Let's skin this smoke wagon quick. If you're out to play the quintessential “I wanna be a cowboy” game, Red Dead Redemption 2
is your huckleberry. That said, if your (incredibly specific) desire is to saddle up and do some isometric-view cowboy-based stealth, well, that's different then. Desperadoes III
is the sole steed in what's basically a one-horse town.
The gameplay here is so niche, there's almost nobody for developer Mimimi
to showdown against. Not at high noon, low noon or any other variation of absolute midday. Obviously, the inherent danger in that lack of competition is the potential for complacency. Corners could get cut quicker'n the throat of a poker cheat in a saloon. Fortunately, these spurs couldn't be sharper, and they dig in deep fast.
Old schoolers will recognise the DNA here as Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines
, but all the berets have been swapped to ten-gallon hats. More modern gamers will better recognise this as a stablemate of another Mimimi Games title -- Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
, except all the ninjas have been replaced with drunken peckerwoods. Cosmetic switcheroos aside, the idea is the same: sweet, sweet puzzle-violence.
"The gameplay here is so niche, there's almost nobody for developer Mimimi to showdown against. Not at high noon, low noon or any other variation of absolute midday.”
Essentially a prequel to the original game, this third outing slides us into the dusty boots of John Cooper. He's a double-fistin' gunslinger who effectively joins forces with a colourful cast of ultra-violent varmints. Folks like a Holliday-inspired killer named Doc McCoy and a deft, derringer-happy moll named Kate. They're also flanked by a man mountain trapper called Hector, and Isabelle, the sort of person mid-'90s The Prodigy tried to warn us about (read: magic people, voodoo people
). Each of these reprobates comes with their own unique style of killin'. We'll get to those in a sec.
Thankfully there's a point to all this shanking. Desperadoes III is a story-driven experience that revolves around Cooper trying to get his moral ledger back in the black. This involves spilling lots of red in a revenge tale road trip across a diverse range of locations. We're talking dusty mesas, Colorado mountains, and you can even quench your thirst for vengeance during the odd “gator raid” on a swamp. All told, this pan-American adventure has a few ace locales up its sleeve and tells a decent tale, but it sure ain't no Dances with Wolves.
To be successful in Desperadoes III is to know more about cones than Chris, your dodgy stoner mate. Every enemy in this world projects a segmented one that represents their eyesight or “alarm zone” – light green is for crisply seen things and darker green is moving beyond their macular limits. Obviously, any objects between you break that line of sight. Less obviously, crouching in the darker green zone – even out in the open – will make them assume you're just a tumbleweed. Possibly a man-shaped cactus.
"All told, this pan-American adventure has a few ace locales up its sleeve and tells a decent tale, but it sure ain't no Dances with Wolves.”
You're given a grace period of sorts (think: the cone filling yellow bleeding out toward your less-than-stealthy self) and if you push your luck that'll turn angry red. At this point you're basically screwed. The enemy will make like an air raid siren and half a dozen hicks will turn your head into a canoe. There's a slim chance for you to disappear and re-establish stealth, but any spawned in reinforcements won't bugger off. You'll be delaying the inevitable most times. Your bonce is still becoming a boat.
The good news is that quick-saving and quick-loading is more or less expected. You'll lean on this a lot, as learning patrol routines and chinks in an enemy posse's armour requires some pretty-keen observational skills. This isn't just about dealing expertly-timed death, it's also about disposal. Anybody you send to Boot Hill or have hog-tied, needs to be stashed or it'll be on for young and old.
Pro tip: You'd best make like Altair and find you a body hungry haystack. Pools, wells, and overgrown shrubbery are also your friends. Even better, embrace your inner Agent 47 and off people by environmental means. Anybody smooshed in an accident raises no eyebrows. I'm dying to spoil some of them here but instead I'll just vaguely say that the creative sadists among you will have plenty to chuckle and/or twirl moustaches over.
On the topic of illuminating skulduggery, my fellow Thief fans will love getting their Garrett on with an ability to snuff out small light sources. Darkened areas allow you to get away with more midnight shenanigans, plus there's the added benefit of luring a guard in. They all have this weird, unreasoning compulsion to have every torch lit. They're the AI cowboy equivalent of a level designer making a tomb that's been sealed for centuries.
As previously mentioned, you can also rely on the diverse bag of tricks offered up by your gang members, cooldown and ammo reserves permitting. Knifing people and going ham with Cooper's dual pistols never gets old. Paul Bunyan stand-in, Hector, also has his moments with a bear trap and an Enforcer shredding axe. Kate can lead hornier foes around before popping them (or kneeing them in the groin). Doc is a 'pacifist runners' dream with knockout grenades. He also gets his murder on with a freakin' hand cannon of a sniper pistol.
The most interesting inclusion is series newcomer Isabelle. Her supernatural abilities offer some truly off-the-wall solutions to problems. Mind controlling people to do your murderous bidding has a bunch of straightforward uses. It's when you combine it with a fate-pairing mechanic (i.e. shared deaths = two-for-one prizes) that Isabelle really comes into her own.
"Embrace your inner Agent 47 and off people by environmental means. Anybody smooshed in an accident raises no eyebrows.”
If you somehow manage to flub everything up, even with this Magnificent Five at your fingertips, you can fall back on a time-halting showdown mode. It's great for pointer dragging specific commands to multiple gang members in order to execute multi-kill strikes in unison.
Honestly, Desperadoes III kept me hooked because it felt like it was always filtering in new mechanics to play with and also shrewd new enemies who more or less foiled the last sweet tactic I learned. We're talking guard dogs who sniff out your bullcrap faster, super-cluey poncho types and trench-coat goons who are, between you and I, nothin' but duded up, egg-suckin' gutter trash
. Translation: heavily armoured and formidable.
Couple all the above with a fair degree of replayability, and Desperadoes III has something for almost everybody. You might lose yourself in the form of secondary objectives or difficulty tweaks that can effectively turn this into something more approaching a shooter.
It's not perfect, though. Expect your eye to catch the odd death animation glitch and your ear to wonder how heroes can have telepathic-like conversations from opposite ends of a stealth den of death. I also have to concede that these multi-hour levels can outstay their welcome. Particularly when you're having to spend minutes at a time crapping your britches in a thicket, testing out boneheaded plans that will require you to rewind decent chunks of your life.
Fussin' and a feudin' aside, if you possess the requisite patience levels and a methodical mind, Desperadoes III can quickly go from being an O.K. Corral to a great one. This is especially true if you're replaying it for those bonus objectives and you actually know how the West was won.