It’s difficult to not smile when you look at the former PC Gamer columnist Xalavier Nels Jr.’s game premises. His other games include a “sci fi body horror market tycoon,” a “open world Strand type game” and An Airport for Aliens currently Run by Dogs (which, as it turns out, is its only name). El Paso, Elsewhere is his next game. (Opens in a new tabThis is a great game that I enjoyed playing at GDC last year. It’s about “confronting the relationship trauma” by stopping your ex-girlfriend Draculae (lord of vampires), who has hid at the bottom of 46 stories that suddenly appeared underneath a Texas motel.
To reach her, you will need to use guns, stakes, and guns against “distorted werewolves”, Biblically-accurate angels and vampires. Max Payne is heavily influenced by the third-person shooter. He has slomo jumping, a block-headed protagonist, and likes to monologue about all of life’s contradictions.
In one scene, he says solemnly: “She’s performing a ritual which will end the world how we know it.” It’s what she has always wanted, even though it was not what she had said.
Nelson, the character’s dark voice, enjoys a good paradox. Strange Scaffold, his studio, uses Unity’s High Definition Render Pipeline. This gives them tools that Unity describes as allowing them to achieve “high-end graphics realism”. If it wasn’t for dynamic lighting and volumetric fog, El Paso would look period-accurate.
Nelson said that Unity was using HDRP for movies and to rival Unreal. “And we were like, What if that was used to make a game which looks old?’
From what I have seen, it is not an easy game to play. You must preserve your ammo, but you can refill one-hit kill wooden stakes by breaking down wooden objects. This is a nice touch. Effectively using bullet time dodges against small hordes charging creatures requires practice. Or maybe just the ability to not go slo-mo if it’s not necessary. Although I didn’t have enough time to practice El Paso Elsewhere’s controls, I was able to dodge roll at a steady speed through small gaps in walls to escape monsters and gain some breathing space. I did run into some projectile-shooting enemies at the end of the demo. They could have been dealt with by slowing down to allow for mid-dodge shots.
Nelson enjoys the fact that you can identify which level designer created each El Paso or Elsewhere level. This is a nod to classic PC gaming design in that John Romero’s Doom levels can be identified as Romero levels. The El Paso level I played was made by Jim Brown, who “loves hiding weird chairs that float in midair and having small secrets and traversable spaces that you can only get through by rolling,” Nelson said—hence why I spent a lot of time rolling through gaps. As you’d expect from a game with Max Payne as its primary inspiration, there are many bathrooms.
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Although El Paso Elsewhere is not a tribute to Remedy’s classic shooter, I wouldn’t call it that. The dialogue and motel setting are very Remedy-like. However, Remedy does not have Nelson singing on the soundtrack or “molotov cocktails” filled with holy blue fire. El Paso Elsewhere is a attempt to create something new, despite being so enmeshed in past archetypes, forms, and styles. Nelson also mentioned Hotline Miami, which he considered an inspiration. At a high level that game seems like a good target: a game that may have been born out a fascination about the past but was original, surprising, and inspired future games.
But it turned out that I believe the message is clear. It’s not a good idea for vampire lords to date. El Paso Elsewhere will be released sometime later in the year. There is a Steam page. (opens in a new tab. For $5, you can now get a prequel called El Paso, Nightmare (Opens in new tab.
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