Growing up in a small western town in Arizona I’ve always been fascinated with the old west. I was surrounded by the history and the myths on a regular basis and always loved taking in the stories of gunslingers and cattle rustlers. While they seem to be few and far between, the past several decades has seen its fair share of classics. Ranging from the first-person spaghetti western Outlaws released by Lucasarts back in 1997 to more recent titles such as Rockstar Games incredible Red Dead Redemption series. Desperados 3 offers its own unique blend of action and stealth to add a new and exciting twist on the old west trope.
Desperados 3 is a tactical, stealth based, isometric game that takes place ranging from Colorado to New Mexico. It’s a story driven narrative that will ask you to step into the boots (and heels) of five distinct and interesting characters. Utilizing each of their unique skills, you traverse the various landscapes to complete each chapter mission. The game is actually a prequel to Desperados 2 (released all the way back in 2006), although it isn’t necessary to have played the previous installments to jump right in and play. The story’s main protagonist is John Cooper, a young man hell bent on revenge and the various companions that he meets along the way.
If your idea of being a gunslinger in the wild west involves quick draw, high-noon events, then Desperados 3 might come as a bit of a shock. To be successful in the west, it requires a lot of stealth, springing on your foes from the bushes, and keeping things quiet. While you have your trusty side-arms, they tend to draw to much attention, so sneaking up and striking from behind tends to be the order of the day. It’s a real-time game but can be paused to sync up character actions if you so desire. In fact, utilizing the ability to initiate to separate actions by both characters at the same time can often be the difference between life and death. You can choose to go the non-lethal route, knocking unconscious and tying up your victims, or you can choose the more vengeful approach killing everyone in your path and hiding the bodies. While it might pull at your own moralistic view of how you play the game, there really isn’t any discernable punishment regardless of the path you take.
Each character has their own special abilities that can be activated when needed. John Cooper has his silent knife that he can throw at enemies to silence them quickly, but also can shoot two enemies at once with his trusty pistols. Doc McCoy can silently snipe enemies from afar. Kate can use her womanly wiles to distract an enemy’s attention allowing your other character to sneak by. There is Hector, who can lay down a particularly large bear trap and can carry two bodies at a time (disposing them in bushes or wells to keep them out of sight) and finally Isabelle who can unleash some voodoo magic of her own to link enemies together and dispose of them both. The characters carry on their own unique conversations as you traverse the world, each sharing a bit of their backstory as well as any of their shared history.
One of the most important things that you will learn in Desperados 3, is to save and to save often. You know a game is serious about saving when it not only introduces you to the mechanic during the tutorial, but it also has a clock that is consistently counting up from when you made your last save. Desperados 3 will punish you regularly and challenge you to identify the best route to dispatch an enemy while drawing the least amount of attention. Be prepared to save a lot (I found myself saving on average every 2-3 minutes depending) as you discover the best way to complete a mission. Stealth is key here, if the enemy is alerted to your presence, an alarm will sound, and you will be faced with four or so more additional enemies that you will have to contend with. There is a game mechanic that you will use regularly that will display what all the enemies can see and also depending on what skill you are attempting to use what area they can hear as well. This ensures that you and your compadres are kept out of sight as much as possible.
After each mission the game does reward you based on how well you performed. Completing a mission in under seven minutes might earn you additional points or completing a mission without killing someone. These “challenges” are really more for replay ability than anything else, but for those who feel the need to complete each level’s specific challenges they are a welcome addition. Each mission itself can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the method you choose, and while it’s not truly open world, most of the missions can be completed in any manner you see fit.
Desperados 3 is about 30 hours from start to finish (depending on how you play) and graphically it looks beautiful. The mix of stealth and puzzle elements keep the gameplay fresh and exciting. While those who are looking for something a bit faster paced might be disappointed, it’s hard to argue with the satisfaction you feel when you drop a boulder on two unsuspecting thugs below. The game proves that there is more room in the wild west then simply fast gunfights and roping cattle. While I had not had the opportunity to play previous Desperados games, I feel that after playing Desperados 3, it’s time to go back and try the earlier versions. So, dust off your trusty Stetson, grab your biggest belt buckle, and hunker down for some exceptionally satisfying game play.
What I liked: Beautiful Graphics, Fun and interesting game play
What I liked less: Characters occasionally get stuck on the environment, controls can take a little getting used to
4.5 out of 5 stars