El Paso, Elsewhere is a supernatural act as Max Payne shoots to its own rhythm

There’s no dancing around it: El Paso, Elsewhere, the new action game from Strange Scaffold, is an unflinching homage to the acclaimed 2001 action classic Max Payne. It’s a clear influence that writer, director, and voice actor Xalavier Nelson Jr. does not shy away from it but also hopes to raise the bar for modern audiences. During my hands-on game preview, he told me, “I’m not interested in recreating Max Payne; I want to see what Max Payne could be next.” And for eclectic developer Strange Scaffold, that means a supernatural neo-classical journey through a dimensional motel to prevent the world from being overrun by vampires.

You play as James Savage, a folklorist and drug addict on the hunt for his ex-girlfriend, Draculae, who has been hiding in a motel where she plans a ritual of destruction world. That doesn’t sound like your typical noir story, but all the pillars are there: a stern and flawed protagonist spouting sarcasm breaks the fourth wall in prose poetic; a fat woman at the center of a melodramatic plot about love, loss and betrayal; and lots of gun ammo, violence and substance abuse. “We were trying to adapt that pulp sensibility for a modern audience,” Xalavier told me, insisting on translating it into a neoclassical genre.

I was a huge fan of the first two Max Payne games, and if there’s one thing that El Paso, Elsewhere nailed, it’s its familiar sense of motion and shooting. The way James Savage is front and center in the frame; slightly high camera angle; and the flow and movement of his three-hole jacket as I glide through the flaming guns – these are small details, but their subtle nuances are expressed in a way that pleases me with my posture. how to be a Max Payne enthusiast. I sprinted through the corridors of a maze-like motel, which zigzagged and transformed around every nook and cranny, making it feel like something out of an ongoing nightmare. I traced the blood to a bathroom partition door that opened onto a bloody industrial kitchen. A hall turned into a graveyard, flooded with neon green and purple lights. I was able to explore these spaces while rolling, diving and jumping through the air in slow motion, shooting at werewolves and vampires to the pulsating beats of hip-hop horror. The controls are intuitive to me because about my closeness to Max Payne; I know if I press the Tab key, I’ll take a painkiller to restore my health, or if I right-click, I’ll jump into a mid-air bullet dodge.

El Paso, Elsewhere
El Paso, Elsewhere

Exhibition room

Intuition control Max Payne aside, Strange Scaffold has added more options for how to weather the wave of monsters than its basic inspiration. Rolling is quick and responsive, often acting as a reliable move to put some distance between you and the vampires and werewolves; you can kick through walls to plunge; and a sweeping pile-based melee attack, one that kills multiple enemies at once – at the cost of a wooden stake, which can be obtained by breaking wooden furniture.

But for all the stylish fighting moves, dual pistols, shotguns and Uzis, El Paso, Elsewhere are pretty tough. Unlike Max Payne, turning on the painkiller is not an instant heal but instead sends the player to a slow pace while James Savage bounces a pill back. This forced me to readjust my muscle memory, as I was quickly overwhelmed by enemies, often getting stuck in corners when stuck in the healing animation. In fact, although it shares most of the same maneuvers as Max Payne, the variety of enemies – including wandering vampire monsters, dancing werewolves, and angels launching attacks attacks directed at me – causing me to play nonstop games of sprinting shooting and zigzagging through corridors desperately to collect ammo and find time to rest to take painkillers. It was hard and led to a lot of death screens that said “You keep going” and took me back to the level to get through. The difficulty feels like something I could have managed if I had more time with the game, but for the slice I’ve seen, it feels punishing for lack of resources while sprinting continuously. past a shape-shifting motel. However, Nelson Jr. mentioned that the difficulty expansion is still being evaluated as the game continues in production.

At the time, though, I caught a glimpse of what could be a truly satisfying id-like experience, tapping into a state of flux set to a hip-hop horror hit by RJ Lake and Nelson. Jr multifaceted writing and performing. Rolling through the cemetery, shooting monsters to the energetic rap beats and flowing tunes made me feel super fun. It’s just that I rarely get to that state.

Between the vibrant color levels and the glare from the guns firing in the dark spooky hallways of a motel, I also took a look at some of the game’s complete action cutscenes, there is a gray-haired noir archetype voiced by none other than Nelson Jr. . The 25-year-old game developer is taking on a lot of responsibility in this game, not only as head of Strange Scaffold’s studio and creative lead on El Paso, Elsewhere, but also in the main portrayal of the game. James Savage character. “This has been the biggest writing and acting challenge of my career so far,” he said. And when asked about portraying a drug addict, he replied, “I had to sit back and think, ‘Is this just another black addict? a prototype I’m working on?'”

Strange Scaffold is no stranger to using the freedom of his art collective-like design approach, engaging developers from all angles in independent contexts to build experiences. Distinct experiences like the currently dog-run Alien Airport or the Space Lords Organ Trading Simulator, but dealing with a Black protagonist’s drug abuse is new territory for Developers. “We can’t be incorrect. We need to get it right and uphold it,” he explains.

It is a sentiment that can be heard in the dialogue of El Paso, Elsewhere. A mantra that holds true to earlier studio outings in the medium: “So let’s take it from the top, like a jazz standard, played in our day, the loudest there is.” body”, all of which are interspersed with the sound of guns being loaded and hammers being loaded. It feels like Strange Scaffold is playing to its own gunfire with El Paso, Elsewhere. We’ll have to wait and see how things play out when it releases in the fall of 2023 for PC and Xbox Series X|S.

The products discussed here are independently selected by our editors. GameSpot may receive a share of the revenue if you purchase anything featured on our site.


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