And with some caveats, Desperados
plays very well. It's too difficult for its own good, requiring creep-and-save way too often, and the control scheme could be better, but the plot and the general setup of the game is interesting enough to keep you going despite the problems. It's no X-Com: UFO Defense
, but Desperados
does what it does well.
And what Desperados does is tell a story. It's a fairly standard story, as Westerns go, but it's interesting enough to keep you wondering just what will happen next. The game starts with John Cooper, something of a bounty hunter, returning to his neck of the woods (in this case, Louisiana) to find out just what happened with a recent train robbery and an associated string of general malingery. As you start the game you only control John, but as it progresses you can gather your teammates and go in for some serious squad-based action.
As expected in a character-driven game, the various teammates each have their strengths and weaknesses. The obligatory 'Western female' entrances men to come with her, where you can off them quietly, Doc can knockout enemies with gas and do typical doctory things, and so on. Each character isn't limited to one special ability, though. John himself can sharpshoot, throw his knife, use it to cut things, and use his watch as a lure for enemies.
As you gather your team, the game basically 'tutorializes'. The characters and the scenarios give you hints as to what to do, in an attempt to break you in as unobtrusively as possible. It works, for the most part. It'd work better if the game weren't so devilishly difficult, but that's another matter.
Controls in the game are pretty similar to what you'd expect for the genre. You can mouse your various characters around and issue them orders. As a nice change of pace, you can 'queue' an order up for a character, letting it happen when you click a big green arrow. This is helpful for timing things better than you can do otherwise, and setting people up to attack without having to fumble around on the keyboard.
Unfortunately, that's about as good as the character controls get. Your team has to be the biggest bunch of fools I've ever seen. They do absolutely nothing to save themselves, standing up for the slaughter and getting wasted in seconds. A rudimentary 'safety AI' would have been a wonderful feature; as it is, you have to micromanage your team to make sure nothing untoward happens to them. Ugh.
The game also relies on creep-and-save entirely too much. There are a number of places in the game that are near-impossible to do unless you time it just right, or hit the enemy just so. Fail, and it's Game Over. Be prepared to save and load your game on regular occasions, because this is one of those games. It reminded me of the early part of X-Com, and not in a good way.
Despite its problems, though, there's enough here to keep you intrigued. Just don't be surprised if you want to throw the mouse at the screen every once in a while.