El Paso, Elsewhere pulls inspiration from some of the greatest games of our time. Remedy’s Max Payne left a mark on the industry, one that is felt today in how developers design their video games. And for good reason: the series featured incredible mechanics paired with exciting characters. It’s like ordering a steak and glass of wine at your local steakhouse and enjoying indulgence for an evening.
Except instead of playing Max Payne, you now star as James Savage, a pill-addicted vampire hunter whose ex-girlfriend just so happens to be a vampire hellbent on destroying the world as is. Draculae has the end of the world on her mind, and it’s up to Savage to ensure the world doesn’t end. A lot of the experience banks on the struggles Savage has and how the story approaches the protagonist’s predicament. In short, it’s done in an exceptional way that pulls inspiration from its legacies in an impressive and meaningful way.
The Town Of El Paso Is Filled With Nocturnal Nightmares
In many ways, I found El Paso Elsewhere to be a spiritual successor to the Max Payne series in several ways. With the narrative barreling forward to tell a fascinating story, you’re often anxious to press on and discover more story beats. The ritual your ex-girlfriend enchanted has ripped a hole in the fabric of reality, and as she’s holed up in a seedy motel, the action and circumstances around the location devolve into madness as the further down Savage goes into the puts of reality, the more rage you’ll encounter.
What brings together the experience in El Paso, Elsewhere, is the central relationship between James and Draculae. Both characters stand at opposite ends of the story, and neither is willing to budge on their beliefs. My experience in a past life may not have had the apocalypse dangling in the balance. Still, I certainly have felt the loss of love due to a personal belief that left me on the receiving end of heartache, and that feeling is skillfully represented.
The voice acting for both Savage and Draculae is probably some of the best I’ve heard recently. Occasionally, you’ll stumble upon audio logs throughout your excursion down the elevator, providing insight into the pair’s former relationship in a thoughtful manner. These logs aren’t just informative; they’re peppered with playful exchanges, and Xalavier Nelson Jr. and voice actor Emme Montgomery should be in many more projects if this is what they can do on a minor game.
Slow it down and make every shot count.
The main mechanic is gunplay and how you’ll need to focus on defeating waves of enemies. It sounds simple initially, but things do not often go well for our protagonist. Your primary duty is to explore the various levels and enter the depths of this insidious situation. Ensuring the action feels satisfying by clearly outlining what players need to do to continue – often clearing out nests on each floor before continuing onward.
In many cases, this gameplay loop becomes old fast in many games and rightfully so, as it barely provides any excitement. However, that’s why I said most games, such as El Paso Elsewhere, are rare exceptions to the rule because of how exceptional the gameplay feels thanks to excellent design by the developers. Of course, you have moments of slowed-down combat ala Bullet Time, allowing the player to approach enemies gracefully and accurately.
Taking further inspiration from Max Payne not just by how the mechanics pay homage to Remedy’s classic but also through its visuals. Using a low-poly aesthetic, James’ story invokes feelings I had while playing through the OG Max Payne, even to the internal monologues James has with himself as he explores the various levels of the void. Clearing each floor is satisfying, with multiple humans needing saving from monsters looking for a sacrifice.
A lot of the fun bullet-time mechanics become situationally made for the gameplay in El Paso, Elsewhere and ensure you’re pulling out all the stops to make your trip down to the depths of hell as flashy as they are brutal. James can only take so much damage, so I often found myself looking to put distance between my character and the enemy so I could then slow time down and pull a clip of bullets into an enemy before moving out of harm’s way again. Whether you’re exploring the decrepit hals within the motel or heading to the eerie rows of a gravesite, there’s always a situation where James is often outnumbered but never outmatched, thanks to his ability to slow time down.
El Paso, Elsewhere takes an audacious step by blending its dark narrative with an experimental hip-hop soundtrack. This bold choice elevates the game’s atmosphere, adding tension, excitement, and emotional depth. The tracks set the pace and make specific sequences unforgettable.
When paired with some great audio cues and design choices, the music makes for one hell of an experience. These effects are mixed impactfully, and the world feels much creepier and eerie. Even when playing on a handheld, you could feel a lot of the gunfire hit enemies, and it was consistently satisfying.
El Paso, Elsewhere is exceptionally engaging and visceral, making you want to push through to the end. Between the excellent enemy consistency that challenges the player to think outside the box and the incredible story of two lovers firmly on opposite side of the situation, everything comes together to tell a brilliant tale fresh enough to be easily recommended to your friends.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]