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Video Game / Desperados

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Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive is a Real-Time Strategy Stealth-Based Game developed by Spellbound, and can be described as Commandos meets The Magnificent Seven.

The story starts a little after the Civil War, in New Mexico, where the train robberies have gotten out of control. Naturally, the local Railroad Baron, Mr. Smith, wants something to be done about it, and the bounty hunter by a name of John Cooper decides to take the job, taking the short trip to Louisiana to recruit (or rather, save their asses from whatever trouble they gotten themselves into) his old partners Sam Williams, Doc McCoy and Kate O'Hara. After convincing the rather uncooperative Marshall to tell them who's responsible for the train robberies, they set off to collect bounty on one Pablo Sanchez, the leader of a local gang. However things are hardly that simple...


The game has two less popular and not as well-received sequels, Desperados 2: Cooper's Revenge, and Helldorado. A fourth entry, Desperados III, was revealed in Gamescom 2018 and released in Summer 2020. It was developed by Mimimi Productions (of Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun fame) and published by THQ Nordic.

See also Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood, by the same company.

Trope Examples:

  • The Alcatraz: Fortezza, where Sanchez is held in mission 13. It is a stone castle with a single iron gate and is guarded by an entire company of US Cavalry, who patrol every single spot on the map save the gang's starting point. Appropriately, it is That One Level, at least in parts.
    Doc McCoy: "Goddamnit John, this place is the best guarded jail in these United States! We'll never get Sanchez out of there!"
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  • All Men Are Perverts: All enemies are distracted by Kate's garter trick when not in alert mode, though some do not move from their position as a result.
  • Almost Lethal Weapons: Very much averted. The protagonists are just as mortal as the antagonists, and go down just as easy to bullets.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Mia's poisoned Blow Gun. When a dart hits someone, the guy enters in a killing frenzy and shoots everywhere, sometimes killing other enemies if there are other people in the area (or being killed by his comrades in defense), then if still alive the madman is automatically stunned. There are A LOT of drawbacks: the blow gun can only be loaded with one dart at a time, it is the game weapon with the shortest range, the effect isn't immediate and an enemy hit by a dart immediately turns from where the dart came and just has the time to shoot before becoming crazy so, because the weapon has a very short range, the enemy won't miss and his shot will be lethal unless you use the blow gun while standing just in front of a door's building and have lightning-speed reflexes... or use intricately planned QuickActions.
  • Badass Longcoat, Cool Old Guy, Deadpan Snarker, Eyepatch of Power, Frontier Doctor, Grumpy Old Man: Doc McCoy.
  • Badass Moustache: Sanchez and Doc.
  • Bag of Spilling: Each mission starts with specific gear, even when the previous mission happened soon before. Particularly frustrating for the Eagle Nest and the following level: you find fifteen sticks of dynamite just at the end of the Eagle Nest (useful to disband an enemy counter-attack, although there is easier ways) and you begin the next mission (which occurs just after) with only one; same thing for Doc's gas bottles.
    • Subverted for tutorial missions, though: if you, say, fail at throwing one too many gas bottles in Doc's tutorial mission at the intended target? Easy! The mission generates some new ones for you. Needless to say, it's the only instance of this happening in the game.
  • Bandito: Sanchez and the ton of mooks.
  • Bank Robbery: Done by our heroes in mission 16, against Carlos as part of a ploy to get El Diablo to meet with him.
  • Big Bad: El Diablo.
  • Blow Gun: Mia uses a poisoned one.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played with. Like in Commandos, every character carries an unlimited supply of bullets. Unlike Commandos, however, the guns in Desperados need to be reloaded and, since each character carries a different gun, each one has a different capacity. For example, Cooper's revolver carries six shots, while Kate's derringer only carries two.
  • Bounty Hunter: John Cooper.
  • Bullet Dancing: El Diablo's men make The Sheriff of Grants do this in mission 18. Rescuing him is technically a required part of the mission.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: Gunshots can be masked by other loud noises, such as a nearby roaring waterfall or thunder.
  • Cast of Expies: Being Commandos in the Old West, several characters have similar overall abilities that the Commandos do; Cooper favours knives and fists and has an ability to distract enemies with a placeable item (Green Beret), Doc can silently shoot enemies at range (Sniper), Sam is the Demolitions Expert (Sapper), and Kate can use her feminine wiles to distract enemies (Natasha).
  • Chinese Girl: Mia Yung
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Averted, with priests in very clearly Lutheran garb.
  • Commonplace Rare: Sanchez' rocks are extremely valuable; you will have to be very careful to retrieve it after using it, and finding a second or third one (which only happens occasionally) is a massive deal that drastically expands your tactical options for that level. On some levels he will start without a rock, and you will have to use elaborate plans to get one.
    • Made even more silly in the 3D games where the rocks break after use.
  • Cool Guns: Cooper's gun is a Remington Army, Sam's gun is a Winchester lever-action rifle. Doc carries a Buntline Special.
  • Cowboy
  • Critical Existence Failure
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: El Diablo is capable of soaking up truly absurd numbers of bullets, dozens of times the amount that would kill anyone else. No explanation is given for this.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: Sanchez's Fortress. Ironically, his tutorial level, 14, returns to it, albeit in a much less well guarded state.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Kate's garter move.
  • The Dragon: Carlos.
  • Easter Egg: Placing Doc's coat on the pier in his tutorial mission can have interesting results.
    • In the mission where you raid Sanchez's fortress, at an early point, a pig escapes into the courtyard and is chased by a pink-shirt Mook, who then spends a while searching for it (the pig can be seen to roam around later). When you return to the area at night during a tutorial mission and approach the Gatling gun (presumably) the same pig comes dashing out and makes a bee-line for the high road.
  • Elite Mooks: Demonios, who only show up in the third and second-to-last level and throw instantly fatal knives. Similarly, red-coated, sharpshooting guards only show up in these levels, though their presence is given less fanfare. Same thing with the black-suited banditos, who only show up during mission 20 and later.
  • Enemy Mine: One of the reasons because Sanchez joined the Cooper's gang.
  • Escort Mission:
    • Thankfully subverted in the ambush mission. The real mission is not to escort Tied-up Sanchez on the horse thru the hail of gunfire, but to kill the would-be ambushers. Played right and Sanchez will be never be seen by the enemy.
    • There is a straighter example in the "Magnificient Six" mission. Cooper's gang travels with Mia, who can't be controlled yet and always follow Kate. Which makes this example still a subversion is that the intended way to succeed is to hide Kate and Mia somewhere and clean the town with the rest of the team.
  • Fake Longevity: Desperados 2, due to the publisher ceasing funding late in development, results to constantly recycling the same stage in a row, with all of the enemies/your equipment being recent, essentially forcing you to play the same level multiple times in a row.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: One of these can be shot down by Doc in Marshal Jackson's hacienda, near the end of the level. It doesn't kill the enemy (the level requires a Pacifist Run, but it does knock them out cold.
  • Fat Bastard: The pink- and blue-shirted banditos. The latter are also rather cowardly.
  • Five-Man Band
  • Forced Tutorial: Each man of the gang has his/her own tutorial level, which is part of the campaign plot and unskippable. They come the level after each member is recruited: level 1 (Cooper), 3 (Sam), 5 (Doc), 7 (Kate), 14 (Sanchez) and 20 (Mia).
  • Foreign Cuss Word: The Mexicans characters sometimes shout "''Mierda'!" (Spanish for "Shit!").
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted. The team is as vulnerable as the enemy to its own explosions, Doc's gas grenades, Sanchez's shotgun blasts, and Sam's snake.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • In spite of having quite possibly massacred the entire law enforcement population of several towns across the US, John doesn't dare kill the Marshal's deputies, and the gang gets pursued by the US Cavalry for the circumstantial murder of Mr Smith. Of course, Jackson had some influence, and quite likely staged the whole incident with Smith.
    • Some dialogues between missions make sense if Cooper's team sneaked in the various places without killing too many people but sounds a bit surreal if the player completed the mission by killing everyone. The extreme example is the Sanchez's gang, which might have been mercilessly slaughtered by the player during the mission where Cooper captures Sanchez; when freed from Fortezza Cooper and Sanchez agree to help each other and Cooper says later that he'll need Sanchez's gang. And then, back to Sanchez hideout, Sanchez's gang has been destroyed by El Diablo's men. Even if the gang has been previously destroyed by the player.
    • In the two Socorro missions (the day and the following night), never mind if the player killed or tied up everyone during the day mission, because every guards will be back for the night mission.
    • Taken to an extreme in the second game, where alot of levels take place in the same location, which means the entire location gets repopulated with enemies and everyone stops looking for the group of characters who just shot up the town before hand multiple times.
    • One of the enemy barks for Hispanic enemies has them call their target a gringo. This is somewhat amusing when directed at Sanchez, who is a walking, talking Mexican stereotype.
  • Game-Over Man: A guy who wears a top hat with a creepy smile while holding some measuring tape. Presumably he's about to measure somebody's corpse. He also shows up (without his hat or tape) if the game asks you to insert the disc.
  • Gatling Good: With the original Gatling Gun. Sam and Sanchez can use them; Sanchez is able to carry them and fire from the waist.
  • Ghost Town: Deadstone, in the later part of the campaign.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Doc McCoy.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Where to begin?
  • The Gunslinger: John is a quickdraw, Doc McCoy a trick shooter.
  • Guns Akimbo: Some enemies shoot like this, not only with revolvers: some enemies of the later levels carry sawed-off shotguns akimbo.
  • Hand Cannon: The Sawed-Off Shotgun.
  • Hostage Spirit Link: The death of a civilian causes the failure of the mission, which increases the difficulty (civilians tends to alert the enemies when they spot a corpse or see the heroes killing someone or drag a dead body). You can stun them and tie them up, though. Note: The mission is also failed if the enemy killed a civilian, so this is especially aggravating in the mission with The Sheriff.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Some enemies are not affected by Kate's garter playing.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted. All firearms, protagonist and otherwise, are deadly at close to medium range. They get more inaccurate at long range, though, with shotguns being completely useless (of course).
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own: In the second-to-last level, only John Cooper is able to climb his way to El Diablo's room.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: A legitimate and rather useful if dangerous tactics. Enemies who spot an unarmed and motionless PC will sometimes not shoot right away but will instead draw a bead on thrm and slowly approach in order to knock the hero down. Naturally their approach route will just happen to pass an ambush with your knife-thrower at the ready. Can be played even straighter with your Action Girl as a bait as she is fast enough to kick an approaching goon right in the forbidden zone.
    • Even if they knock out the hero, they will stand there and keep a bead on him until he wakes up again (at which point they will shoot him), essentially staying immobile and distracted. This frees up any area they were previously guarding, and you only need contact with the Doc to wake the knocked out character up ahead of time.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Desperados 2 has Vaquero (Cow Boy) for Normal and Pistolero (Gunslinger) for Hard.
  • It's Personal: Sanchez is definitively convinced to join Cooper after discovering that El Diablo killed the members of his gang and Mia did so because the bad guys killed her father.
    • Angel Face sends his henchmen to torture Cooper's brother to death to set the stage for the second game.
  • Jive Turkey: Sam.
  • Kick the Dog: Marshal Jackson's deputies burning down a local town and shooting Mia's unarmed father, as well as El Diablo's banditos forcing civilians to bullet dance on later levels.
  • Knife Nut: John Cooper. He can both use a Bowie knife to stab enemies or throw it to take them out at a distance.
  • Lazy Mexican: The former Bandito Pablo Sanchez has a special ability which allows him to attract unaware enemies by pretending to have a siesta in the open.
  • Little Miss Badass: Mia skirts the edge of this trope, being 18.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Sanchez is initially thought to be the leader of the bandit gang causing all of the recent Train Jobs, but upon capture, he reveals that he answers to a higher authority, a mysterious bandit leader known only as El Diablo. Ironically, it was El Diablo himself who pointed them in this direction.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The 21st mission has American army fighting against El Diablo's men. Both side are hostile against the player controlled men.
  • Mexican Standoff: In level 18, at the train station, with 4 desperados against a dozen banditos.
  • Mook Chivalry: Averted and played straight. Some Mooks will call for help more often than others.
  • More Criminals Than Targets: Inverted. There are often more guards than civilians in towns.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: El Diablo and his Demonios, who are respectively the first game's Big Bad and his Elite Mooks.
  • National Stereotypes: Lots of them about Mexicans, not so obscurely at some points where the Spanish is... not so good, and may be painful to the ears of a native speaker.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Subverted, since it's John who wields it. Played straight for the Demonios.
  • Nice Hat: Big Bill's coonskip cap in mission 1, if not everybody in the game.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: After noticing a missing or dead comrade, guards will sometimes shoot in the air, alerting all the nearby guards and gathering them together for a briefing, providing a nice fat target for Doc's sleeping gas or Sam's dynamite.
  • Noodle Incident: When hired by Cooper, Sam tells that the previous time they worked together, they destroyed half of Santa Fé. We never learn more.
  • Pacifist Run: One mission requires you to knock out every enemy on the map.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Done by the enemies on one specific target and by Sanchez on a circle around him.
  • Poirot Speak: The dialogue of the Spanish-speaking enemies.
  • Powder Trail: Sam can set these in certain missions, typically to blow up fortified gates.
  • Professional Gambler: Kate O'Hara.
  • Quick Draw: Cooper has the fastest rate of fire on the team with his revolver. Using quick actions he can fire three rounds in a rapid succession.
  • Railroad Baron: Mr. Smith. Also, Lester Lloyd Goodman, aka Angel Face.
  • Rare Guns: The Doc's gun is a Colt Buntline, a fictional variant of the Colt Single Action Army revolver witth a very long barrel.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: One of the banditos wears a pink shirt. Also subverted, as he's a Fat Bastard and Dirty Coward.
  • Remixed Level: A few times.
    • Sanchez's tutorial takes place in his mountain fortress, after it has been invaded by El Diablo.
    • The two Soccoro's levels (15th and 16th) occurs the same day in the same map, the former during the day and the latter during the night. Even if you killed/stunned nearly everyone, they will come back.
    • The levels 18 and 21 are set in the town of Grants. The former is a classical level, the latter features a large scale battle between El Diablo men and the US Cavalry. Both are hostile toward the player.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Sanchez's Weapon of Choice. It is also the gun of some mooks in the later parts of the game.
  • The Sheriff: All over the place. Oddly, many towns have multiple sheriffs.
  • Shoot the Rope: Usually using Doc's special bullets to drop something heavy on the enemies. The iconic western version of this, shooting the gallow rope, is absent due to Doc himself being the usual victim of it.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Some Leg: Kate playing with the garter, doesn't work on more disciplined or alerted enemies.
  • Sissy Villain: Some of the enemies in the last levels have some rather effeminate voices, especially when in pursuit.
  • Sniper Pistol: Doc's Buntline revolver, with normal bullets and special high-precision bullets. Admittedly, when sniping he does attach a stock and a scope, and the Buntline is famous for its exceedingly long barrel.
  • Spoiled by the Manual: The manual describes accurately the background and abilities of the members of Cooper's gang... including spoilers, as their recruitment is part of the plot (yes, Sanchez has his own section in the manual). To be fair, this section starts with a warning stating that the following pages include spoilers.
  • Spoiler Cover: The cover spoils that the initial Big Bad becomes one of the protagonists. Five of the six playable characters are displayed on the cover art. Including Pablo Sanchez, the Disc-One Final Boss. He is initially presented as the Big Bad, finding him then bringing him to justice fills the game's first half. It is only after this point that the game reveals that both Sanchez and Cooper have been Unwitting Pawns to the true villains' plot. Then, Sanchez join Cooper's gang and becomes a regular party member.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Sanchez, while still a ganglord, bellows about it after his mooks allow the Desperados to steal their horses.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Sam's specialization. He's rather fond of it.
  • Swamps Are Evil: Averted in mission 5. There's nothing worse in the swamp than alligators, and they don't come to bite you unless you provoke them.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: During the missions, occasional plot-critical dialogs freeze the game.
  • Tap on the Head: Or the boot to the head, depending on who you using. The enemies can also punch and knock-out the heroes.
  • Thriving Ghost Town: Averted.
  • Throwing the Distraction: Making noise is very useful to attract enemies somewhere. The explosive variant appears in the plot of the mission where you have to save Doc McCoy: making his cart explode is the most practical way to attract most of the guards far from the gallow.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The artwork of the box of the game is itself a major spoiler. Sanchez Heel–Face Turn could have been a surprise to the player, if he weren't featured as a member of Cooper's gang on the cover art of the game...
  • Train Job: It's all started because of this happening way too much.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: El Diablo's fortress has a room where the floor is made up of large tiles. Some of these trigger traps and there is only one safe roundabout way through the room. The game does not provide any clues about what the safe path is, forcing the player to save scum through the room.
  • Timed Mission: Very mild example. The mission where Cooper and Sam need to save Doc McCoy from the gallows is failed if the local preacher reaches the gallows before Doc is released. It is actually a lot less difficult as it seems when reading it: the preacher walks toward the gallows by crossing the starting position of the team, so knocking him out and tying him up is the first thing that the player have to do when the mission starts. Though things could become more tricky if the player triggers the alert: the guards can find the preacher and release him.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The last level is a 1 VS 1 Boss Battle in a tiny area.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Can only be used to roll in and out of cover.
    • Becomes VERY useful in the last mission.
  • U.S. Marshal: Marshal Jackson in the first game and Ross Cooper, John's murdered brother, as well as Arthur Clarke, in the second. Jackson is secretly the first game's Big Bad, while Clarke is in cahoots with the sequel's main antagonist.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: El Diablo's fortress, which is carved out of a mountain located at the heart of a lifeless valley and whose mere exterior is as big as Fortezza.
  • Videogame Caring Potential: In many levels you are up against deputies, soldiers, guards, etc. who are doing their job and following the law. Taking out guards by lethal means is easier, but if you want, you can instead take the extra effort to just knock out and tie up just about everyone.
  • "Wanted!" Poster
  • We Need a Distraction: Every character except Sam has a way to distract/bait enemies.
  • The Western: A rare example of one that occurs as a stealth strategy title as opposed to a straight up shooter.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • A mission requires to free an American soldier captured by bandits and steal their horses without being spotted, in order to follow then back to their hideout. There is no further mention to the freed soldier.
    • The final mission is a fight between Cooper and El Diablo is El Diablo's office, where only Cooper was able to enter. The ending cinematic only shows El Diablo dying. There isn't mention at all about what happen to the team or if/how they were able to clean their reputations of accusations of murder.
  • With Friends Like These...: Between Sam and Doc.
  • You Have Failed Me: At the end of mission 19, one of El Diablo's Demonios executes Carlos for failing to pay up on his order.


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