Desperados 3 offers an entirely different take on the wild west and it’s massively refreshing.
Most games that try to replicate the showdown at the old cay coral put the six-shooter in your hand and encourage you to shoot first, ask questions later.
Try that in Desperados 3 and you’ll be buried in the sand by sundown.
This is a top-down, tactical shooter that forces you to study your opponents carefully, use cover to your advantage, jump down off the top of trains, and conceal yourself in tumbleweeds and haystacks.
Sure, you can shoot your way through some situations, but the reinforcements that’ll pile on top of you when the alarm rings won’t go down easily.
So, your best option is to sneak around, throw knives at unsuspecting hombres, and even snare them in bear traps. It’s incredibly smart, but often immensely difficult, even on the easiest settings.
The layout of each level is structured in such a way that there’s a few approaches you can try to fulfil your objectives. The first few levels really take some getting used to, and there will almost certainly be a few deaths.
I think the part that has the longest adjustment period is using the game’s ‘Showdown Mode’ effectively. This basically slows down time – unless you’re on the hardest difficulty, then you can turn off pause – and lets you perform several actions.
At first, you can use it to shoot two different targets with your gun, or set a horse to mule kick an unsuspecting cowboy just by tossing a coin.
Later on, though, you can have multiple members of your team perform different actions at the same time, which is immeasurably satisfying when it goes off without a hitch.
The entire game can be played this way – and you’ll likely be relying on it heavily at later points – though the action remains fully dynamic, with enemies roaming freely around.
Each enemy has its own ‘civil zone’ cone which covers their line of sight and area they’ll be patrolling. Stay in that cone for too long and you’ll be spotted and shot on sight. However, there are areas within the cone that you can stay concealed, which presents some opportunities to breakthrough.
And each Desperado has their own method of attack, with Doc McCoy using a medical bag of disorienting gas, and Kate O’Hara actually disguising herself good for distraction.
Everyone is very different, but all their skills will be required in order to see you through to the credits roll.
So, despite the 3 behind the name, this is actually a prequel – unusual, I know – so you don’t have to have played a Desperados game before. Probably for the best since the last one came out over a decade ago. And both originals were only ever on PC.
The story follows the early years of central protagonist, John Cooper, a Bounty Hunter who meets up with a group of unlikely friends, working with them on a series of missions on a quest for redemption.
The story progresses through a mission-based structure, focusing on different Desperados as you move from Colorado, through to New Mexico.
It all flows together marvellously, with an easy to use save system that’s effective at the touch of a button, and a replay system at the end of each level to show your route through the mission. At over 25 hours, the campaign is a sizeable length and the Baron Challenges that appear later in the game also offer their own unique challenges, spinning the mission style around completely.
Though the text really comes up small on the screen at times, which is a bit of an issue for mission briefings and that can sometimes make it a bit of an eyesore to follow.
Desperados 3 is a tough, yet very rewarding game. You think you’ve figured out a way forward, only to have your plans spoiled at the last second, or for something to go unexpectedly wrong. Then you’re left trying to figure out the next move, hoping things will go better next time.
Death’s going to be extremely common, but each wrong turn always leads you to learn something new about the game, which is always a welcome challenge, especially when you’re really connecting with the characters, making gradual progress, and want to learn more about the story.
Levels do take a long time to power through – sometimes as much as half hour and that’s not even taking into account the deaths. But the story is surprisingly strong and there’s occasionally something interesting to do off the beaten path that can peak interest.
It’s just nice to be playing a more confined and tactical adventure in the Wild West. While Red Dead gave us an enormous playground to explore, Desperados 3 gives us a little bit less but still manages to create one compelling environment after another to really draw us into its excellently crafted world.
Desperados 3 is easily one of the best tactical games I’ve played this year and is one you’ll find yourself coming back too – often through gritted teeth – because you’re determined to see it through.
Desperados 3 is available on June 16th for PC, PS4, and XO
Tested on PS4
Code provided by THQ Nordic