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Let’s see the number of hands that say that they have played Commandos and it’s expansion pack from Pyro studios. Now let me see the number of hands that say that would like the same game set in the Wild Wild West. Instead of being set in World War II, this character-based real-time strategy game puts you on the old American frontier. Sounds enticing, well don’t always believe the hype. Let’s begin with the story. You’ll bring together a band of rag tag heroes to recover money stolen from a railroad, and then the stories advances through plot twists based on the John Wayne movies. The turns and twists are clichéd and done before, with double-dealing and lots of bad Mexican voiceovers, Guess what the villain is called - El Diablo. No prizes. But you see if a game’s atmosphere is charming and engaging reminding you of those old westerns’, the next question that follows is how is the gameplay. Well, let’s just say it could have used some work.

In your adventures, you'll control the main hero, John Cooper, plus his gang of five desperados, each with around six unique abilities. For instance, Cooper can climb sheer rock faces or perform a quick triple shot with his Colt revolver to take down three opponents at once. Explosives expert Sam Williams tosses dynamite at enemies or startles them with a snake he keeps in a sack. One-eyed Civil War veteran Doc McCoy heals other characters and knocks enemies out with sleeping gas. Kate O'Hara, an expert poker player, seduces villains by sliding her skirt up to reveal her garter, and she can temporarily blind opponents by reflecting the sun in her mirror. A nimble Chinese girl, Mia Yung, fires a blowpipe dart at enemies to make them hallucinate or can distract them with her pet monkey, Mr. Leone. The hulking, clumsy Sanchez entices villains into a drunken daze with his tequila bottle and clears buildings by throwing people out the windows.

The game has 25 levels; you’ll be controlling Coop and his braidy bunch through a variety of story-driven adventures. In typical missions, you'll rescue a fellow desperado from a heavily guarded paddle steamer, break into a heavily guarded hacienda, or sneak across a heavily guarded town. Notice the keyword Guarded, heavily guarded. Not much variety. The gameplay follows suit.

This is one tough game. The game frequently crosses the fine line between enjoyably challenging and frustrating, and there's no difficulty selection to rectify that. Ideally, if you make a poor choice, it should result in a temporary and challenging setback, not instant death and a restart. Get ready for countless saves and restores To beat the missions, you'll need to take advantage of terrain by ambushing the bad guys from rooftops, hiding in tall grass, or crawling below ridges. You can scan the whole map at any time and can check each enemy's field of view independently, even if you can't see him directly. His line of sight shows up as a sweeping green cone, akin to Commandos or Metal Gear Solid. Guards usually act intelligently and will go on a heightened state of alert if you make too much noise or leave dead bodies lying in your wake, so you'll need to consider every action carefully. In a pleasantly realistic touch, even innocent bystanders will get in on the act and shout for help if they spot something fishy.

To best your ornery, trigger-happy foes, you'll need to use a blend of stealth and cunning, plus a little good old-fashioned head busting and gun slinging. You'll often use your characters' special abilities in concert to solve dilemmas. For instance, you can have Kate employ her seductive charms to lure an amorous henchman around the corner, only to get punched in the face by Cooper. Coordinating all your characters can be a real chore, though, since they do nothing on their own. The characters should have at least been given some autonomous actions, like ducking for cover or returning fire when rushed by villains. Haven’t these guys played The Sims?

A context-sensitive cursor at least helps you interact with and navigate the environments fairly easily. The interface is attractive and generally functions well, letting you either click onscreen icons or use hotkeys to initiate particular actions, the latter being far more practical when the map is swarming with enemies. Some functions, like the telescope icon that displays enemies' view cones, require either too many or counter-intuitive mouse clicks. It's also unnecessarily hard to click on a moving character, which can be a huge problem when you need to kick someone in a hurry as he charges around the corner. Fortunately, the interface features a quick action function that lets you store pre-selected actions as macros. So, to make things easier, you can set Kate to kick a particular opponent once in range with the click of a button. But ideally, you shouldn't need to go through these extra steps in the first place.  

If nothing else, Desperados features a gorgeous visual style. Akin to the Commandos or the Baldur's Gate series, the action takes place in 2D against beautifully painted semi-interactive backgrounds. Countless little details will catch your eye, like the sagging roof on an old shanty, the flower-covered trellis against the wall of a stately plantation house, or stucco peeling off an old Spanish-style mission church. The scenes are alive with passing townsfolk, and horses and livestock remind you that you're on the frontier. Smooth character animations provide added entertainment, thanks to clever touches like, Cooper tipping his hat when he meets a stranger. The full-motion video cutscenes feature the same attention to detail and some stylish direction. Just the opening scene of horse-mounted bandits robbing a moving train does a wonderful job of drawing you into the gameworld. If the graphics have a flaw, it's that zooming in on a scene produces ugly pixelation; it looks like you're viewing the image with a paint program's magnifying glass tool.

It's a shame that the enjoyable setting of Desperados isn't used to its full potential. It just can't make up for the difficulties in coordinating your characters or struggling with excessively hard missions. As an action-oriented puzzle game, Desperados has a fair amount to offer, but as a true strategy game where you really feel in command of events, it usually misses the target.


Game Info

Game Name: Desperados

Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Infogrames
Reviewed by:
Mail him.

Game Score: [Five lightning rating]

Story / Plot:
Reviewer's Tilt :

Game Tested on:

- PIII 800 Mhz
- 128 MB RAM
- Savage 4 16MB
- Windows ME

The Good: Challenging gameplay, Gorgeous graphics, interactive interface.
The Bad: Very hard, repetitive.
The Ugly: Doesn't this remind you of "The good, The bad and The ugly"