Hidden & Dangerous 2 is the sequel to the 1999 game Hidden & Dangerous which was reviewed generally as a good game but was let down by some programming and level design flaws. You take the role of a team of British elite SAS (Special Air Service) troops during World War 2. The game is described as an tactical action third person/first person shooter. You will control up to 4 troops spread over 23 missions in 9 different locations which include, Norway, Africa, Burma and others. You’ll fight against German, Italian and Japanese enemies.
It has taken me some time to write this review because of very mixed and incomplete feelings about Hidden & Dangerous 2. When I first finished the game in normal difficulty I could not help but feel disappointed. The game was in development for a long time and was overdue by 12 months. The old Hidden & Dangerous web site listed all that was to be in the game but later we were told it wouldn’t be as much. Media of the game including screenshots and the E3 movie trailer look nothing like the finished product. A lot of things are missing from Hidden & Dangerous 2. This is the main reason why I was so disappointed with the game. Through my disappointment I have accepted the game for what it is and this is my review.
Hidden & Dangerous 2 starts in training, you must complete all objectives of the training to make your way through to the first level. The training is good for players that aren’t familiar with Hidden & Dangerous and offers some “getting use to” time for veterans of the original game. The training teaches you to walk, run and jump as well as swim, fire weapons and blow up stuff. These are all common game functions but the last part of the training is about the new tactical mode and player commands. The new commands are great, they let you the player control your squad easily with commands such as “follow me”, “take cover”, “fire on my lead” and many more including formation commands. The new tactical mode takes over from the old tactical map. The tactical map for those that don’t know was a bird’s eye view of the current level. Now the new tactical mode is an in game control panel which let’s you set-up your squad for an attack. You can set your squads stance, speed and state of mind. You can even set wether or not they must wait for a signal or not. The tactical mode and commands just allow you to have better control over your squad as a whole. They aren’t easy functions to pick up but once you get the hang of them you’ll find them quite useful.
Once you have passed your training you’ll be taken to the debriefing screen where you’ll notice your soldiers attributes have increased. This is because every time you enter a mission your squad is learning and improving their abilities. Now this is definitely one of the finer points of Hidden & Dangerous 2. Your soldiers can also be awarded with decorations for service and outstanding achievement during a mission.
Before your mission starts you will have the opportunity to pick your team for the upcoming campaign. Your team or squad is made up of 4 soldiers. If one of them dies during a mission and you continue, you’ll be one man short for the rest of the campaign. After you have chosen your elite team of SAS soldiers you’ll be given the mission briefing. You’ll be told the situation, what you have to do and what might happen. Once you’ve gone through the briefing it is time to pick your inventory. You get a vast variety of weapons and items too choose from, including pistols, sub-machine guns, rifles, explosives, heavy weapons and even uniforms. You must take enough for the whole campaign. Unlike the original there is no reequipping yourself after a single mission.
Once you have set up your elite SAS troops it is time to start the mission. Most missions have cinematic cutscenes before the mission starts to bring more of a storyline feel to the player. The cutscenes are extremely well done they are certainly a highlight in the game.
Hidden & Dangerous 2 has some of the best looking and most dynamic level designs I have seen. The biggest improvement since the original game would have to be the level design followed closely by the player functions. Hidden & Dangerous 2 is set in many different countries at many different times of year. The environments in Hidden & Dangerous 2 are nothing short of amazing. The game features missions in freezing cold winters where the level is a snow covered forest at early morning or an ice covered island during the day. Missions in blazing hot summers where the level is a desert airfield in the middle of a sand storm or a ruined desert oasis at night. There are other levels where you’re in an underground research facility, a tropical rain forest and the streets of a war torn city. The variety is extremely vast. The missions and objectives of the levels are also vast so you won’t grow tired of doing the same thing over and over. Your missions may include having to rescue an ally or you may have to capture an important enemy officer. You might have to attack an enemy outpost then defend it against a counter-attack. The objectives are never the same and might suddenly change at the last minute leaving you in a difficult situation.
The over all graphics of Hidden & Dangerous 2 is very good although the LS3D engine, which was used to create Mafia is starting to show it’s age. Staying on top is hard in the gaming world but Hidden & Dangerous 2 looks very nice. The textures and models work well together and bring realistic looking characters, vehicles, terrains and buildings. The characters are not at all what we would call boxy and the vehicles are brilliantly designed. I was extremely pleased with how well the animations looked in game. Some of the original Hidden & Dangerous animations could have been a lot better but they are smooth, realistic and close to perfect in Hidden & Dangerous 2.
The Artificial Intelligence or AI in Hidden & Dangerous 2 is smarter and a lot more sneaker than in the first game. Enemies will take cover, duck and even surrender when fired upon. Some enemies will try to out smart you by coming from the sides or from behind. If you are spotted an enemy will get some back up before he attacks but if he is alone he will try to sneak up on you. Your own soldier AI is just as smart as the enemy and with the command functions can be twice as deadly. Your soldiers will obey all commands you give do their best to protect you. I almost ran over one of my soldier’s who was on the ground with a heavy machine gun but he quickly moved out the way before I hit him. Your soldiers aren’t stupid, they are aware of their surroundings and so is the enemy.
Background music in movies is a huge deal and don’t think with games it is any less of a deal. Music does it’s own important part of setting the mood. You can’t have heavy heart pumping rock while the mission is suppose to be stealthy. Illusion Softworks went to extremes with their music for Hidden & Dangerous 2. They hired Michal Szlavik to compose the music and the Studio Orchestra Brno to record the tracks. Music needs to do its job, which is to enhance a situation. It needs to be able to tug at your emotions and feelings to pull you into the game. Sadly Hidden & Dangerous 2 does not do that very well. The same action music is used often so the music gets repetitive. Although the music tracks are good tracks they do not suit the missions when they are on loop. For me this was one of the major downfalls of the game, so I now have the music down very low or completely off.
Sound effects play a large part to the over all feel of a level. Sound effects are just as important as graphics are too set up the environment. Bottom line is you need them and you need them to be good. Hidden & Dangerous 2 has some really good environmental sounds. The sound effects in each mission are well-suited and ambient sounds such as rain loop perfectly.
The developers spent a lot of time working on the multiplayer features of Hidden & Dangerous 2 and it shows. The multiplayer mode has three styles of play. The classic deathmatch where it’s every man for him self, we all know what deathmatch is. The there is occupation which is sort of like battlefield 1942 where you have two teams which must gain control of certain points on the map. Last but not least we have objective, which is sort of like co-operative and counter operative. You have your two teams one team might have an objective to blow up some fuel tanks. The other teams objective might be to protect the fuel tanks.
Overall Hidden & Dangerous 2 is a good sequel. Although in my opinion, the atmosphere of Hidden & Dangerous 1 is yet to be surpassed by any game. You can download the Deluxe version of the original game for free by clicking here.