A bag sits in the middle of the grass. Noticing something suspicious, the guard wanders over to check it out. In this modern age, the next step would likely be to call the bomb squad, but this isn’t the 21st century. This is the Wild West. The guard looks around but there’s no-one there. Now out of sight of his companion, there’s no-one to witness his next move and his first thought is what he can steal. As he opens the bag, a blinding cloud of gas disorientates him for a vital few seconds. It’s the last thing he remembers.
A knife flies through the air, hitting its target for a clean kill. Two figures slowly emerge from nearby bushes. The first is John Cooper, a gunslinger who’s also quite handy with a knife. The second is bounty hunter Doc McCoy, owner of the aforementioned bag. They’re two of five Desperados players will meet as they travel across bandit country, hunting down old foes in a series of real-time tactical showdowns.
Desperados III Review – Mixing the Old and the New
Despite the III at the end of the title, this game will be the first experience many young gamers have with the franchise. Spellbound Entertainment’s series began with Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive 19 years ago. The last game to be released was Helldorado more than 10 years ago. In 2020, seasoned gamers will find a lot of things familiar with their beloved series, but some things have also changed. Most notably, development duties have fallen to Mimimi Productions, who entered into the genre with Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun.
The first thing players will have recognized are the two characters we’ve already seen. John Cooper returns with his knife and Colt, the latter of which can be used to take down two targets in quick succession. He also has a limitless supply of coins he can throw to distract guards. As well as his bag, Doc McCoy has vials of knockout gas and a customized Bunt, the closest the game gets to a sniper rifle. Temptress Kate O’Hara also reappears. She can don disguises, using them to distract guards or even lure them away. She has a pistol and vials of perfume that blind guards for a few seconds too.
There are five Desperados in total, and two of those are completely new. Hector Mendoza is a trapper who also carries an axe and a double-barrelled shotgun. His giant bear trap even has a name, Bianca, and he whistles to lure guards towards it. Isabelle Moreau is the most unique of the bunch. A swamp witch, she can mind control guards and link them together telepathically for double the damage. She also has a cute cat to distract guards. On their own, each of the five characters has clear strengths and weaknesses, but as a team they make for an almost unstoppable force. It’s a lot of fun to see what mayhem you can create by combining their abilities together in different ways.
While three of the characters are familiar to players, they’re not known to each other. Desperados III is a prequel, telling the story of how these characters met. This means that no prior knowledge of the franchise is needed to enjoy the story. The characters are taken across a variety of interesting environments and fairly hilarious situations. Some levels are fairly linear with their objectives set out in a specific order. Others are a literal sandbox where you can take on the objectives in any order they choose. The most important part is making sure you have a plan for everything.
Desperados III Review – A Perfect Plan
You have complete control over the game’s camera to scan the area thoroughly. You can rotate it and zoom in/out to get a better view and discover hidden enemies. Click L3 to highlight all of the interactive objects. Hit left arrow to highlight the view cones of your enemies, with green/yellow/red colors to indicate their level of alertness. All of the tools are here to help think things through and plan your moves in advance.
The best of those tools is Showdown mode, similar to the Quick Action function of old. This version is borrowed from Shadow Tactics, and critics of that game will be pleased to know there’s been improvements. Showdown mode now pauses the game and allows players to plan a move for every character available. If a character makes a close quarters kill, they can now pick up the body and retreat. The only downside that still remains is when you mess up assigning an action to one character, you have to scrap the entire plan and start again, something that gets tedious after a while.
There is a large amount of freedom to complete a mission as you see fit. Those like me will stealthily sneak through the bushes, picking off their targets in small numbers like a cowboy assassin. Others will set traps and use distractions to lure their victims away from the crowds. The most satisfying kills come from the environment. There’s nothing like flinging a coin at a bull, spooking it and causing it to gore an unsuspecting guard. It was an accident, honest.
With a full team of five people, some who can take down multiple targets, you can rack up a lot of bodies quickly. Nothing beats the pride that comes with a perfectly executed plan with multiple targets, all bodies hidden, and everybody safely back in cover. The problem is it’s too easy to resort to the same tactics over and over again. Showdown mode does give players the chance to experiment and try something new, but why fix what isn’t broken?
Desperados III Review – Things Can Go Spectacularly Wrong
What is certain is going in blind won’t work, period. Some situations are already difficult enough without surprises, and this game doesn’t resort to cheap tricks. Enemies don’t make unexpected movements unless you alert them. More enemies only spawn if an alarm is set off. When things go wrong, it’s because of someone you missed, a mistimed action, or a failure to hide a body properly.
The result of being noticed is nearly always fatal. With limited ammo, you’re not equipped for a firefight and practically every guard is armed. The mission fails as soon as a single character dies. You could try to get out of it with Showdown mode, but it takes skill and a healthy dose of luck to recover. The best thing to do is reload. Thanks to the quick save function, players can save whenever they wish. The game does constantly remind you to save with notices appearing every 60 seconds. When this does get too irritating, you can alter the time period between notifications, or even turn them off altogether.
Each mission can take between 1-3 hours, although the longer ones start to outstay their welcome. The result is a lengthy story as the gang helps John track down and take care of an old foe. Once a mission has been completed, players are awarded badges linked to their choices, specific actions, or tactics. As the badges often pertain to opposite actions, you’ll have to replay the missions to get all of them. There are also different difficulties to add an extra layer of challenge, including the toughest Desperado difficulty. Here players get very little ammo, all damage to players is insta-kill, enemies are tougher, and Showdown mode doesn’t pause the game.
The good news is that most players will find something to enjoy in Desperados III. Mimimi Productions has learned from the few mistakes they made with Shadow Tactics to make a real time tactical strategy/stealth blend that works incredibly well on console. There are enough choices and replayability to suit both newcomers and veterans to the genres. The game is a worthwhile addition to your collection.
Desperados III review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please see our Review Policy.