Hidden & Dangerous 2
It seems like the new trend in first person shooters is to move away from killing Nazis and reach out for new and fresh enemies. Hell, even Medal of Honor, the definitive Nazi-killing simulation, has decided to branch out and give you a chance at the fending off the Japanese. This leaves the market wide-open for someone to step in and quench your Nazi thirst. Enter Illusion Softworks, the geniuses behind Vietcong, Mafia and the game to which this sequel is based on, Hidden & Dangerous.
Hidden & Dangerous 2 is pretty overwhelming to start with. From the beginning you’re given a pool of over 40 individuals from which you’ll have to form a 4-man-squad. Each of the individuals have their own strengths and weaknesses, it’s up to you to find a group who complements each other in the battlefield. When you finally assemble your squad you’ll be sent to the outfit screen where you’ll have to take variables such as weight, skill and proficiencies into account. It’s not your average shooter screen like in Ghost Recon; you’ll have to have some knowledge of how the weapons work in order to be successful. In a nice nod to realism certain weapons can only be used while you’re in certain stances, a real-world hitch that was actually forgotten in similar games like Raven Shield.
After you finally outfit your guys you’re ready to head into some of the Second World War’s most intense battles. You’ll start out with some small rescue missions, working your way up through the countryside as you toss a monkey wrench into the plans of the fascist regimes. The default control scheme is a bit weird and will probably give you bouts of claustrophobia on the first couple of runs. Left click shoots, right click activates objects a la System Shock, End brings the sights up to your eyes for precise aiming, right shift and right control manipulate your stance while the spacebar brings up the tactical planning view. The default controls have you moving your character with the directional arrows as opposed to the traditional WASD keys. Initially this threw me for a loop as the controls seemed to be heavily concentrated on the middle of the keyboard which game my wrist cramps for a little while.
As the namesake implies the game is about acting covertly and striking at the opportune moments as opposed to rushing headfirst into battle. To help this along you can control your movement speed with the mouse wheel a la Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. There are four different movement speeds ranging from a tip toe to a full out sprint. As you may imagine the slower you travel the less noise and ruckus you make. Most times the game will test your patience by requiring you to trudge methodically throughout the environments at a snail-like pace.
You can take to the battle from either the third or first person perspective, both of which have their advantages. From the third person viewpoint you can see around corners and get the drop of enemies in confined quarters. While it was nice that the designers added a 3rd person mode I opted to go for the 1st person mode for more precise aiming and maneuvering. The tactical map is now in full 3D but it’s a bit too clunky for my tastes. You can dish out commands, dictate waypoints and call in support but it’s all for naught because the system is just so unintuitive. Likewise the command system is a bit weak too as your units will sometimes choose to ignore your orders entirely. There were times when I engaged in combat with my enemies, expecting some cover fire from my compatriots. Only after I died did I find out that my squad mates were still at the starting point while I was getting slaughtered by five enemies.
What really makes H&D2 so inaccessible is that it’s just so damn unforgiving. Look at it as the Commandos of tactical first person shooters if you want an idea of just how difficult it can be at times. To give you an idea of just how difficult this game is to grasp there are so many different commands that the designers had to use the Alt and Shift keys in order to implement more commands. That’s a whole hell of a lot of commands and a lot of clutter, even for a 101 piece keyboard. It doesn’t help either that the designers decided to oversimplify certain aspects of the game.
On the whole the game has a very cluttered and unintuitive feel to it, alienating much of the audience before they can really get a firm hold of the game. Movement for the characters isn’t actually all that smooth, giving us that sort of movement on tiles feel that we get from the Tomb Raider series. It’s a carryover from some of Illusion’s earlier games such as Vietcong and Mafia, another sign of the rapidly aging engine. This also makes it very difficult to aim accurately in high-pressure situations. We often found ourselves overshooting our targets as we fought with our mice to hit the dead zone. Because of this certain missions were overcomplicated, especially when we found difficulties with hitting targets that were literally two feet in front of us.
More or less the game looks like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault but instead of being rendered with the Quake III engine it’s being rendered by the LS3D engine. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that some of the environments lack refinement and some of the characters look pretty lanky and lack major definition. The animations are excellent though as you’ll see guys crawl, leap over objects and climb over objects as opposed to just magically jumping over them. On the other end of the spectrum environments are comprised of poorly constructed buildings, blurry-textured objects and generally unrefined elements. With games like Max Payne 2 showing us just what our graphics cards are capable of the Illusion Softworks’ LS3D engine (the same one used in Mafia) really shows its age.
I hate to use the term but the visuals really are a mixed bag. Just when we were ready to call the game a visual debacle something popped up and amazed us. The sheer size of some of the levels is enough to make us forget about the horrid textures and bland structures altogether. There’s definitely a large discrepancy between the quality of the indoor and outdoor levels. Interiors are very bland and unrefined which make them look like they were constructed entirely out of Legos. When compared to recently released titles such as Call of Duty and Max Payne 2 this game is just simply overmatched.
Things fare a little better on the audio front; each effect lends a very convincing feel and the large outdoor levels feature a nice echo and reverb effect. Likewise gunshots indoors sounds occluded as the sounds are dampened by the interior and the walls. I didn’t really have a problem with the audio as it helped me get into the proper mindset to kick some Fascist ass.
If you’re looking for a good multiplayer game then you may want to invest a little cash into H&D2. It has one of the best co-operative modes that you can find on the market, allowing for multiple people to play through the single-player missions (albeit with different objectives). At times it’s a bit difficult to get everyone on the same page when playing online but it’s a perfect fit for LAN parties.
It’s not that Hidden & Dangerous 2 is a bad game it’s just that it’s a bit too sophisticated for today’s run’n’gun audience. When today’s titles emphasize flashy effects and break neck game play it’s difficult to find an audience that will bite at a title that relies on stealth and calculated tactics. Still, for the tacticians out there who are full of patience this just might be the shooter that you’ve been looking for.
From the makers of Vietcong and Hidden & Dangerous comes, Hidden & Dangerous 2, an entertaining tactical shooter that relies a bit too heavily on tactics and not enough on action.
Rating: 7.6 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile