Reviewed: February 13, 2004
Released: October 21, 2003
Hidden & Dangerous 2 is the follow-up sequel to the original game released a few years ago. Unfortunately, that game somehow slipped under my radar and I never got a chance to play it, but after my recent tour of duty with the sequel I can say there is plenty here to like, even if it has all been done before.
Letís face it; there isnít exactly a shortage of war games regardless of the sub-genre, whether it is RTS, FPS, or third-person action. HD2 falls into the latter category reminding me of Codemastersí Operation Flashpoint series, slightly better in visuals and slightly not in gameplay.
HD2 includes a sliver of RPG gameplay Ė something that is quickly becoming a standard feature regardless of how appropriate it is to the game. Youíll get to drive vehicles and engage in tactical combat with a brave squad of British SAS commandos through a lengthy tour of duty in Norway, Western Europe, Burma, North Africa, and Eastern Europe.
After you catch your breath from the kick ass opening movie itís off to boot camp where you will learn how to navigate an obstacle course, fire a variety of guns, lob grenades, and command your men. HD2 is a sophisticated game with complexity that is only hinted at with the 72-page manual. Every button on your keyboard does something and most have additional functions accessed with the ALT and SHIFT keys. Expect a rather steep learning curve with this game, even after boot camp.
Upon graduating you are thrust into action in the glacial plains of Norway. Here is where the game quickly shows it advanced but elegant style of gameplay. You can customize your loadout for each soldier, much like Rainbow Six, which gives you a lot of freedom in determining how you are going to approach each mission. If you donít trust your own analysis you can opt for the default loadout, which is usually enough to get the job done.
After you complete each mission your surviving men are awarded new ranks, medals and skill points that go into attributes like Shooting, Strength, Endurance, First Aid, Stealth, and a few others that are seldom used. The game relies on class distinctions so your medic wonít be the best shooter in the bunch and your sniper wonít know a Band-Aid from a bullet. Many missions have an emphasis on stealth so having a good spy in the group is essential.
The core command system is just like any other action game. You move with the WADS cluster and control the camera with the mouse. Much like Splinter Cell you control the speed of your men with the mouse wheel giving you several variations of walking and running. Everything has a button including crouching, going prone, and even climbing.
I was most impressed with the level of AI in HD2. My men exhibited some excellent squad tactics, even when they werenít following my orders. There is a comprehensive list of commands that you can use to order them to assume multiple formations or take other offensive of defensive actions. The only quirks with the AI were some minor pathfinding issues and a few battles where my men would get in each otherís way blocking a potential shot.
HD2 also features a useful tactical mode that pulls the camera out and up giving you a birdís eye view of the battlefield. Here is where you can organize your men and plan your assault. Basically, you pick your men and click a waypoint. You can also order them to change posture or aggressiveness once they arrive at their destination.
Missions are surprisingly long and complicated with multiple objectives that span huge maps. You are given detailed briefings before equipping your men. The campaign is progressive so you take men and weapons from each completed mission to the next. This has potential problems later in the game where you may have lost too many men earlier to complete the campaign.
With amazing games like Vietcong, Call of Duty, Chrome, and Halo floating around for your PC the graphics engine for HD2 is starting to show its age. Using the same 3D engine as the mega-hit, Mafia, HD2 is able to crank out some serious environments with massive draw distances and ample detail.
Character are nicely modeled with plenty of detailed textures but the men have a slightly unnatural feel to their movements. It just doesnít flow like it should and men will pop into various postures or turn on a dime. The vehicles look fantastic and are very fun to drive.
The environments are excellent, not quite as detailed as Vietcong but the jungle level was pretty darn close. There are also some decent effect like lighting, particle effects, and plenty of smoke and fire. HD2 might not be the prettiest war game out there but it gets the job done.
The sound in HD2 blew me away, literally. Each and every weapon has a unique and authentic sound. Cars, trucks, tanks, planes, and anything else with an engine sounds totally realistic. Even subtle details like varied footsteps based on the surface you are walking on help create a very immersive experience.
The music is your typical war game themes that do a suitable job of filling you with patriotic pride as you storm through the levels blasting the enemy. Itís strong in the menus then slips into the background allowing you to hear the wonderful sound effects and shouts from your men.
There is plenty of excellent speech starting with the drill sergeant who barks out orders during boot camp. During combat your men will often yell out useful information on enemy locations or just tell you to get the hell out of their way so they can fire on the enemy. Authentic static and clipping effects give radio communication a realistic flair when you call for artillery assistance. The entire sound presentation is outstanding.
HD2 is a long game. With several campaigns made up of multiple missions that take place over huge maps with multiple objectives, you are looking at 30+ hours to finish this game. This allows for repeating some of the more difficult missions.
There is also Internet support provided you have broadband access. GameSpy is fully supported so itís easy to host or join a game and the Deathmatch and Occupation game modes offer a modest selection of additional gameplay.
If you enjoy military action games, especially detailed simulations with sophisticated commands, an overwhelming interface, difficult missions, and an RPG skill system then Hidden & Dangerous 2 is the game you have been looking for. Being able to hop into a jeep, truck or other vehicle is always refreshing and a feature I have missed in recent war games. Itís certainly not as comprehensive as Operation Flashpoint but itís just as fun.