Hidden & Dangerous 2
(With Sabre Squadron Expansion)
Score: 6.3 / 10
I used to hear quite a few mixed comments when the first Hidden and Dangerous was released. Many people found that the game wasn't as good as it could have been but on the other hand, many people were able to look past its faults and found the game fun nonetheless. There are a few things that I demand from a game if I am to enjoy it and this sequel is missing a few key things that would allow me to recommend it. Hidden and Dangerous 2 is much like its predecessor in that only a few gamers with enough patience will be able to look past the game's shortcomings and develop a love for it.
has you take on the role of the elite British SAS during WWII. Over the
course of the game, your team will complete missions in different global
locations. Each mission that takes place in one global locale is
actually broken down into a series of episodes. Before each mission you
will be able to select your four man team and the load out for each
soldier. After each episode you can't change your characters or the
equipment that you have, but you can do so after each mission. This does
make for a nice touch of customization such that, depending on how you
wish to approach a mission, you can use different members of the SAS,
and different equipment. Also the specialties and statistical skills of
your soldiers can increase from mission to missions as they use their
training. As such, it is in your best interest to keep your veteran
The actual gameplay of HD2 is similar to something like Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, or Swat 3. You're meant to move cautiously through the landscape and to eliminate your opposition with deadly efficiency. Unfortunately, there are a few things that detract from the feeling like you are controlling a squad of some of the best soldiers in the world. First, the control scheme is something like that of a complex flight simulator. While the aforementioned tactical shooters all have a fairly good interface, HD2's is needlessly convoluted and complex. For instance a soldier's inventory is broken down to what is on hand and in their belt pack, and to what is also in their back pack. As such, while I can understand that it would seem more realistic that you would have to move ammunition from the back pack to your belt pack to be able to reload your weapon; this is needlessly complex and time consuming. However, this is exactly how the game manages the inventory.
Anything not in the soldier's hands or belt pack although in the possession of the soldier can not be used. This forces the gamer to micromanage the inventory of each of their soldiers. Not only that but the back pack and the belt pack can become full forcing you to manage not only overall weight, but the types of items and the weight in each. Also, the micro-management of the inventory can sometimes be your doom as the game doesn't pause when you access your inventory.
gameplay can be fast paced when you run into a pack of enemies, but when
there are no enemies about, the game slows to a crawl as the level areas
can be massive. As such the pacing of the game is maddening. At times
you will be in a fierce fire fight and when it is over, you will be left
wanting more, but instead there is the simple careful march from point A
to point B. At other times when there is a careful pacing through an
area of enemies and stealth, it seems as if the game is not suited to
the elimination of all enemies followed by the completion of the mission
objectives. In each level, you are charged to complete some level goals
such as recovering documents or something similar. Generally, it is
easier to eliminate everyone first and then to complete the different
goals like collecting items etc. Again this places us in the slow uneven
pacing of a section of fun, then a section of boredom. Also, moving is
broken down into different speeds at different stances; creeping,
walking, walking quickly, and running while standing, crouching or while
prone. Obviously not each speed is available at each stance, but all of
them take energy and each soldier has a stamina bar which when depleted
forces the soldier into a slower pace. Having to run through a level at
a slower pace with no threat of enemies, only to complete a few errands
such that you can complete the level isn't fun.
As in other tactical shooters, you have control over each of your squad mates by either controlling them directly or by issuing them orders. Issuing commands is fairly straight forward but lacks the precision of a game like Rainbow Six. The commands are basic like follow, find cover, fire at will, etc. There isn't the complexity of a Bang and Clear, but at the same time the basic commands seem to be adequate and I only found a use really for two or three of them. Your squad control can be the difference between success and failure in many cases as your squad will provide covering fire for you in many cases on enemies that you did not see. In other times, when you issue simple command to follow, they take long and nonsensical paths to reach a position on your flank. Also, should you be in a tight area and need to turn back, they can block your path and only very slowly move out of your way. This is especially bad when you need to back up to find cover. The enemy AI I observed wasn't too bad, however there were some quirks. For instance enemies would run right towards then past me in an open field to take up a position behind me to attack me from behind. However, when spotted by enemies, they are usually crack shots and will be able to hit you at times even before you see them.
actual gameplay offers the basic first person shooter experience,
however, for those interested in the strategic aspect of tactical
shooters, there is what is called the tactical map. From there, you can
issue commands and move your troops through an area without actually
controlling your individual soldiers. Similar to the planning stage of
the Rainbow 6 series, you can issue orders and waypoints to each of your
troops without having to control each soldier. In this manner, you can
try and solve the mission objectives through pure strategy as opposed to
FPS skill. In addition there are a couple of other things that do keep
the game interesting. For instance if you can have an enemy surrender,
you can take their uniform and try to use stealth to accomplish your
mission by using the acquired disguise. Also, there are vehicles that
you can jump in and use, some of which have mounted weapons which also
make things interesting.
game's graphics are now dated as compared to the latest technical
offerings from the likes of Half- Life 2, but in its own right, the
textures from afar are still more than acceptable. The voice acting is
never overwrought and the soundtrack complements the mood of the levels
perfectly. The original portion of the game contains 6 missions with
each broken down to a bunch of levels in the same country area. There
are additional play modes, one called carnage where you must eliminate
all enemies you encounter, and the other called Lone Wolf, where you
will be alone in attempting to complete your mission. After completing
each mission you will be able to revisit them. There is also the
requisite online mode that provides Deathmatch and Occupation.
Occupation is similar to Domination from Unreal Tournament where
strategic points must be held and kept in order to win the game. The
Sabre Squadron expansion pack adds a few new weapons and vehicles. In
addition to the new missions, the big addition is the chance to play
objective based levels in a multiplayer mode. Although Sabre Squadron is
an expansion pack, its offerings are fairly weak in that it feels as if
what has been added should have been a part of the game anyway to begin
with. However, since the game is now about a year old if you really
wanted to, you could pick up both offerings for a fairly nominal price.
While Hidden and Dangerous 2 and Sabre Squadron offer what may have been ground breaking game play a few years ago, the interface problems and uneven pacing are primarily what hold it back from even being an acceptable alternative to today's tactical shooters. For those who have tried everything in the genre, you could do worse than HD2 if you must play another tactical shooter. On the other hand, from a gameplay perspective, you could do a whole lot better by trying a different game in a different genre.
- Mark Leung
(February 2, 2005)
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