Have You Played… Desperados: Wanted Dead Or Alive?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I’d love to be able to claim I was introduced to this brilliant Spaghetti Western-themed team tactics game by a box of chocolate-flavoured puffed rice, but like most sensible cereal purchasers, in 2001 I was on a serious Shreddies bender.

It was actually an enthusiastic review by Chris Buxton in PC Gamer UK that persuaded me that I urgently needed to meet John Cooper (Eastwoodian bounty hunter, a dab-hand with knife or Colt) Doc McCoy (snake-oil salesman, medic and sniper), Sam Williams (Winchester-wielding, dynamite-hurling escaped slave), Pablo Sanchez (burly bandit, invaluable for room clearing), Kate O’Hara (garter-flashing saloon temptress) and Mia Yung (diminutive blowpiper with peanut-partial pet primate). Desperados doesn’t have the multiple map perspectives or rotatable 3D interiors of its more famous WW2 cousin, but, for my money, its cast is more colourful, their party tricks more entertaining.

For the enemies infesting the twenty-five handsome-but-hard-as-nails levels danger and death can come from any direction and take dozens of different forms. Goons are distracted by musical pocket watches, glinting hand mirrors and dancing monkeys; they are KOed by high kicks, falling bales, flailing fists and balloon-delivered gas flasks; rattlesnakes bite them, crazed comrades turn on them, commandeered Gatling guns mow them down in droves.

Which isn’t to say they’re mugs. Warier than Pyro’s German and Japanese sentries and sometimes guided to player characters by civilian do-gooders, they search intelligently and, on occasion, display a devastating instinct for self-preservation. In one of my most vivid Desperados memory movies my entire team is felled by a stick of Sam’s dynamite kicked out of harm’s way by a quick-thinking foe.

Persuading Desperados to do its thing on modern rigs can be tricky. Without Windows hooker DxWnd and the advice of Porchlight Silhouette your chances of collecting the bounty on notorious train robber El Diablo will be playing-card slim.

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  1. Emeraude says:

    Sanchez broke the game.

    Really loved some of the crazy stuff you could pull abusing the systems in place. I had a friend who managed to take the fort with basically the snake, and that’s it. Was crazy to see.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      Yep. The flaw that I discovered was that the enemies had a serious case of tunnel vision when they spotted a corpse, and if there was more than one, they wouldn’t stop until they checked out every single one of them and pondered their existence for a second or two. I remember taking out the entire fort using a breadcrumb of bodies leading to a massive corpse pile and Cooper with a throwing knife hidden behind a pile of wood.

      Loved the game. Very obviously ripping off Commandos, but with a lot more personality and charm. (Which the sequel lost again.)

  2. KFee says:

    One of my all-time favorite game. The art was also so nice. I want a HD remake :)

  3. Monggerel says:

    I was lazy and just smote everyone with divine lightning when I got stuck :I
    (and in the game)

  4. UncleLou says:

    Amazing how 2D art has (not) aged, isn’t it.

  5. djim says:

    I loved that game. I tried to play it recently but it had some serious issues playing in a modern pc. Does anyone know if the gog.com version plays well?

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      Weirdly, I happened to install my GoG version just the other day. I bought it awhile ago and never actually got around to playing it (I had played a friend’s copy of it years and years ago, so know it is a great game.)

      I only played enough to go through the tutorial and briefly look around the first real level, but seemed to be happy on my Windows 7 PC without any tweaking. I did have one hard crash during a cinematic, but I have had a couple in the last month or so, so expect that was not related to the game.

      • djim says:

        Good to know. My problems had to do with speed, it was incredibly slow and laggy for some reason. I will get the gog version and give it a try it only costs as much as a cup of coffee :P

  6. Otto Lidenbrock says:

    I had completely forgotten the demo came in a box of Coco-Pops! I think I still have the disc somewhere.

    Along with Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood this was one of my favourite games; it’s a pity that the Commando-like category of games seems to have completely disappeared, unless there are new ones being made I’ve missed?

  7. Carra says:

    Played it but just as Commandos I was too young for it: the game was simply too hard for me.

  8. matnym says:

    Definitely one of my favorite games. The demo was pretty awesome as well with a self-contained story and a unique level that wasn’t included in the full game.

  9. StranaMente says:

    I played the closed beta of a game inspired by Desperados and Commandos, set in medieval Japan called .
    What I’ve played of it seemed really promising, with several roles, moving camera and complex maps with several ways of solving them. Can’t wait till release.

    • StranaMente says:

      Borked the link code and can’t edit: name is Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

    • dennishuszak says:

      Hey Strana Mente, thanks for sharing the news about our upcoming game Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun :) Here at Mimimi Productions we are working night and day to make the best game possible and bring back this long forgotten genre.

      If you are intersted in the game, you can check out our developer walkthrough here: link to youtube.com

      And if you like waht you see, follow us on Facebook and spread the word: link to facebook.com

      Regards from the whole team of Mimimi Productions

  10. unraveler says:

    Ayayayay, it’s heart

  11. Gratis says:

    Interesting, SovietWomble just talked about this game on his twitch stream yesterday…

  12. Booker says:

    I always wanted to play it, because there are/were so few western-themed games, but even back then I never came around to it. I even have it in my GOG account, but I don’t think I’ll ever get to play it.

  13. buenaventura says:

    Funny that windozzz people struggle to play this, but linux people who use Wine compatibility layer seem to do fine :P

    link to appdb.winehq.org

    So, if you want to play, consider linux! Surely there will be tweaking ahoy but still.

    It seems like a game I would love in theory and then be quite frustrated by.

  14. dennishuszak says:

    Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a game that is trying to revive the old Desperados and Commandos game genre.

    There´s a developer walkthrough, which shows the similarities to classics: link to youtube.com.

    You can check it out on the Facebooksite: link to facebook.com

  15. zarnywoop says:

    “i smell death”

    Recently tried to get this game to run on modern hardware, shame it just wouldn’t play, i love this game

  16. Louis Mayall says:

    Excellent game, but hard as balls, like commando. So much time spent luring people towards music boxes. The levels were gorgeous too, the plantation one in particular, where you skulk around in long grass, was amazing.

  17. malkav11 says:

    Alas no. I never even played Commandos properly – think I tried one briefly but wasn’t up to the challenge.

  18. herbert3000 says:

    Still waiting for the Desperados webisodes ;)