April 15, 2024

A single good reminiscence can typically be sufficient to persuade (or trick) us into ignoring ache, struggling, concern, and disappointment. And when that single, solitary good reminiscence is related to somebody you like, it’s nearly unattainable to tear your self away from that pocket of happiness and face actuality. It’s much more sophisticated when the individual you like is The Lord of Vampires who have to be stopped to be able to save the world.

El Paso, Elsewhere is a third-person shooter with PS1-inspired visuals and fight straight lifted from Max Payne 1 and 2. You play as folklore skilled, monster killer, and recovering drug addict James Savage. He’s returned to his hometown of El Paso, Texas to kill Draculae, his ex-girlfriend who simply additionally occurs to be a robust vampire within the midst of a posh and harmful ritual that’s bending actuality itself. Her finish purpose: to destroy the world, one thing she’s at all times wished to do. It’s as much as Savage and also you—actually you, the folklore skilled continuously breaks the fourth wall—to seize some weapons, additional bullets, and loads of ache tablets to struggle your method by over 40 ranges constructed by the supernatural void Draculae has created. By the top of this neo-noir shooter you’ll not solely be preventing to avoid wasting the planet, but additionally to get closure after a poisonous relationship.

However let’s not get too slowed down within the narrative and themes simply but. I’ll discuss that extra in a second. As a substitute, I wish to reward the meat and potatoes of El Paso, Elsewhere: its distinctive, fast-paced, and snappy fight. As a result of even a superb script and considerate performances received’t matter a lot if the remainder of the sport isn’t value enjoying.

Killing angels with a shotgun

Inside the first couple of minutes of El Paso, Elsewhere it’s clear that this sport is pulling closely from 2001’s third-person noir-drenched shooter Max Payne—particularly the primary two video games. Savage is a personality able to shoot-dodging and activating bullet time, which lets him decelerate actuality and take out hordes of enemies identical to Max Payne himself. You’ll spend loads of time in El Paso, Elsewhere leaping throughout rooms in sluggish movement whereas blasting away vampires, werewolves, and different creepy creatures.

Over the eight hours or so it took me to complete the sport, I by no means bought bored or bored with taking down crowds of monsters utilizing bullet time. And in contrast to Max Payne 3, there isn’t any cover-based capturing in El Paso, Elsewhere. James Savage is all about working and gunning till the whole lot within the degree is lifeless, that means the motion is quick and you might be at all times transferring ahead.

Screenshot: Unusual Scaffold / Kotaku

shooter is made up of many issues, however two of an important elements are the weapons and the enemies— El Paso, Elsewhere nails each. In your journey to cease Draculae’s ritual, you’ll uncover about half a dozen firearms, with every one serving a particular function within the sport’s fight loop. You begin with twin handguns that are exact and quick, later you discover a heavy and highly effective shotgun that may ship werewolves spinning off into the void with every shot, whereas a lightweight however snappy assault rifle can clear rooms at a distance. And close to the sport’s remaining ranges, a grenade launcher can turn out to be an issue solver when rooms get too crowded.

Every weapon feels completely different and none appear to be a one-size-fits-all-solution. Yeah, the shotgun can kill many enemies with a single shot, however it takes a lengthy time to reload and has little vary. Every weapon has these little commerce offs, forcing you to swap continuously to remain alive.

Serving to to steadiness the weapons is the roster of monsters and unknown creatures you’ll discover lurking within the sport’s varied ranges. You aren’t preventing random henchmen with pistols or snipers. As a substitute, El Paso, Elsewhere’s baddies are all supernatural beings like werewolves, mummified vampires, biblically correct angels, creepy puppet masters, and different nasty issues I received’t spoil right here.

Every of those enemies fills a particular position throughout fight. Puppetmasters flood the battlefield with annoying little puppets, werewolves cover and ambush you on the worst time, and angels bombard you with highly effective assaults from above. And the way in which El Paso, Elsewhere’s handmade ranges and fight encounters combine up these enemies is essential to its fight feeling so good.

Every encounter is like gunfight chess, as you must make sure you decide the correct weapon for the correct struggle and take out particular enemies first. And as an alternative of creating enemies bullet sponges to extend the issue, El Paso, Elsewhere depends on the way it mixes these creatures as much as create more difficult fight conditions later within the sport.

Don’t fear, if the motion will get too laborious there are some considerate problem choices that, amongst different settings, allow you to decrease how a lot injury you’re taking or what number of ache tablets—used to heal your character—you’ll be able to carry.

The results of all this cautious balancing and design is likely one of the greatest shooters I’ve performed in 2023, one which stands toe-to-toe with Max Payne and Management.

A screenshot shows James diving and shooting at enemies in a neon colored hallway.

Screenshot: Unusual Scaffold / Kotaku

Do you could have a superb purpose for all this violence?

Positioned between all of the implausible capturing and monster killing are brief, fashionable cutscenes that inform the story of a damaged man making an attempt to avoid wasting the world whereas additionally making an attempt to confront somebody he loves who harm him badly. All through El Paso, Elsewhere, we study extra about its principal characters and its world by cutscenes, hidden-away projectors, audio recordings, and inside monologues. James Savage talks lots within the sport, offering perception into who he’s, why he’s doing this, and what he desires. And like Max Payne, he loves a superb metaphor or self-deprecating comment.

I additionally beloved the little bits of out of doors media that creep into the void, like demented podcasts about serial killers, twisted adverts about creepy folks, and random voice messages from unsettling callers. There’s even a radio drama you’ll be able to take heed to that’s clearly primarily based on Max Payne, as if this sport wasn’t clear sufficient about its influences.

If the writing was poor and the voice performing sloppy, I’d most likely be irritated by all of the chatter and further bits of lore. However as an alternative, I wished extra of it and would search by ranges in search of something I may need missed.

By the top of the sport, I wasn’t simply rooting for James to avoid wasting the world, I used to be additionally excited to see him lastly get some closure and transfer ahead in any case he went by. El Paso, Elsewhere is likely to be a shooter, positive. And a rattling nice one, too. Nevertheless it’s additionally a sport that explains how monsters are available many kinds and folks can harm you with out laying a single hand on you.

I don’t wish to smash the whole narrative or its ending, as I feel it’s value experiencing unspoiled, although I’ll present a content material warning. If you’re somebody who has been in an abusive relationship, moments in El Paso, Elsewhere might hit too near house. Care for yourselves, people.

A screenshot shows James and a woman talking in an elevator.

Screenshot: Unusual Scaffold / Kotaku

The actually spectacular half about El Paso, Elsewhere is that it manages to steadiness its darkish and heavy narrative with over-the-top fight and capturing. Neither smash nor distract from the opposite, however as an alternative mix to create one thing solely a online game can present.

As Savage struggles to return to phrases with what Draculae did to him and what she is, the sport will get tougher. As he pushes ahead and stumbles, we get to assist him by hallways of werewolves and painful recollections of what as soon as was and can by no means be once more; assist him shovel just a few extra tablets into his mouth so he can save just a few extra harmless folks.

At occasions, El Paso, Elsewhere seems like a long-lost Treatment sport—the devs behind Management and Alan Wake—and that’s positively intentional.

In case you informed me this was a proto-Max Payne, one thing made by the studio earlier than it went off and did its different video games, I’d purchase it. It’s that good and feels that uniquely earnest in a method Treatment video games typically do.

El Paso, Elsewhere is each a badass shooter and a examine of how folks deal with poisonous relationships. It walks that tightrope and sticks the touchdown so strongly that I ended the sport and instantly wished to play it once more. And I most likely will, as a result of James wants me to assist him as soon as once more save himself and the world.

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