Thursday , July 2 2020

PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Desperados III’

About an hour or hour-and-a-half into a relatively early level in Desperados III, one of my characters, Kate, stopped being able to accept commands. She would move when I asked her, but she could no longer use her abilities to distract/lure guards, she could no longer fire her gun, and she could no longer launch a perfume bottle to temporarily blind folks. A “real-time tactics” game, I wondered whether Kate had lost this ability because rather than trying to stay hidden and avoid conflict, which felt like the preferred route, I had chosen to kill all the enemies I came across, knowing that if they were dead I wouldn’t have trouble from them later.

The above theory is not really outside the realm of possibilities in Desperados III. I may not have come across it a lot at that point, but as you traverse through the game you play several levels that feature the characters—Kate in particular—without their equipment. Getting that equipment back becomes part of the mission (an avoidable part, sometimes, depending on the route you choose to take).

Having considered the conundrum of Kate not responding to commands more, I now think it simply a bug, but it’s a bug that shows why the game is so very good and, make no mistake, Desperados III is a good game. The bug, if that’s what it was, forced me to approach the level in different fashion, proving that different methods of achieving objectives exist; it isn’t something just preached in the title, it’s true.

Although the story is rather basic—taking place in the 1870s, there’s an evil company that John Cooper and his motley crew keep running across and must bring to justice—the game provides hours upon hours of entertainment. This despite the fact that while the specifics of each level vary, they generally involve progressing from point A to point B while killing someone and/or blowing something up and/or grabbing something along the way.

To this point, I have offered a whole bunch of caveats, but I keep coming back to the truth of the whole thing: the game is loads of fun.

The graphics aren’t insanely involved, but lively enough to keep your eyes on the screen, and there’s enough customization in the UI to allow folks to set things up as best for them. The whole thing just works.

The title is a continuation of a franchise that last saw an entry more than a decade ago and requires absolutely no knowledge of any prior entry. It is perhaps best explained as “kind of like Hitman, but you get a party of characters to use not just one guy.”

Each mission may have the same general parameters, but the layouts—which are large—are different, the composition of the guards are different, and the characters in your party (each of which have their own set of advantages and disadvantages) change. So, you sit there and you puzzle it out and you slowly progress, constantly saving and reloading (it’s encouraged), and what looks like an insurmountable goal is ever so slowly chipped away at until, if you’re like me, you spend two-and-a-half hours on a (not “the”) correct solution to a level only to get to the summary screens at the end and find out that you can earn a badge (a trophy) for completing the thing in something like 14 minutes.

Never once did I feel the need to back and try a speed run, my general strategy would never work, but seeing times like those as being possible definitely caused me to laugh out loud. I also never felt a compunction on a level with multiple literal paths (left side/right side) to go back and play the other one, but there is clearly a whole lot of replay value for those who want to explore more and who, unlike me, aren’t stuck in their ways.

There are, to be sure, tense moments playing Desperados III, but the hours I spent with the game, methodically working my way through each level, doing my best to alert guards only when I had already fashioned a plan to take them all out, have been relaxing ones. You can fall into an easy rhythm with the title, two steps forward, one step back, and that constant forward movement makes any frustrations minimal.

And that brings me back to Kate and her no longer accepting commands on that one early level. The moment threw me from my comfort zone, but it also caused me to develop strategies that I would follow in other levels as I kept playing – because I couldn’t progress as I had been, I learned to do it better. It was not an insurmountable issue, merely a learning experience.

No, in the end, the biggest problem I found with Desperados III wasn’t a bug in the game, but rather the definite choice on the part of the developers to have baddies repeatedly offer up f-bombs when they are upset. There is no particular reason for it and while a well-placed curse can add to the drama, repeated use becomes nothing more than garbage filling the audio channel and it’s western soundtrack.

That aside, the enjoyable gameplay and amusing puzzles win the day, making Desperados III a hugely fun experience.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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