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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RTS

 

Publisher

Infogrames

 

Developer

Spellbound

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2001

 

 

- Great setting

- Burrows something from just about every Western ever made

- Save anywhere and anytime

- Good animation and graphics with plenty of detail

- Music is excellent

- Many hours of gameplay

 

 

- Lots of trial and error

- "Skid" scrolling

- Frustratingly difficult at times

- Uneven voice acting

- Characters won't perform any actions without your command (i.e. won't shoot back or run for cover.)

 

 

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Desperados:

Wanted Dead or Alive

Score: 8.4 / 10

Iím one among many that considers The Good, the Bad and The Ugly to be the greatest Western movie ever made. Unforgiven isnít without its charm and Shane certainly ranks high on the list, but Sergio Leoneís epic tops the heap. Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive (DWDA) is an amalgam of many Western-themed works produced in the last 50 years. (Minus Brules, a book of fiction where the protagonist sets about killing Indians off with his rifle.)

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You assume control of John Cooper, bounty hunter and Clint Eastwood wannabe, who takes interest in the money offered by a train company to capture a slew of bandits that have been terrorizing the line. Of course, he reckons he canít do it by himself so he begins assembling a kind of Wild West A-Team: Sam, a rifle-toting, dynamite-throwing, snake-bagging, B.A. Barakus type; Doc McCoy, a decoy-laying, knock-out-gas-throwing, medically trained sniper; Kate, a garter-showing, sun-deflecting, high-kicking, quick-changing, femme fatale; Sanchez a tequila-toting, bear of a man, who can pick up mounted gattling guns; and Mia Yung (and her monkey sidekick, Mister Leone), who can hide in barrels, and shoot drug-tipped darts. The team members all have their special talents and attributes that when used in concert make a formidable force capable of taking out literally hundreds of enemies during the course of a mission. They also have some of the craziest accents this side of the Pecos.

A few times Sanchez sounds vaguely Cuban rather than Mexican. Cooper tries too hard to be Clint Eastwood, which is not all bad but it fluctuates from heavy raspy to no rasp at all. Thankfully, the music is good on all fronts. There are many different music tracks but theyíre all seasoned with the same spice, whatever the situation, and they heighten tension in many situations.

 

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High tension is the name of the game for DWDA. At the start of nearly every mission the map is crawling with bad guys who would just as soon fill you full of holes as look at you. The first series of missions has Cooper assembling his team, rescuing them from bad situations. But you wonít have access to all of the characters until youíre nearly finished the game. Even then you rarely have access to all your characters at the same time. Many are the times youíll have to 

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complete a mission with only a select few members. Usually itís a mission that would be a lot easier if you had every one of your team on the mission. Even when you have all the characters you will have problems with nearly every mission. After about 50 hours of gameplay, by far and away the easiest mission (besides the first one) is the final confrontation with the leader of the bandits, El Diablo. Mission objectives range from "round up the team and get the hell out of town" to "cross a town thatís under siege by the US Cavalry and being defended by El Diabloís men to reach the train headed to his headquarters." At the start of every mission itís always good to view the "tactical" map. It shows all the hostile targets in red Ė making most maps look like a really bad case of chicken pox. Youíll always start off by saying, "This is impossible!" As you make slow progress youíre attitude will change to, "Maybe I can do it." Part of the problem stems from trying to get characters to work in unison. Most of the action requires you to move quickly and quietly to sneak up on enemies, knock them out, then dispose of the body. Donít bother going for your guns in most missions. Firing a gun will usually net an onslaught of enemies alerted to your presence. Getting the team to work together is tough and most of the time youíll spend using one character at a time. To alleviate some of this is the ability to save a "quick action" so one action can be set up ahead of time. (It would have been handy to issue these actions in a pause mode, as it stands you have to do it on the fly, or if you could issue a succession of actions.) But never, in any bad situation will the characters automatically run away or shoot back when under attack. No, they'll get gunned down if you're not paying attention and that's the end of the mission.

Iím a great proponent of using keyboard shortcuts and DWDA is a perfect example of why you should use them. Using the mouse exclusively is tough since the controls for the characters and various map views are scattered to three corners of the screen. (Especially when you want to see the ever-important enemy field of vision.) Even then, control isnít perfect. The most annoying aspect of DWDA is the scrolling of the screen. As is common with RTS games, moving your cursor to the edge of the screen starts it scrolling. The problem with DWDA is that the screen doesnít do a hard stop. It glides to a stop, much the way a horse does. More than a few critical times, I overshot the area I wanted to be looking at.

Iím extremely thankful Spellbound deemed it appropriate to allow game saves at any point. Thereís a lot of trial and error involved in trying to overcome some of the obstacles. Quick save and quick load have never been used so often! Even with the save anywhere option, youíll play portions of missions over and over trying to figure out the correct way to clear out an area, trying to figure out what went wrong Ė especially when you factor in the townsfolk that will run and alert the authorities when they see something suspicious, like dead bodies. And there will be plenty of dead bodies. No bones about it, DWDA is a tough game but I always wanted to try one more tactic. (Much like the way the classic space sim X-Wing, where you practically had to read the designers mind to finish some missions.)

The details in DWDA are great. The backgrounds and animations are fantastic. (Except when youíre zoomed, which turns the view into a pixelfest.) Itís fun to watch the townsfolk go about their business and watch guards consult with superiors or one bandit fire a gun in the air to call for help. Then thereís all the stuff you get to do, like jumping off a balcony onto a waiting horse, tossing sticks of dynamite, sniping enemies from across the map to allow a team member to remain unnoticed, hide in buildings, crawl through tall grass to avoid detection, roll out from cover and open fire, setup ambushes, and blow things up real good!

As our heroes ride into the sunset, Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive should please fans of Commandos-type RTS and those looking for a challenge. Itís got a great setting, suitable music, familiar characters, and enough challenge for the stoutest player. However, if youíre easily frustrated you may want to think before making this purchase.

- Omni

 

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