Desperados 3 PS4 Review – If Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun proved that developer Mimimi Games had a *really* solid handle on tactical stealth, then Desperados 3 absolutely rams home the point quicker than a fast-draw headshot in a dusty saloon. That’s right you can rest easy – Desperados 3 not only maintains the high caliber tactical gameplay beats that were such a welcome hallmark of Shadow Tactics, but it stylishly transplants them into an evocative Wild West setting and narrative that proves to be enduringly enjoyable to say the least.
Desperados 3 PS4 Review
A Boundlessly Clever, Thoroughly Enjoyable Wild West Tactical Effort Anchored By Compelling story
For those not familiar with the particular sort of sneaky strategy that the likes of Shadow Tactics do so well, Desperados 3 is, on the surface at least, a real-time tactical effort where players must complete an objective by combining the assorted skillsets of different controllable characters. Viewed from an elevated third-person perspective, the player can command an assortment of the titular Desperados, switching from one to another or moving them all at once.
Where things start to get tricky however, and this is where the stealth bits come in, is in how you must deal with the attentions of your foes in order to complete your objective. Luckily, this is where unique abilities of each protagonist come in. Such skills tend to fall into two categories – offensive and defensive and only by using the two in tandem will you succeed.
In regards to the latter, the brash gunfighter John Cooper for example, can flick a coin which can distract enemies, while the mysterious Doc McCoy can throw a medical bag of poisonous substances that can stun foes who wander too close to it. Once the enemy has been distracted then the offensive skills can come into play, with Cooper being able to volley throwing knives with pin-point accuracy (which must be reclaimed), or blast two scoundrels at once with his dual-shooting capability.
Wrapped around all of this is the stealth system which arguably provides Desperados 3 (much like Shadow Tactics before it), with the bedrock from which everything else is derived. Though there can be multiple ways to overcome a given situation, it’s often clear that doing your business is quietly (or as quietly as possible) is the way forward – not least because a quiet approach invariably ends up with less enemies to deal with.
As such, there are a great many systems built into Desperados 3 that exist to serve this sort of gameplay. Enemies have cones of vision that can be thwarted by hiding behind obstacles that obscure their line of sight, while corpses must be hidden in bushes or disposed of completely in order to avoid detection and the alarm being raised as a result. Sure, it’s very much Stealth 101, but it’s the combination of such tried and tested mechanics with the abilities of the characters and elements in the world itself that make Desperados 3 so much fun to play.
Nowhere is the sense of tactical mastery better appreciated than in Desperado 3’s excellent Showdown feature. A massively evolved and much more user friendly take on the Shadow Mode that was featured in Shadow Tactics (you no longer need to be within spitting range the enemy for it to work), Showdown allows you to stack up actions from multiple characters and have them all play out simultaneously, permitting the player some grand latitude in creating plans to get past especially sticky situations.
Compounding such situations are the numerous enemy types that you’ll encounter throughout the game. Some sentries for example, won’t be susceptible to distraction by coin or other measures and so must be dealt with different means while others will adopt certain patrol routes that must be planned for in advance.
The end result of having a mechanic like Showdown in Desperados 3 is that as you progress through the game, so too do the size and scope of the problems that you must overcome evolve alongside your capability to deal with them using the Showdown mechanic. In one case for example, you could have three goons idly chatting under some suspended cargo while a sentry looks on from an elevated position and another guard lurks close to them maybe fifteen feet or so away.
Here, you would have one character ready to use the mechanism to drop the cargo on the skulls of the unsuspecting trio, another to silently knife the lurking guard while the final character would use a long range pistol to kill the distant sentry – and all of it would happen at the same time. When such plans as this pull off flawlessly it really is difficult to not feel a rush of satisfaction, and it’s a rush you can expect frequently too – assuming you succeed.
And this is the thing; success in Desperados 3, especially in its later acts, comes only after a lengthy period of trial and error which understandably will not appeal to everyone and might prove especially rankling to newcomers who haven’t had any experience with Mimimi Games previous offering, Shadow Tactics.
As the game tells you early on, failing and retrying is part of the game and in this, Desperados 3 turns trial and error into something approaching an art form – though thankfully the intuitive quick save system which tells you how long you’ve been playing since your last save helps mitigate the anxieties which may otherwise manifest. It’s just a shame that the loading times, even on PS4 Pro, are a little longer than they should be right now.
As hugely sophisticated and satisfying Desperados 3 is, it’s fair to say that much of its appeal stems from the Wild West setting that it lovingly leverages. Supported by an accomplished yet modest audiovisual presentation (PS4 Pro owners get to choose between performance and resolution modes which don’t make a massive difference in either direction), Desperados 3 beautifully ticks every box in the ‘Wild West Locations To Visit’ bingo card, whisking players from sawdust littered saloons to eerie swamps, the scorching sun of towns south of the border and just about everywhere in between.
Then there’s the banter that occurs between each character too as each of the protagonists has lively, on-going chatter with one another that is frequently amusing and always entertaining.
Desperados 3 then is an excellent tactical puzzler. More than that though, where developer Mimimi Games has excelled is in how it fashioned a genre effort that at once provides a clever sandbox for players to strategic solutions in, whilst also providing a genuinely compelling setting and cast of characters to do it all in. If you can get past the trial and error mechanic that sits at the core of the game (and you really should), you’ll find one of the best strategy games in a good long while lurking beneath.
Desperados 3 releases for PlayStation 4 on June 16, 2020.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.