BETA REVIEW: ‘West of Dead’ is a Promising Comic Book-esque Shooter

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West of Dead

West of Dead is a twin-stick shooter developed by Raw Fury and featuring tactical cover usage, procedurally generated levels, and punishing enemies. Currently available as an open Beta on the Xbox One, West of Dead is set in a Purgatory that is based on the Wild West, full of six-shooters, cowboy boots, and saloons. But that may be where the similarities end. The enemies you’ll encounter are both human and not; the bosses you’ll encounter range from witches to wendigos.

You play as William Mason, a gunslinger whose most prominent feature is a flaming skull for a head. Voiced by Ron Perlman, Mason wakes in Purgatory with just a single memory: a man in black. Your search for this man leads you through a shifting world that breeds nothing but more chaos as you set a chain of events in motion that could spell out mythic consequences.

West of Dead is a fast-paced twin-stick shooter that allows for dynamic gunfights due to the ability to use the scenery to your advantage. Players can take cover behind tables, shoot over boxes, ricochet bullets off of walls and around corners, and use lamps to stun enemies. The possibilities are infinite not only because of the dynamic action but also because each level is procedurally generated. This means you’re not going to encounter the same set of enemies or hallways. You’re not guaranteed the same guns available at the beginning of each level nor will you encounter the same boss at the end.

West of Dead

The enemies you’ll encounter are diverse in both attacks and movement. Some enemies only use melee attacks, some use a variety of guns, some will charge you, and some have shields. Every room you walk into may not only have a random combination of enemies but also change the objects in the environment you can utilize. Because of this, each encounter may require different tactics to conquer and overcome.

Currently, how the game works is you start a “run” which randomly generates a level, the types of guns available to you, the enemies you’ll encounter, and the boss you’ll fight. Once you’ve beaten the boss, you get taken back to the menu screen to start a new run. You don’t keep your guns or your upgrades. If this is how the game works upon release, I can’t see me playing this game for more than a few runs. I can only assume that this setup is just for the Beta so hopefully, this one-and-done mechanic isn’t going to persist. On top of this, there’s very little plot. Upon starting the game, Mason mentions that he has no memories but that of a preacher. The bartender mentions that Mason’s amnesia is odd and warns him of the preacher. This is an interesting setup and I’d love to further explore this in the full game.

West of Dead has an art style that is very reminiscent of some of the Hellboy comics. It seems adequate since Ron Perlman is voicing Mason but it also really brings out that gritty, gruff Wild West vibe. The game graphics feature deep shadows, dark colors, flat shading, and, overall, just a very simplistic art style that gives the game a comic book feel. Perlman also embodies Mason well with his gravely voice and morose intonations.

West of Dead is a promising shooter that offers dynamic gameplay and challenging levels. However, what makes this game replayable may be dependent upon the inclusion of a more prominent storyline and the ability to retain weapons and upgrades. I can only expect that the Beta doesn’t include these because it’s just that: a Beta.

The West of Dead Beta is currently open to all Xbox One players.

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