El Paso, Elsewhere begins with James Savage, a man who has sent himself on a literal suicide mission to find his ex – Draculae, a vampire set to destroy the world by sending it into the void. As James embarks on his journey into the transformed El Paso motel (a previous 3-story building, descended into a 46-story abyss), you must wield your weapons, pop those pills, and must always keep going. As you descend further into the hellhole that is the void, you learn that this would be no easy task and the option to leave seems near impossible as the lift hangs from a single wire, overlooking the surreal, otherworldly abyss that looks back at you.
James Savage is addicted to pills and of all the days to go completely sober, it is one that relies on him saving the entire world. If you believe he can do it then he may have the courage to actually believe in himself too. What are you waiting for? This is Vincent’s review on El Paso, Elsewhere.
A Slow Motion Rollercoaster
The void which Draculae has summed up from her powers has resulted in the loosened grip against her followers – Werewolves, Monsters, Ghouls, Knights, Puppets, and more. Each floor offers enemies, more often than not as repeated entities you must fight, with a few differences in between to feel like you are actually making progress. As James you have the ability to break down doors with your trusty shotty, destroy barricades to find the hostages needing rescuing, and pull levers to unlock areas. The map is reminiscent of old-school DOOM where enemies lie in wait to ambush you through doors, surround hostages in a small room, or appear out of thin air when your guard is down after picking up a key item.
Being a throwback to the better days of the PS1 era of gaming, El Paso offers graphics and gameplay similar to that of Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne. The ability to use slow-motion through corridors and pick off enemies at the same time is a plus to the overall enjoyment of the game however this alongside other gameplay mechanics gets old rather fast. And unfortunately, I mean very fast – Chapter 5 onwards type fast. Many Chapters can be completed within the 3-minute mark and for a third-person shooter with slow-motion involved, I was expecting more of a challenge than what I experienced.
The main problem with El Paso, Elsewhere is how repetitive it feels. Although the game provides breaks through the use of narrative, and the occasional switch in gameplay such as arenas where you need to fight off waves, navigate through a labyrinth to find hostages or levers to progress or follow each path set out in front of you as enemies fill each room you enter; you will find yourself often repeating the same path over and over as the layouts feel exactly the same aside from switching between inside the motel grounds, cemetery, or labyrinth walls. Everything feels linear and not as open as I initially felt in the demo I played. I could aimlessly walk around from Point A to B and find myself at the place I needed to be with very little thought or effort.
The character models and fast-paced action gameplay give off that old-school, iconic Grand Theft Auto vibe. El Paso, Elsewhere offers a nostalgic trip with its overall aesthetic, modernized by its soundtrack, that takes you back to those golden days of Video Games that are deeply missed by 80s and 90s kids. The monsters you come across appear like something out of the foggy town of Silent Hill, adding a layer of survival horror into the mix of the classic third-person shooter, and whilst I truly appreciate the overall aesthetic of the game, the repetitious gameplay ruins the overall experience and my attempt to try and label it as an all-out entertaining feature.
The Shine of Creativity That Sadly Lacked Re-Playability
I have massive respect for creativity and originality in video games – the opening being one of the best I have experienced in a good minute. I also appreciate the POIs (Points of Interest) being outlined by beam indicators above you as the ceiling on every floor is ripped apart by the void and the only thing keeping you from falling into the deep, dark abyss is the ground below your feet. The soundtrack is truly a thing on its own, feeling like the Video Game is accompanying the music, rather than the other way around. El Paso is effortlessly cool with its great monologues, better voice acting, and banging soundtrack, it is just a shame that the gameplay does not match this whatsoever.
El Paso offers a brief challenge with its gameplay as you need to ration out your ammo available for a variety of weapons and evade attacks with a perfectly placed slo-mo dive roll. But you do get used to every mechanic in the game as it is played into your hand over and over, with little difference against the enemies or surroundings in front of you. The death screen is an incredibly unique touch as it demands players to keep playing, rather than making them feel inadequate for failing. El Paso is the ‘Just Do It‘ of Video Games, beckoning players forward into the void and to see the game through regardless of how many times they die. But does it retain your interest to keep going?
Video Games nowadays try super hard to give you new concepts that often end flat due to their gimmicky nature or glitchy results. With technology improving year in and out, sometimes going back to the basics and where it all started is the best way forward. There is nothing wrong with PS1/ PS2-style graphics so long as the product provides entertainment and unfortunately, El Paso just misses the mark. The graphics, soundtrack, and voice acting are the makings of a great Video Game but it will always come down to how good the gameplay actually is to inspire players to keep playing and El Paso does not have that polish necessary to keep going.
A Love Letter to the PS1 That Doesn’t Call for Revisits
Finally, I want to highlight that El Paso offers players the opportunity to use infinite ammo and painkillers (health) throughout their playthrough. Although this removes the overall challenge of completing the game, it does offer players the opportunity to focus on hitting those cool slo-mo shots, find story secrets, and take in every detail of Elsewhere inside the El Paso motel. This would have been a great feature if it wasn’t for the fact that the game’s main flaw is how quickly you get used to playing it where the challenge feels removed, regardless of using Modifiers or not.
Although El Paso feels like a love letter to the PS1, its finish lacks the finesse needed to make the game what it intended to be – entertaining. The only true parts of entertainment I found were in the narrative in combination with comedic dialogue and the OST (Original Soundtrack). With satirical advertising and witty remarks by James, all whilst listening to ridiculous lyrics accompanied by a banging bass places El Paso, Elsewhere in the realm of ‘not taking itself too seriously’ and I love that.
I honestly wanted to love this game as I had high hopes for it after the demo but unfortunately, due to its gameplay flaws, my love for the voice acting, vibe, and soundtrack wasn’t enough to keep me invested. The soundtrack is definitely one to remember but with the repetitive gameplay, you may struggle to find that urge to keep going as the game asks you to.
El Paso, Elsewhere is available now on Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.