STAFF REVIEW of El Paso, Elsewhere (Xbox One)

Friday, October 27, 2023.
by Chad Goodmurphy

El Paso, Elsewhere Box art More than two decades have passed since Max Payne introduced the idea of slow motion diving and bullet time, which really set it apart from other shooters. In that time, it’s been borrowed by a couple games, or so, but not many at all. That’s surprising, given how the idea was pretty revolutionary at the time, and is still fun to this day – something we’ll surely realize when the Max Payne remakes are released for modern consoles.

There’s other proof of this, though, and it goes by the name of El Paso, Elsewhere.

A brand new game and IP from developer Strange Scaffold, El Paso, Elsewhere is a mix of Max Payne and things that go bump in the night. It centres upon a pill-addicted man named James Savage, who just so happened to date a vampire queen once upon a time.

After learning that his ex-girlfriend has plans to change the world for the worse, James packs up his car and heads to the middle of nowhere, where she’s holed up in a seedy old motel. When he gets there, he gets out his trusty guns, hunts for some pills and heads inside. It’s an interesting story, which is worth the price of admission, as James searches for Draculae and their relationship is revisited. Some is told through hidden projectors and tape players.

This isn’t a typical two level motel, though. In fact, it seems to go on forever, encompassing around fifty different stages. The idea is that, once he completes one floor, James gets back in the elevator and goes lower. What he sees as he descends morphs from a regular looking motel -- complete with rooms and public bathrooms -- to something resembling a large-scale graveyard.

At its core, El Paso, Elsewhere is a game that doesn’t care if it’s borrowed from Max Payne and the folks who created him. It’s unabashedly similar, complete with bullet time slow motion and the dives that complement it. Hell, you even pick up pills and can use them to heal yourself. Only eight bottles can be held at one time, though, if I’m not mistaken.

As you shoot your way through vampires, werewolves, flying monsters and more, you’ll attempt to save captives who’ve been kidnapped for use in the planned ritual. This is usually your goal during each stage, but sometimes the game changes things up and has you kill all enemies or do that while finding coloured ‘keys’ in order to progress. You can actually choose whether to save these people or not, with the alternative being shooting them yourself. Regardless, you must still find them all and do something with them before (most) stages are considered complete.

James picks up new weapons as he goes along, with those including a shotgun, an assault rifle, an Uzi, a single shot rifle and a launcher. He can use these to dispatch of enemies, while rolling away from danger and using bullet time to his advantage. Slowing things down can help a lot.

You should also know that El Paso, Elsewhere is far from an easy game. It gets quite challenging as you progress, and can be very frustrating. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that – once I exited out to the menu – I was able to change sliders, which really adjusted the difficulty. One was for damage taken, another was for how much health pill bottles gave me. There were also toggles for unlimited ammo and an unlimited amount of pills. These things made the game a lot easier and a lot less frustrating.

In fact, I give the developers credit, because all of my real complaints ended up being fixable. I’m not just talking about the above either. You see, I was frustrated that the guns didn’t automatically reload when I pressed shoot, and how limited ammo was. I was also annoyed by how the guns wouldn’t automatically switch to something else if I ran out of ammunition for the one I was using. The options menu solved these problems, though, because you can turn on auto reloading and auto switching.

Presentation-wise, El Paso, Elsewhere is a dated experience. It looks like a game out of the PlayStation 1 or PlayStation 2 eras, and is far from a current-gen showcase. This was done on purpose, though, and it gives the game a sense of style. The voice acting is also strong, but I did experience a lot of pop-in and screen tearing. This was on an Xbox Series S, as I wasn’t near my Series X to play it.

El Paso, Elsewhere originally caught my attention through a press release, and I’m glad that it did. As a longtime fan of the Max Payne games (I can still remember the day I got the first one for Christmas, and played it on my PS2), I was happy to play another game with bullet time even if it was originally quite frustrating. Thankfully, any issues I had with this game were able to be fixed, as well.

While El Paso, Elsewhere isn’t perfect, and has some issues – especially on the technical side, but not limited to it due to repetition and the odd shooting issue – it’s quite a good game and well worth checking out if you’re into this type of third-person shooter.

**El Paso, Elsewhere was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series S**

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.3 / 10
Visuals: 5.7 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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