted supernatural edge to an embittered world makes for an exciting prospect. It sometimes reminds me of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, particularly the parts about Roland’s past and The Gunslinger.

Its flexible scope means it holds plenty of replay value as well, with the first run taking me about 15 hours when all was said and done, but there’s so much I missed by not straying too far from the ordained paths.

Treasures to be found, extra context to stories told, and closure for those missing something in the arid badlands and toxic swamplands of the Weird West. It’s a rough, strange, hostile place to live. There’s no taming it, but I wouldn’t ever want to try.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.

Weird West is out on March 31, 2022 for PS4, PC, and Xbox One.



The Final Word

With Weird West, WolfEye has created an ambitious immersive sim hybrid that sucks you ever-deeper into its gritty, bizarre world of the cults n’ cowboys like a particularly impatient quicksand. It occasionally struggles to translate its combat to a controller as smoothly as it could, but the rest of this package is so damn intoxicating that it matters little in the long run. A masterful game with a fascinating set of stories to tell.