Desperados: Wanted Dead Or Alive updated after 17 years to work on modern Windows

Hot diggity dawg! After years crawling the digital desert lower than a lizard, real-time tactical stealth murderer Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive now plays nicely on modern systems. Publishers THQ Nordic last week released an update making the 2001 game support modern Windows along with Mac and Linux, to fix the problem of it crashing like a horse full of rotgut. Desperados is a tip-top tactics ’em up about a rootin’ tootin’ squad of mercenaries combining their powers of distraction, evasion, exsanguination, and explosion on missions in the Wild West, similar to the Commandos games, and well worth a look – especially as it’s on sale now too.

The update launched last week for the Steam and GOG versions of Desperados, bringing support for Windows 7, 8, and 10, plus Mac and Linux. For years, playing this game on modern systems involved downloading rando files off the Internet, installing a tool, and poking around with all sorts of settings.

The update also rolled a mission from the demo into the game, closing a loop on those days when demos would often contain unique slices. Language selection options are in too. Decent update for a 17-year-old game, that. And it’s still a decent game.

Resident simulated man Tim Stone has praised it and our former Adam even once declared it one of the best stealth games. Adam (RPS in peace) explained in 2015:

“Desperados is the pinnacle of the stealth-strategy genre represented elsewhere in this list by Commandos 2. Across beautifully drawn levels, the heroes of the piece move through a hit parade of Western locations and scenarios, sneaking by, shooting and subduing the outlaws who stand between them and their bounty.

“The various player characters have a diverse skillset and several abilities can operate in combination to unleash new tactics. Explosives expert Sam Williams can plant a barrel of TNT as distraction or weapon, for example, and then gambler Kate O’Hara can use a mirror to direct just enough rays in its direction to light the fuse. Daft? Yes. Enjoyable? Absolutely.”

If you still have an old copy on CD (and an optical drive to put it in?) you’re probably out of luck for this patch. But THQ Nordic–who didn’t even publish the original release–do have Desperados on sale for another week yet, down to £0.89/€0.99/$0.99 on Steam.

THQ Nordic have been good stewards for many of the games and brands they’ve nabbed the rights to, also updating games including Titan Quest, Darksiders, Sine Mora, and Red Faction Guerrilla in recent years.

Oh, if you dig this sort of real-time tactical squadmurder, you might well dig 2016’s Shadow Tactics: Blades Of The Shogun. It’s doing Desperados/Commandos sort of things in Edo period Japan, and Tim Stone’s review will tell you it’s a good’un.

27 Comments

Top comments

  1. unitled says:

    I made an album of all the maps in the game, they're so gorgeous. Absolutely the pinnacle of the Commandos sub genre of games, and one of the best Western games ever made.

    https://imgur.com/a/vzuUK
  1. unitled says:

    I made an album of all the maps in the game, they’re so gorgeous. Absolutely the pinnacle of the Commandos sub genre of games, and one of the best Western games ever made.

    link to imgur.com

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Ah that’s grand, thanks for sharing!

    • Eawyne says:

      Would you happen to have a way – or done so already ? – for the game Robin Hood ? That game also had incredibly lavish maps, and I had copy-pasted some of them, but not all, and I really wish I could :)

      I had done the captures for Desperados to also include the versions with the cut-out buildings when possible.

      Kudos for your galery !

    • Nosebeggar says:

      Fantastic work! May I ask how you did it?
      Also there are some maps missing, I can only see until level 19, but there are 25 if I recall correctly?

      I love this game, it’s a shame 2 and 3 were such a let-down.

      I will totally print some of these as posters.

      • unitled says:

        Basically just scrolled and took screenshots and pasted them together. And last time I played I only got to level 19 XD

  2. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    THQ Nordic are doing a stellar job of supporting all the games they picked up from THQ. It is really encouraging and definitely makes me more interested in all their games.

    They brought back Red Faction Guerilla my go-to game for stress relief and I love them for that.

    Edit: ok. bought :)

  3. zulnam says:

    Devolver Digital are having “competition” in the “gaming companies run by good people” department.

    Here’s to hoping THQ Nordic bring justice to the Delta Force series next.

    • hfm says:

      The main writer for the stellar Enderal (which is frankly a better version of Skyrim, my opinion though..) works for THQ Nordic.. so that’s just more reason to buy it.

  4. Carra says:

    I had a great time playing through Shadow Tactics last year. Back when Desperados and Commandos came out, those games were too difficult to me.

    I should give them another go!

  5. Dewal says:

    What I always deplored is how these games that could be really hard usually had very easy ways to break the system. Made it difficult to try to win the “fair” way. (One exemple I remember very well is to put a snake next to the only door to reach a place, shoot in the air and every ennemy of the zone will run through the door and get killed by the snake)

    I bought Shadow Tactics the other day and pray that the AI will be a bit smarter.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      This is hardly to say that the status quo is the best and only way to do it; but I get the impression that there are solid reasons for making the opposition kind of dumb:

      Doing ‘realistic’ imperfect information is hard(eg. basic ‘ig is grey where your units don’t have line of sight’ ‘fog of war’ is one thing; simulating(and creating a UI that represents) ‘we don’t know what’s there; information about over there is 10 minutes old; recon team has vision on over there but their radio operator is dead; etc. is a different matter. The same issues apply to the usually braindead rules on ‘stolen items’ or stealth kills in RPGs that have those mechanics: the easy heuristics “tag stolen items with special tag that only certain merchants will ignore” and “if you remained in stealth the whole time; and possibly if your stealth kill was a one shot so the victim didn’t have time to try to ID the hostile, it isn’t attributed to you” are relatively simple for both the game and the player; but lead to “and why do they like me even though I’m their pal who is coincidentally always there when someone’s head falls off for unclear reasons?” and “so I cart a damn apple halfway across the world and everyone still recognizes it on sight; but anyone marked ‘fence’ can somehow dispose of unlimited amounts of probably-labelled family heirlooms?”)

      In the case of Desperados and Commandos; it’s a combination of fog-of-war-is-hard(leading to a lot of binary ‘sees me/doesn’t see me’ with some sort of the ‘has to ring the alarm bells/reach the button/radio’ mechanics used to reflect the fact that the opposition isn’t a hive mind; along with the frustration-reducer of not having the enemy search nearly as diligently as realism might demand: outside of being distracted by an assault elsewhere or something similarly grave, a force that discovers a bunch of dead sentries is going to hunt you for way, way longer than you are going to want to continue playing the game(unless the numbers/equipment/terrain are specifically for a ‘draw them out, pick them off; surround and annihilate once the survivors are sufficiently weakened and demoralized’ mission).

      None of this makes them realistic(and, arguably, Commandos-alikes are often much closer to puzzle games with camo on than anything else, except for the cases where you can exploit a choke point or something and slaughter your way out with what is supposed to be the kind-of-useless pistol or a special-purpose gimmick); but it is often tricky to think of how you could make the behavior of the enemy closer to realistic search/counter-infiltrator behavior without just making the game unwinnable or brutally reliant on luck.

      Now, in the specific case of the snake, I’m not sure why they would add what’s basically a mine that doesn’t need rearming and just scores silent kills over and over. Real snakes don’t have nearly that much venom to work with(and would probably leave once it has exhausted it, if not earlier, envenomating dangerous animals too large to eat ain’t much of a living) and people who live in areas with snakes are probably going to realize that ‘snake, it’s a snake!’ fairly quickly; at which point you might get a delay while the kill it; but definitely not unlimited choke point kills.

      That said, putting a trap at the choke point is totally a tactic(and a good one); the dodgy realism is having a trap with unlimited repeat uses that the enemy doesn’t notice and then either sidestep or defuse.

      I’d be fascinated to see someone take on problems like this successfully (RPG crime with actual investigation/suspicion rather than a combination of indelible theft tags and complete lack of deductive reasoning; RTS/squad tactics with ‘fog of war’ beyond “can see/can’t see/that one unit with a stealth or disguise mechanic”(in fairness, some also have ‘recently in view, can see buildings vs. not recently in view, terrain only vs. never seen it, can see nothing; and Warzone 2100 had more attention than most to units with much longer ranges than they had LOS; along with spotter/sensor support and counter-battery options).

      Doing either would be a real challenge; in terms of UI and I terms of not making the result seem frustratingly arbitrary and punishing/rewarding in inscrutable ways that encourage save scumming or give you the dreaded sensation of being forced to work out how the developer wanted you to play the game.

      • suicicoo says:

        it doesn’t work that way with a chokepoint, only with doors, as the enemy can’t look through doors. And the snake is pretty slow, allowing some enemies to get through and turn around and kill it.
        Place the snake in one enemies path and the same will happen – he sees it and shoots it.

      • hfm says:

        I really loved Commandos and Commandos II when they were released. But lets be real these games are just puzzles with extremely rich atmosphere and skins. I don’t think the AI is supposed to be super intelligent. It’s just a puzzle to solve with some basic rules about how the obstacles (people, etc..) work. Finding an exploitable solution is just par for the course unless the devs patch it. :)

    • Carra says:

      Reminds me of my Commandos tactic when I was 14 years old. Stand behind a corner and start shooting. Enemies will all walk into your dead zone…

  6. KFee says:

    One of the best games I ever played, I wonder if it aged well.

    • Nosebeggar says:

      Let me tell you: it aged like wine.

      You can still let your children play this and then let your children’s children play this.

  7. Stardog says:

    Maybe still the best Commandos style game out there. Great macro record system. Better game than Shadow Tactics for me.

    Get Commandos 2 and this.

  8. TotallyUseless says:

    That’s so nice of THQ Nordic to update Desperados. I loved playing this way back along with Commandos 2. I’d better grab the game too, I didn’t know it was on Steam.

    Wishing the best for THQ Nordic. They’re such a nice bunch on an industry filled with ridiculously evil and greedy publisher/developers.

    • Fleko81 says:

      I realise there is an element of hyperbole here, but I really don’t think we should describe the games industry as being “filled with the evil and greedy”. Most people are just trying to do some combination of getting paid / doing something they like. Some (or or even a lot) may not fit with what YOU would do in their situation, who’s politics you don’t like or might just be a bit too capitalist in flavour for you – but to start throwing terms like evil around is just unnecessary and undermines an industry we are all (as evidenced by reading RPS) invested in.

      • April March says:

        It’s an industry that has kept an unreasonably high price floor while pushing for more and more microtransactions, as well as the bad parts of ‘games as service’ (you don’t own the game, you need to handshake constantly, you don’t pay only once) but not the good ones (you have constant updates and technical assitance); all that while having notoriously hellish working conditions.

        The only one who would be insulted by the useage of ‘evil’ here is evil.

        I’m invested in the culture of gaming, and sadly a lot of it passes through the crapsack that is its industry, but I try hard not to conflate the two.

        • Kohlrabi says:

          Damn them for trying to give us entertainment! An enlightened citizen can choose his own cake or poison. If you don’t like it, don’t play or buy it.

  9. El Goose says:

    Fab, looking forward to giving this a whirl. Bought it on GOG a few months ago enticed by memories of the demo I got as part of a promotion, it came on a CD ROM in a cereal packet, which seems rather quaint nowadays. Annoyingly the GOG version was utterly unplayable, so hopefully this will fix those issues.

  10. gruia says:

    we need more RTTs. shadow tactics was boring. weak story annoying level design

  11. Nosebeggar says:

    This game is just stellar, not even nostalgia speaking, it’s fantastic.

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