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Desperados III review: A shot in the arm for Westerns

(PS4/XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 18+

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Desperados III

Desperados III

West of Dead

West of Dead

Desperados III

Fads come and go, but Westerns never seem back in fashion. In gaming, as in cinema, the genre remains resolutely untrendy, even after monster hits such as Red Dead Redemption 2.

Now Desperados III might look and sound convincingly like a cowboy-themed sneak-'em-up - five outlaws robbing and assassinating their way around the Wild West - but it's actually a puzzle game in disguise. Like me, you might fail to remember Desperados I & II. You almost certainly have forgotten they were begat from the late-90s Commandos series, which created its own category of real-time action strategy.

DIII reuses that blueprint, turning the Western genre's traditional wild shoot-outs into methodical puzzles to be unlocked with careful observation, distraction techniques and cold logic.

Each of the five desperadoes possesses a special skill, from mundane knife-throwing to exotic supernatural mind tricks. Early missions require nothing more than a measured sequence of quiet assassinations to reach a boss character. Later, you'll be juggling the skills of your posse using a slow-mo planning mode to execute multiple bandits simultaneously.

As a game, it relies too heavily on trial and error (albeit helped by a quicksave command). But the pleasing mix of droll humour, intricate challenges and expansive maps marks out Desperados III as a long-neglected flavour of gaming that is worth rediscovering.


West of Dead

(XO/PC) ★★★ Age: 16+

You wait ages for a Western and then two arrive at once. This one's utterly different, though, a roguelike cover shooter (meaning randomly generated levels), a moody soundtrack and a doleful voiceover from Ron Perlman.

West of Dead

Enter a warren of underworld tunnels, pump bullets at hellspawn shrouded in darkness and pray your gunslinger meets a witch whose charms will empower you. Oh, and when you expire, you resurrect in a bar where you start your trek into purgatory all over again. Live, die, repeat.

It's dispiriting at first, all too easy to snuff it and restart your run with the equivalent of peashooters. But once you get into WoD's rhythm of shoot, dodge-roll, hide - while realising the benefit of the witch's upgrades - its appeal grows.

Yet there's too much repetition for it to be truly addictive and the jittery camerawork can be a pain. Probably a lot like purgatory itself.


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