El Paso, Elsewhere is all about love — from a love of rap and hip-hop, Max Payne-style shooting, and the love of messy relationships. When the game successfully captures these elements, it's great to play; however, I wish these moments occurred more often.
The story follows John Savage, who arrives in the town of El Paso with a mission to stop his former flame, the vampire queen Draculae, from ending the world. However, he faces an array of obstacles such as the mysterious void, menacing monsters, and potentially still having feelings for the woman who broke his heart (metaphorically).
The story takes a significant cue from Max Payne’s distinctive style, with John (wonderfully portrayed by writer/designer Xalavier) musing about his current violent rampage and the implications it carries for the woman he once loved. Despite the use of still images in the cutscenes, the voice acting and camera angles come together to create a beautifully stylized aesthetic.
Slo Mo Shooting
The nods to Max Payne go beyond the story, with John entering bullet time, diving around, and using an array of guns to stop the monstrous enemies, all set to the backdrop of a hip-hop horror-infused soundtrack. Each stage’s structure focuses on rescuing hostages to unlock access to the elevator leading to the next section of the void. Here, enemies await and spawn in proximity to the player. Besides your arsenal of guns, you can also shatter objects to discover stakes, which serve as one-shot solutions for most enemies and are essential for taking out elite foes and bosses.
The gunplay is good, yet it doesn’t introduce any huge innovations compared to the original Max Payne. Compounding this issue is the enemy behavior; they either rush towards you or aimlessly fire projectiles. It’s here that El Paso Elsewhere falls a bit short for me.
Shooting Into the Void
The game’s style harks back to the dreamlike, mysterious quality of the dream sequences in Max Payne, as well as the more surreal levels found in Control and Alan Wake. However, when the game aims to be trippy, it can lose its distinctive appeal. While there are great environmental visuals that give the impression of a world pieced together from different locations, this aesthetic doesn’t fully translate into the gameplay experience. Much of your time is taken up by navigating nondescript hallways in search of remaining hostages or keys, only to face spawning enemies.
Another issue the game faces is how bullets are generated from the reticle location rather than the character model. Many moments occur where, as an enemy draws near and you point the cursor directly at them, the bullet materializes beyond the target, allowing the enemy to take free hits. Given that most enemies tend to close in on the player as much as possible, this situation happens often.
The levels that intentionally do not follow the standard script are the most successful ones within the game. I would have liked more of that style to help break up the pacing.
Throughout the game, players can find hidden collectibles in the form of lore that provide further depth to John’s and Draculae’s relationship, along with some Easter Eggs. It’s the story that shines more than the gameplay, and the levels that concluded without introducing new story elements felt like unnecessary filler.
My main concern with the game is that, while the story was truly excellent and held my attention until the very end, it had little integration with the gameplay. It did not matter how many bathrooms, castles, and meat lockers I ran through if all I was doing was slow-mo diving while engaging in combat against angels and vampires using a rifle.
Love Is All You Need
El Paso, Elsewhere is a love story first, and a third-person shooter second. If you are hoping for the other way around, then you might end up disappointed.
The game is a great example of how a strong aesthetic, story, and cinematography can elevate an experience. If you are looking for an amazing stylized story, with some shooting along the way, then you should check this one out.
This was played with a press key from the developer.
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