In the beginning was the Commandos series, which initiated the genre of real-time tactical infiltration. Then the German studio Spellbound created three episodes of Desperados (Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge, and the Helldorado spin-off), assumed clones of Commandos, which improved the recipe and transposed it into a Western universe.
In 2016, Mimimi Productions (another German studio) developed the excellent Shadow Tactics, which drew heavily on all these illustrious ancestors. So much so that THQ Nordic ended up entrusting these talented men with the development of the real Desperados III. A very good idea on paper which absolutely keeps all of its promises in reality!
The main hero of the Desperados series has always been cowboy John Cooper, and this is again the case here. But the prologue, which serves as a tutorial, puts us in the shoes of a very young Cooper, accompanied by his father James. Subsequently, we will indeed control an adult John, but this introduction confirms that the scenario of Desperados III serves as a “prequel” to the other episodes.
This is a good idea, which allows players who do not know the series to take it along the way with confidence. As for the fans, they will be able to discover the origins of the characters that they liked to take in hand by their past. In other words: everyone is happy! And this assertion is valid for all aspects of the game which, we will see together, sets the bar very, very high. The General history pits John and his cronies against the DeVitt Company, which employs hardly orthodox methods to force the construction of a new railroad.
We won’t reveal more, but be aware that this relatively simple scenario turns out to be much more effective and interesting than it looks at first glance. Revenge underlies John’s quest, and there are even some unexpected twists.
The most important remains the strength of the Western atmosphere, perfectly transcribed. The various missions really immerse us in North America of the 1870s. They have as a backdrop a Colorado railroad, a gold mine in New Mexico, bayous in Louisiana, or cities housing saloons, wooden churches, brothels and other notable villas. Cliché just enough, but never too much! This Wild West atmosphere is reinforced by an adequate soundtrack, specific notes of which are also reminiscent of those of the Westworld series. And it turns out that one of the characters that we control splits on the occasion of a “These violent delights …” as a sentence emphasizing the taking into account of an order given by the player.
Fans will appreciate the wink. The graphics also immerse us in the great American West. All in 3D (you can zoom in and turn the camera at your leisure), they turn out to be even more detailed and charming than the 2D screens of yesteryear. As for the cutscenes, they keep the aerial and isometric view of the gameplay phases, but use motion capture to offer us varied and realistic animations.
THERE WAS A THOUSAND TIMES IN THE WEST
If the shape of this Desperados III is particularly pleasant, it is obviously the substance that prevails. Don’t panic, it’s commendable too! The gameplay takes up the main principles of the series and, therefore, allows us to infiltrate various well-guarded places. It is possible to display the field of view of any enemy to avoid it completely, cross it for just a few seconds, or move crouched in the area furthest from the surveillance cone (represented by a hatched surface).
If there is a lack of discretion, the green color then changes to yellow, then to red. The alert is given, guards emerge from surrounding buildings, and infiltration gives way to exchanges of gunfire often synonymous with game over. No problem, the quick save is there to get you back on your feet and make you consider, this time around, that guard in a raised position that you hadn’t been paying attention to.
The missions are very long and we can therefore end up carrying out a hundred tests in all in one level. Miracle of a gameplay that borders on perfection: it’s never painful or frustrating, on the contrary. Moreover, the game offers us a whole range of tools to simplify our task. The most important is the confrontation mode, which allows us to pause the action to give several orders to our different characters and then execute them simultaneously. This is perfect for developing complex tactics. And believe us, what a pleasure to see all the characters collaborate to eliminate five or six guards at once, following a single trigger click on our part!
We still spend most of the time infiltrating in real time, and taking advantage of some features typical of the genre (concealment of bodies, environmental deaths that pass for accidents, dogs that detect heroes by the same smell. if they are hidden, the sound of footsteps in puddles, footprints in the mud can make us spot or help us isolate an enemy, civilian areas in which we can walk without being bothered as long as we behave correctly, etc.). You could spend hours detailing every feature of the game, all of which have been thought out and balanced with tremendous care.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Depending on the missions and the situations, we will therefore control one to five heroes simultaneously. These five mercenaries are John Cooper, Arthur “Doc” McCoy, Hector Mendoza, Kate O’Hara, and Isabelle Moreau. Well known to followers of the series, the former is adept at knife throwing (deadly) and coin tossing (to distract the guards). The second can pick locks, lure enemies with a Trapped Medic’s Bag, throw swamp gas vials to knock out opponents, and use his Colt Buntline Special to snip guards in the distance. Hector, the team’s big broom, has a sawn-off shotgun (anything but discreet but devilishly effective) as well as a bear trap to put on the ground.
He also whistles like no one, which allows him to attract enemies to a given location (especially towards its trap). Incidentally, he can carry two bodies at the same time, and while running please! Kate, the team’s seductress, temporarily blinds the guards with vials of perfume, directs and stares at her when she talks to them, and can even charm them to follow her for a few moments (usually to a discreet place where you will have placed one of your companions in ambush). Better still, she can find a disguise in certain levels, thanks to which certain guards no longer consider her hostile (a necessary condition to be able to speak to them). Finally, Isabelle Moreau is damn enriching the gameplay with a touch of the supernatural, new for the series.
His voodoo abilities allow him to mentally connect two opponents, the spell of one (usually harmful) being immediately and automatically applied to the other. It can also take control of an enemy, and send it to kill one of its congeners. The alert is then not given because the opponents think that it is one of theirs who is responsible. Finally, Isabelle can send her cute cat to distract some guards for a few seconds. All the different heroes’ abilities naturally complement each other wonderfully, and no one character outrageously takes over the other. an enemy, and send him to kill one of his congeners.
The alert is then not given because the opponents think that it is one of theirs who is responsible. Finally, Isabelle can send her cute cat to distract some guards for a few seconds. All the different heroes’ abilities naturally complement each other wonderfully, and no one character outrageously takes over the other. an enemy, and send him to kill one of his congeners. The alert is then not given because the opponents think that it is one of theirs who is responsible. Finally, Isabelle can send her cute cat to distract some guards for a few seconds. All the different heroes’ abilities naturally complement each other wonderfully, and no one character outrageously takes over the other.
LITTLE BIG GAME
To top it off, this attractive Desperados III has a nearly perfect finish. We encountered absolutely no bugs, the controls are fully customizable. The level of difficulty also (you can mix the different parameters as desired), the joystick and keyboard / mouse are perfectly supported, an acceleration function allows to shorten the ambushes.
The quick saves do not overwrite each other, the game displays an alert message if you try to load a quick save made in a previous level, an option allows to display a reminder if the ‘we haven’t saved for X minutes (X being configurable). A “replay” is available at the end of each level to view all the journeys and actions of our heroes … and we could continue this Prévert-style inventory for a long time to come. The “quality of life” is very high, and all these details say a lot about the care given to the game by its developers, and their love of a job well done. In addition, they were not at all stingy in content! The sixteen main missions are gigantic, and it takes almost thirty hours to complete.
Replayability is also required, because some maps offer different paths, and it is possible to completely renew the experience by changing the level of difficulty (because this parameter changes the number and type of enemies, and therefore the “tactical puzzles ” to solve). Without forgetting that there are always several ways of
Do you want more? No problem, the Baron’s challenges are there for that. These challenges make it possible to revisit certain levels, with totally different objectives and modifications of the general rules (prohibition to use certain skills or obligation to do so in one way or another). There are currently five, but the developers have announced that each of the sixteen missions will ultimately benefit from a particular challenge. Free updates are responsible for bringing these bonuses to players in the weeks to come.
In this concert of praise, is there still room to evoke possible faults? Little, we must admit. We could possibly nitpick about the sometimes too mechanical nature of the guards’ rounds. Still, the repetitiveness of these loops is almost inevitable if we want the player to be able to plan his actions correctly. We regret more frankly the absence of French voices, while the Germans, Russians and Chinese were entitled, them, to a full dubbing. When you are focused on your actions, it may happen that you miss a few subtitles. But the developers have thought of everything, once again, since the dialogues are recorded at any time in a journal that can be consulted at leisure.
Almost impossible to fault, Desperados III is already the GOTY 2020 for lovers of tactics and infiltration! the Russians and the Chinese were entitled to a full dubbing. When you are focused on your actions, it may happen that you miss a few subtitles. But the developers have thought of everything, once again, since the dialogues are recorded at any time in a journal that can be consulted at leisure.