Lifelong console gamers may not know all that much about the Desperados series, but if you’re a screen-scorched PC gamer of a certain vintage, then you’ll probably have heard tales of John Cooper and his multi-skilled band of Wild West vigilantes.
At the very least, you’ll know it as /Commandos but with horseshoes and ten-gallon hats/.
Saddled up by Mimimi Games (who made the excellent Shadow Tactics), Desperados 3 is reviving a series that’s been buried in the sand for 13 years. It’s bringing back the characters, freedom of approach and gritty tales of frontier justice of the original series, while spit-shining it for today’s PCs and consoles.
Desperados 3 will be the entrypoint into the gritty Desperados universe for the majority of players, so the developers made the wise call to set it before the events of the other games. It’s a true prequel with a standalone story, following US Marshal John Cooper as he bands up with four vagabonds in search of a mysterious man called Frank across rural America.
It’s largely inspired by the beloved first game, released way back in 2001, with a focus on complex sprawling missions layered with choice. Each objective has multiple paths and styles of approach. Will you go in all guns blazing, cut throats and lay traps, or use the environment to take out multiple enemies in apparent ‘accidents’?
Each of the five unlikely heroes has their own unique set of skills and weapons - from Doc McCoy’s gas trap and poison syringe, through to Kate O’Hara, who can avoid attention using disguises, and draw attention by charming enemies.
Beyond the legendary mission design, the original game was also renowned for its picturesque pre-rendered settings. While Desperados 3 is fully 3D, its art style makes each setting pop - from arid mountains and wooden-patchwork frontier towns to the swamps of Louisiana and bustling city of New Orleans.
Aside from the developer’s very own Shadow Tactics, it’s not often we see classically styled real-time tactics games like Desperados 3. And like Shadow Tactics, Desperados 3 is helping to modernise and broaden the audience for this historically hardcore genre.
It does this from little things like optional reminders to quick-save (thank you very much!) to stylised mechanics like Showdown mode, which lets you momentarily pause the game to queue up several actions simultaneously, then execute them all with the single press of a button.
Speaking of buttons, Desperados 3 can be played with a classic mouse-and-keyboard setup or with a gamepad, which makes character movement completely dynamic. PC purists may baulk at this idea, but the devs have already done it before with Shadow Tactics, and it works beautifully, letting you carry out missions on a big screen while kicking back on the sofa.
Desperados 3 is a modern take on a classic genre, in the hands of a trusty studio that’s done the real-time tactics rodeo before and knows what it’s doing. You can grab it on Steam, DRM-free on GOG.com, PlayStation Store, and the Microsoft Store for Xbox One from 16 June.