For those that donít know the basics of Sabre Squadron, itís the expansion for Hidden & Dangerous 2 a 1st person/3rd person tactical action World War 2 game. The expansion takes you through such locations as Libya, Burgundy, Sicily and La Rochelle. It adds new weapons, new characters, upgrades AI and many other features.
The first thing you will notice when you load up your newly installed Sabre Squadron expansion is the fact that it combines the original Hidden & Dangerous 2 with the Sabre Squadron expansion. Similar to how Hidden & Dangerous Deluxe combines the original Hidden & Dangerous 1 and itís expansion Fight for Freedom.
There arenít any new playable characters but there are enough to choose from already. You can use your old profile but unfortunately it doesnít keep your soldiers upgraded stats which is a bummer. Sabre Squadron offers all new intro movies and cutscenes for itís campaigns and missions. Which offers more of a storyline feel to the game. The briefings are as detailed as always and give you the best advice on how to deal with the mission at hand.
As soon as the first missions loaded I could not believe my eyes and ears. The level was dark, grey and foggy. It had rain, lighting and the best environmental sounds I have ever heard. Sabre Squadron surpassed the original Hidden & Dangerous 2 in a matter of seconds. The lightening effects were just brilliant, lightening would streak across the sky and light up the whole map then a couple secs later just like in real life there would be a rumble of thunder. The only other game I have played to have such an impressive atmosphere was the original Hidden & Dangerous game. Other environments in the game include deserts at midday and the evening. Forests in the morning and at night as well as countryside during the day. The skies in Sabre Squadron are just as if not more impressive than the skies in H&D2 but unfortunately they are still static, they donít move. The overall general graphics have not really changed although improvements with lighting and shadows seem to have been made.
I noticed some new sounds and music during my play of the game, although the action music ruins the atmosphere for me so I have the volume for music down or completely off. The new environmental sound effects were brilliant which added so much to the atmosphere. The new event music clips were nice and reminded me of the classic Hidden & Dangerous 1 game when you reached a certain point a music clip would play.
The AI has been slightly improved. The biggest change you will notice is they throw grenades a lot more than they use to. Just when you think itís safe to reload an enemy throws a grenade at you and boy can they throw the distance. Wether youíre on foot or in a vehicle the enemy will lob a grenade at any time. The next thing I noticed was their defensive fighting tactics. The AI will lie down to fire more now and run away to gather back up. Unfortunately for the more action-packed levels the AI is a little more scripted like Call of Duty. Which does take some of the replay value away. As well as enemy AI there was friendly AI and your own team. Your own team doesnít seem to be any smarter, they still try to shoot enemies through the walls. Although they do seem to be a better aim. You can also control some other friendly AI characters in the game. Your commands are limited but they react exactly the same as your own soldiers.
What would an expansion be without new functions. Stamina is no longer needed for sniping, you can now hold your breathe by holding a simple key. Although limited your aim becomes so much more stable, which makes head shots that much easier. Healing yourself is just like healing a team member now, a bar comes up indicating your healing yourself and you donít have to wait a sec or two you can automatically start healing yourself. These functions are so much more realistic and add to the gameplay.
Letís talk weapons! Five new weapons are now in Sabre Squadron but they arenít really relevant or needed for any missions. They just offer more of a verity for multiplayer. The weapons are randomly spread out throughout the missions but they seem to offer no additional use. The rocket launcher is relevant to a point but it needs a backpack for its ammunition so you can only carry it and maybe a pistol. When you finally get the flare gun in the last mission you can either fire the flare or fire your weapon as a signal so thereís no point for it. The weapons are good but they have almost no use. There is only one new static weapon, in an interview I read there was going to be two but the new weapon is an anti-tank cannon. The cannon has a role in one mission but it is very useful. When you fire the weapon the camera follows the shell until it hits a target, so you can see how close you were. Itís a great little feature.
That story line feel. Hidden & Dangerous 2 had an extremely messy structure in my opinion which made it hard to follow or imagine there was effort put into any sort of storyline. The developers have greatly improved on this with cutscenes having more of a storyline feel to them, the missions having a more relevant structure and at the end of each campaign there is a little note to say itís the end of that series of missions. The addition of characters to missions gave it more of storyline feel as well. There were French and other SAS character you had to help through out the game. Simple things add depth to storyline and gameplay.
Again the majority of the missions were more suited for an action approach but the action was set at a nice easy pace. The missions certainly play different to most of the original Hidden & Dangerous 2 levels but itís in a good way. Some missions push you to use stealth, others push you to use action. So for those that like to use only stealth or action will have to adjust to some extent or theyíll find some missions very difficult. The game plays much like the original Hidden & Dangerous 2 except much better and the need for action or stealth are more defined.
A quick note on multiplayer, there is a new cooperative mode for only the expansion missions, not the original missions. You can have up to 6 players in a game of cooperative. You can set up how many lives players can have and you can gain respawn points with-in a mission. Itís nothing like the original cooperative. I did enjoy it and think having more than one life is a good idea although since I am not a huge fan of multiplayer I wonít say much about it.
Overall Sabre Squadron despite its title is a brilliant game. When I first played Hidden & Dangerous 2 itís no secret I was strongly disappointed but Sabre Squadron is a lot better. Everything Hidden & Dangerous 2 had to offer has been reinforced at least triple what it was. If you enjoyed Hidden & Dangerous 2 you will love Sabre Squadron. I believe Sabre Squadron to be a mix of the original expansion Fight for Freedom and Hidden & Dangerous 2, which makes a great game.