Going through a break-up can be hard at the best of times. For a lot of people, it involves curling up on the couch, sticking a sad playlist on Spotify and eating plenty of comfort food. For James Savage in El Paso, Elsewhere, his break-up with the vampire lord Draculae has led him to a motel in the middle of nowhere, Texas, to stop her from invoking a ritual that could bring about the end of the world. Some break-ups are harder than others, but when it comes to fun old school games, El Paso, Elsewhere is well worth checking out.
A Max Payne inspired shooter from the folks over at Strange Scaffold, El Paso, Elsewhere expertly blends supernatural horror, simplistic yet punchy and enjoyable gameplay and the brilliant writing you’d expect from something with noir influences. While it’s not a perfect game by any means, largely with regards to gameplay variety and pacing issues, it’s an ambitious journey through addiction, love and surviving abuse that’s worth checking.
The crux of the entire game, and the reason why you’ll stick around until the credits roll, is James Savage himself. As a character, there’s a lot of depth to him, as there are so many moments in the script that showcase how his own self-worth and sense of pride have been broken down over the years, either by his own anxieties or through external forces, especially his former lover Draculae.
Their relationship is possibly one of the more complicated and nuanced you can find in gaming. Savage himself has been a victim of Draculae’s abuses, and despite the fact he’s travelling to the depths of Hell to stop her from ending the world, he’s still trying to find the positive side to her, all because of “one good day” they shared. Savage stuck around because of the hope that his abuser could be better, all because they proved they could be once, which is about as tragic and as human as you could get in a game about shooting vampires and werewolves in the face with a boomstick.
It also helps that El Paso, Elsewhere is remarkably well written and acted, with each cutscene and conversation in Savage’s head revealing a new quotable line, a relatable bit of self-deprecation or a funny observation. Even the collectibles and optional content are stellar, though they exist on the opposite end of the dramatic spectrum. A radio show called Pill Cop or a car salesman advert about someone with no cars because a tornado blew through are just some of the ridiculous highlights that help provide a bit of levity during some of the game’s more tense moments.
Of course, the story of El Paso, Elsewhere would mean nothing if it was a Max Payne homage with rubbish gameplay, but Strange Scaffold nailed it in that regard too. The range of weapons on offer all feel satisfying to use, with the shotgun, tommy gun and rifle being particular highlights. Shoot dodging, rolling and slowing down time are also present, giving you an added edge in fights when you’re surrounded on all sides. Hitting the slow-mo button and nailing some headshots does not get old.
Unfortunately, there’s a couple of issues with the overall formula that might be a bit of a dampener for some, with the lack of enemy variety being the main one. Unlike Max Payne, there’s no goons with guns, so instead, you’re fighting various monsters and other creatures, but with six regular enemy types, one miniboss type and two actual bosses, levels start to feel a bit samey after a while. Later levels just start throwing hordes at you, when perhaps a new kind of challenge would have been preferable.
On top of that, the game’s pacing feels off, in the sense that you spend the first two thirds of the game gearing up for a big fight, which finally happens, only for another 12 to 15 levels to appear, offering the same gameplay challenges, enemies and weapons. The time spent with the characters in these levels is great, but from a gameplay perspective, it feels like El Paso, Elsewhere begins to outstay its welcome by the end.
Despite some filler levels though, El Paso, Elsewhere is a journey that will stick with players for a long time, whether it’s the low-poly visuals that take those Max Payne nightmare levels to the next level, the incredible story and writing or the satisfying gameplay. If you’re looking for an indie adventure to enjoy during this season of big AAA releases, El Paso, Elsewhere is an easy recommendation.
A copy of El Paso, Elsewhere was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
El Paso, Elsewhere might suffer from some filler levels, but the excellent gameplay and writing make it worth checking out.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.