Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive is a stealth-based real-time tactics computer game, developed by Spellbound and released in 2001. In the game, the player controls up to six characters in a wild west setting. The protagonist is a worldly knife-fighter and gunslinger, John Cooper. He takes on a bounty to capture a mysterious and vicious train-robber called "El Diablo" ("The Devil" in Spanish). As Cooper sets off on his quest, he is aided by five other friends and they work together in a real-time, stealth based structure very similar to that introduced in Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, although an all-out gunfight is still highly possible in the game. A sequel called Desperados 2: Cooper's Revenge was released in late March 2006. A second sequel, Helldorado, (announced as expansion pack Desperados 2: Conspiracy but made into a full game) was released in mid 2007 in Germany. The English version was released in some regions in November 2007.
The game takes place in New Mexico, 1881. Many trains have been robbed the last few months by a mysterious and vicious bandit called "El Diablo". The railroad company Twinnings & Co has offered $15,000 to the one who can stop El Diablo. Bounty-hunter John Cooper accepts the task, despite the objections of bad-tempered and contemptuous US Marshal Jackson, but soon learns the mission is not as simple as he first assumed. John intends to create a team of his old partners to aid him on his hunt for the train-robbers, consisting of Sam, Doc and Kate. When he discovers that Sanchez is not in fact the leader of the raids, he releases him and enlists his help too. The team of 5 end up increasing by one more when Mia's father is killed at his outpost, and she vows to avenge his death.
In a surprising twist, El Diablo is revealed to be Marshal Jackson himself, who captures the characters and jails them in his secret cave headquarters. With the help of Mia, they successfully escape out of their cell. Cooper then chases El Diablo up to his office and kills him in the ensuing gunfight.
- John Cooper
- The leader of the gang; the player begins the game with this character. His tutorial is the first level, taking place in Opelousas, LA. He is the most important character in the gang, and is playable in every mission except in the tutorials for the other characters.
- Cooper carries a Remington Army 1875 revolver, and can shoot three men within a second. He also carries a throwing knife which he can use as a weapon and cutting tool. Cooper is one of two characters who can carry unconscious or dead bodies, but he is the only character who can climb walls and mountains and saddle horses. The pocket watch which he acquires in his tutorial plays a tune after a preset time, which proves very useful for luring enemy guards into striking range.
- Samuel "Sam" Williams
- An Afro-American explosives-expert, he is picked up by Cooper at a cotton-plantation in Louisiana. He is obsessed with explosives, heavy weapons and pretty women, and his jovial and wise-cracking nature often clashes with Doc McCoy's grittiness. His tutorial takes place at an Indian territory in Louisiana.
- Sam's tools include dynamite, a sack with a rattlesnake in it, rope for tying unconscious people, and he can also use barrels of TNT in certain missions. His Winchester rifle has the longest range and contains 12 bullets. Sam is also one of two characters that can use gatling guns, but only at fixed stations.
- Dr. Arthur "Doc" McCoy
- A scientist and trained physician of Scottish ancestry, he is saved from being lynched for fraud in Jennings, LA. He is a somewhat tense person and usually speaks in a low growl. His tutorial takes place at his cabin, which is located in a swamp in Louisiana.
- Doc McCoy wields a powerful Colt Buntline Special, for which he has crafted special high-precision bullets that transform the revolver into a sniper rifle. Being a man of science, McCoy also has knock-out gas vials which can be thrown or delivered by balloons filled with helium. He can also revive unconscious characters and heal wounded allies. His massive trenchcoat can be used as a scarecrow for decoy actions, and he is an accomplished lockpick and safecracker.
- Kate O'Hara
- An Irish-American professional gambler, Kate is saved by Cooper, Sam and McCoy in Baton Rouge after being caught upon cheating. She is beautiful and seductively charming but quite overconfident, a trait which gets her into trouble more than once. Just like Cooper, her tutorial takes place in Opelousas.
- Kate has poker cards for luring guards, a mirror - which is used for either blinding enemies or lighting Sam's TNT barrels from a distance - and a powerful and (relatively) silent, but short-ranged, Derringer. Kate can attract men by playing with her garter belt and then can kick them; her kick is faster and stronger than Cooper's punch. A little-used ability in this game is her disguise skill. Kate is also the only character who can automatically move silently when walking on noisy surfaces.
- Pablo Sanchez
- A Mexican bandit-leader of Spanish descent, Sanchez is captured by the first four characters in New Mexico, thinking he is guilty of the train-robberies; but when John realises Sanchez is innocent, he decides to free him from Fortezza. Sanchez is loud and brash, and more a man of brawns rather than brains, but his strength and his knowledge about El Diablo's organization prove highly useful to the team. His tutorial takes place at his fortress in New Mexico.
- Sanchez has tequila, which attracts enemy guards and also makes them inebriated. Sanchez can also fake a siesta, which causes enemies to approach him curiously and thus gives him an opportunity to knock them out with a roundhouse swing. He has a sawn-off shotgun that can harm or kill multiple men with only one shot and carries two shells at a time. Like Sam, Sanchez can use gatling guns, although he can also carry them. When Sanchez enters a buildings with three or less enemies, he will throw them out a door, leaving them unconscious. Sanchez can use his strength to carry two bodies at a time, throw stones to knock out enemies, or push heavy objects aside.
- Mia Yung
- A Chinese girl, she joins the gang right after her father is killed by Marshal Jackson. At 18 years, Mia is the youngest character in the gang. In her quest for revenge, she is quite courageous, though not as fool-hardy as Kate tends to be; she makes up for her lack of combat strength with wit and sneakiness, perhaps more than the others. Her tutorial takes place at a mine in New Mexico.
- Mia can use her small size to hide inside barrels. She has a whistle, flash grenades, peanuts and her monkey, Mr. Leone for distracting enemies. Her blowpipe has very short range, contains only one dart at a time, and does minimal physical damage. The darts will, however, drive the victim into a psychotic shooting spree, attacking friends, foes, and civilians. If the victim is not shot dead by his own friends, he will eventually fall unconscious.
- Mia does not reappear in any of the sequels, but is replaced by the Native American character Hawkeye. Mr. Leone the Monkey is a reference to Spaghetti Western director, Sergio Leone.
The player can reveal the field of vision of one NPC at any given time. Depending on the color of the conic field of vision, the player can see the mental state of the NPC. If the cone is green, it means the person is calm. A yellow cone signifies suspicion, and a red means the NPC has spotted one of the characters. Some colors signify special status such as a purple cone, meaning the NPC has become attracted to Kate, or a black cone, meaning they have been hit by Mia's blowpipe.
Another special feature is the Quick Action, in which certain actions - from running to a certain place up to using a weapon against a pre-targeted enemy - can be planned ahead and then executed immediately when needed. For instance, Cooper, by programming his revolver with Quick Action, can either concentrate all three shots he can fire on a single opponent or divide them between up to three targets without having to move the mouse icon around.
The game received generally favorable reviews from critics. On the review aggregator GameRankings, 80% of critics gave the game positive reviews, based on 28 reviews. On Metacritic, the game had an average score of 78 out of 100, based on 12 reviews.
- Official web pages at Spellbound
- Gamespot's page for Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive
- Helldorado homepagecs:Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alivefr:Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alivehu:Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alivept:Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alivesl:Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive