Sneaky cowboys taking bad guys out one-by-one seem a bit out of place, but Desperados III manages to pull it off. You can go through the game guns blazing, the old-fashioned Wild West way, but most of the time you will find yourself outnumbered. But if you take your time, plan ahead and be smart about it, you are rewarded with the most amazing showdown at the end.

Developed by Mimimi Games and published by THQ Nordic, Desperados III is a real time tactical stealth game in a Wild West setting. Desperados III is the prequel to the classic game, Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive. You follow the origin story of protagonist John Cooper and his allies, Kate, Doc McCoy, Hector and Isabelle, in a quest to hunt down an old enemy of Cooper - Frank.

Story isn’t usually the strongest aspect in stealth tactical games, but Desperados was always the exception. Desperados III tells a dramatic and layered story, whether you are an old fan of the classic games or you are new to the world and its characters. As mentioned, you follow the story of John Cooper as he catches up with his old friend Hector, and meets new allies. These new relationship between the group realistically develop throughout the game. The occasional flashbacks reveal more backstory about Cooper and his father, their dealings with Frank, and how Cooper met Hector.Desperados III Screenshot 1

The engaging story of Desperados III is complemented by challenging and fun gameplay. For example, you can use environmental elements to take out enemies and make it look like an accident. For each mission we have access to a different lineup of characters. There is a total of five different characters to utilize, and they each have unique abilities and playstyle.  For some missions, especially the early ones, you only have access to two members of the group, but in the later, more important missions, you will have the full team at your disposal. This helps each mission feel unique, and you have different ways of completing the objectives based on what characters you have access to.

John Cooper and Isabelle are best fit for stealth, going through difficult terrain to get to their destination and taking out enemies quickly. Cooper can distract enemies and take them out with his knife from a distance or up close. He also has two guns that can take two enemies out at once, although you have to be careful of the gunshots alarming nearby enemies. Isabelle has access to some supernatural abilities that lets her manipulate multiple enemies by taking over their mind or linking two targets together with voodoo magic, or she can distract guards with her cat. She also has the fastest movement speed among the group, so she can dart from shadow to shadow and avoid being discovered easier than the rest.

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You can use the weaponry available in the world to kill multiple enemies, but it might alert a lot of guards.

Meanwhile, Doc McCoy is a trained hitman with a long range sniper rifle. He can lure some guards away from their posts and take them out quietly. He also uses a vial of anesthetic gas to take down a large group of enemies at once, but he can only use this ability once per mission. McCoy and Isabelle are the only members of the group that can heal others in case they get injured. As for Hector, he's the strongest member of the group. His sawed off shotgun can take out a cone of enemies at close range. His bear trap Bianca is also a very useful tool. He can place the trap and lure enemies to it by whistling. He even carries two bodies at once and can throw them to knock others unconscious. Lastly, Kate can use a disguise to walk in most places without being discovered. She can flirt with male guards to distract them, and she convince some guards to follow her for a short time. She has a short range and relatively quiet pistol, and throws her perfume to make enemies in a small radius sneeze and close their eyes for a brief moment.

With the different abilities and equipment of each character, Desperados III is very replayable. There is many ways to complete each mission, and when you complete one for the first time, you see the special badges that you can get for each mission. The extra challenge of getting each badge is really intriguing, and figuring out a way to complete each of them is also quite satisfying. And if you want to challenge yourself to the fullest, you can try to play the game in Desperado mode. In this difficulty (that is not recommended for the first playthrough) enemies have faster reflexes, your characters have less ammo and health and the game doesn’t pause when you enter the showdown mode. Showdown mode lets you plan actions for each character and execute them instantaneously.

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At the end of each mission, you will see a visual summary of how you completed the mission.

There is also the option to customize the difficulty yourself. You can change the number of stronger enemies, health, ammo, enemy reflexes, whether the showdown mode pauses the game or not and even the number of saves you can have in each mission. This allows you to adjust the difficulty of the game as you go through it to make the game suit your skill level or the challenge level you prefer. When you finish some of the missions in the game, you unlock Baron Challenges. These are special missions with certain limitations and rules and are harder to complete. There isn't any story incentive to play these missions and some players might skip through them in the first playthrough.

Desperados III is a game designed to be played more than once. The game has 25 hours of gameplay if you just want to finish the story, but if you like the game, there are many options and challenges that lets you play the game for hundreds of hours and it will still feel fresh and exciting. The different difficulty levels, special badges, and the Baron challenges is a cherry on top of this excellent game.

In addition to a great story and challenging gameplay, Desperados III has astonishing visuals and a memorable soundtrack. Each mission is set in a unique environment with different terrain and elements, and they all look beautifully designed. The world design is never linear, and you have the freedom to go anywhere that you want in the map. There isn’t any portion of the maps that feels unreasonably inaccessible, and this makes the world feel more realistic and dynamic. Many environmental elements have direct impact on the gameplay. You can use many objects, animals and people in the world to your advantage, to distract enemies or kill them while make it look like an accident. These interactable objects or animals feel like a natural part of each environment and at the first glance, they don't stick out as an obvious solution. In many stages of the game, I would spend some time to see if I could use anything in the surroundings to get through the guards. In addition to the environmental design, because of motion capture, animations look very realistic. All of these elements help tie the gameplay and the visual design together.

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The dynamic and beautiful world design of Desperados III.

Desperados III also has a really catchy and memorable soundtrack composed by Filippo Beck Peccoz. The songs have a really nostalgic Wild West feel to them. It’s almost a bummer whenever the loading screen goes away and the music suddenly stops. Each mission has a few unique songs, and the main theme is recognizable throughout the whole soundtrack. But while the soundtrack itself is enjoyable, the sound design as a whole was one of the weaker aspects of Desperados III. Sometimes NPC and enemy dialogues would skip if you did an action while listening to them, music transitions between different stages of a mission wasn’t as smooth as they could be, and when you got stuck in one part of a mission, the music could get very repetitive. But these issues weren’t game-breaking or annoying - they were just not as good as other aspects of the game.

Desperados III is a perfect combination of engaging story and characters, rich and challenging gameplay, beautiful visuals and great soundtrack. You can play the game over and over again and it would be a new challenge each time. For the fans of the old Desperados games, it is the perfect prequel for the story and the world, and for the fans of the real time tactical genre, it’s one of the best games in recent years.

Nima reviewed Desperados III on PC with a code provided by the publisher.