West of Dead, the twin-stick roguelike shooter by developer Upstream Arcade and publisher Raw Fury, is now in open beta on PC and Xbox One.

The game takes you to the grim and gritty world of Purgatory, where you step into the shoes of dead man William Mason. Why you’re there, and where “there” is, are unclear – all we know is that our hero doesn’t remember who he once was. And that he is voiced by non-other than the legendary Ron Perlman.

West of Dead is a fast-paced, yet calculated action shooter. You better count every bullet as reload times, cover, and quick reflexes matter. Without taking it all into account, you won’t survive long in the underworld.

Cover is destructible, and only hold up against a few shots. You must think your way through the battlefield, especially in a room loaded with enemies shooting or running towards you. Luckily, the camera zooms out during combat to give you a better view of the battlefield, so you can plan ahead while dodging bullets.

Purgatory is a world of light and shadows that look visually amazing but also have an essential role in combat. Enemies lurking in the shadows cannot be targeted, so you need to light up the room before you can start disposing of them. Igniting lanterns also gives you a momentary edge as it stuns enemies.

As you progress the dark maze of Purgatory, you come upon totems that let you “grow” – upgrade your health or damage during your current run. You also collect Sins and Iron, two currencies you use to enhance your skills and purchase new weapons, respectively.

West of Dead beta

The visuals look good, though they might be a bit lacking in finesse and polish. For example, character models are a bit pixelized around the edges in a way I don’t think is intentional. I also encountered an amusing visual bug that happens when you try to drink a potion while running. The running animation is replaced with a drinking animation, but William still floats forward as if running. But, you know, we are talking about a beta here.

Speaking of beta, there a few enhancements I wish West of Dead would add as it approaches launch.

The cover system needs to be improved. There were too many times when I tried to enter cover, but William just stood there or even tried to walk through the cover. Also, being able to shoot or kick and stun an enemy while vaulting over cover could be real badass.

Sliding between covers and rolling out of the way of bullets feel good, but right now still looks a bit off. Whether you are dodging over a short distance or a long one, your character always moves at the same speed, and it looks unrealistic and a bit janky.

West of Dead beta

All I could think of while playing West of Dead was, “I don’t want to stop.” My overall experience was outstanding, and any anticipation or hype you might have for the game is entirely justified. Movement is fluid, and combat is fun and doesn’t hold you back. It’s something worth waiting for.

West of Dead is coming later in 2020, on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch. In the meanwhile, play the beta and show that Wendigo who’s boss.

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