Hands-On Preview: Secret Ponchos

Hands-On Preview: Secret Ponchos

Duel the baddest outlaws the old west has to offer. Secret Ponchos is on the show floor at PAX East 2014 providing a free for all of bullets, cowboy hats and bad attitudes. Secret Ponchos has been on many folks’ radar ever since it made its debut during the PS4 reveal. I had chance to play a match and add my name to the list of bad-ass gunslingers.

Secret Ponchos is an eight player online combat game that has the world’s most notorious outlaws settle their differences in an arena, old west style. The show floor demo showed off Secret Poncho‘s split screen mode with two human players and six computer controlled characters testing out the game’s free-for-all mode. The final release will have one on one duels and team deathmatches.

The demo on the show floor only had a few playable characters with the promise of an increased roster as development continues.

The Killer is well balanced and the go-to outlaw for most of the attendees. Kid Red is fast and can vanish for a quick escape but deals light damage. The Deserter has range to make up for his low speed. The Phantom Poncho is pretty much unstoppable at close range and has this crazy bullwhip that can pull you. Once your caught by the Phantom Poncho’s whip, his shotgun will make short work of you. My way of dealing with the Phantom was keep him as far as humanly possible with hunter’s rifle. Each of the characters has their own flair and feels well thought out. There was also a female character that looked like a bull fighter. She wasn’t selected in the demo I was in, but I’m sure she’s equally as quirky as everyone else.

As the burly Deserter armed with his trusty rifle, my plan was to lurk around the map in hopes of finishing off folks when they were low health. This strategy worked out well for me until my opponents got smarter and started to made good use of the evade roll to negate my character’s key advantage — killer range.

Turns out the Deserter isn’t as useless at close-range as I initially had thought. Aside from having a roll, every character also has pretty killer melee attacks. Mine was a bayonet charge that impales opponents, leaving them vulnerable for a follow up shot. When I discovered this neat little attack, Kid Red and his low health became bullet bait. Sadly in my arrogance I became more and aggressive which ultimately led to my utterly embarrassing defeat. I didn’t play my character properly and paid for it.

The sporadic debris on the map can be used as cover, allowing use of the duck away to prevent having your face blown off. It also serves as a good ambush spot to catch outlaws out in the open. Our stage also had an abandoned saloon to complete the old west motif.

There is no regenerating health but health packs do spawn throughout the map. This adds a nice layer of tension to the gunplay. You end up asking yourself if you should chase down a near-death wounded foe or if you’re being led into an ambush. It’s a nice back and forth.

The scoring system isn’t your typical “first to 25” type of free for all. Every kill gives you one bounty on your head. Take a bullet in a noggin, you lose a bounty. Personally, I think it’s a clever idea that forces you to play carefully when you think you have a big lead. Easy come, easy go I guess.

Secret Ponchos seems like a great local split screen diversion that will add more variety to an already diverse PS4 indie game library. Who knows, we may make a gunslinger out of you just yet.