Hidden & Dangerous
|a game by||Illusion Softworks|
|Editor Rating:||6.3/10, based on 2 reviews|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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The one-line review of Hidden & Dangerous is simple: Commandos in 3D. Literally. It's the same basic premise: an elite unit of soldiers working behind enemy lines to disrupt the Nazi advance. It's the same style of gameplay: take control of different mission specialists to achieve distinct goals by operating as a team. It's even got the same level of difficulty: bloody hard. Where it differs most obviously is that it uses a game engine similar to that of Rainbow Six, everyone's favourite team-based special forces sim.
All of which probably makes you think that H&D is going to be a damned fine game indeed. And you know what? You'd be right.
Sit Down, Soldier
It's July 1942 and you're in command of a brand new military unit - the Special Air Service (the manual has a pretty good potted history of the SAS and its early missions) - designed to work covertly behind enemy lines. Illusion Softworks put you in the mood for all this right at the start with what has to be one of the most dramatic musical scores heard in a game since, well, Rainbow Six. Real Dirty Dozen stuff.
There is one slight annoyance at the start though, namely the lack of any kind of training mission to ease you in.
This may be a personal gripe, but being thrown head first into the missions before you've had a chance to get adjusted to how the different gameplay elements work doesn't help with the difficulty level at all. You spend the first few games of H&D basically just dying a lot until you get a grip on how to control the team orders and different types of equipment.
At this point though, special mention must go to the manual. It's extremely detailed, especially the sections on combat tactics. It covers pretty much every kind of situation you might find yourself in, from attacking hilltops to capturing enemy tanks, all in plenty of schematic detail. The only downside, as was said earlier, is that you don't have anywhere to practise all this before the missions start.
Some Of You Won't Be Coming Back
The only real complaint about the game is the difficulty settings. Just as Commandos was a case of trial and many, many errors until you found the one effective route through each mission, so it is with Hidden & Dangerous. You will die.
There was a last-minute decision by the developers to B include a savegame mid-mission. "B which is something of a blessing. The first time you achieve an objective by careful planning and precise teamwork elicits such a feeling of delight that you damn well want to save it so as not to have to repeat the whole process when you inevitably get massacred at the next hurdle.
The producers boast that there are many ways to complete each mission, which in a sense is true. It's not an overwhelming sense of freedom though. Even though your routes from point A to point B may vary slightly from one attempt to the next, you always get the feeling that there's a certain path to follow to ensure a victorious outcome. It's still up to you to find it though, and that's probably where the gameplay comes in.
Leave Me Behind, I've Had It
The odd thing about all this is that you don't actually care that it's so bloody difficult, because the game itself is so enjoyable to actually play. All the gameplay elements work pretty well, from the complexity of the planning screens to the levels of your soldiers' Al. Rainbow Six had a few major problems in this area, mainly your troops behaving like idiots at inappropriate times. Hidden & Dangerous works a hell of a lot better: small things like adjusting the time scales of your troops' orders so they can coordinate attacks, or the ability to pick up fallen soldiers' equipment (from either side), right down to being able to commandeer vehicles (nothing beats driving away in a truck with your men firing at pursuing soldiers from out of the back), and it all gels to make a genuinely rewarding gaming experience.
Which Is what H&D is: a rewarding game. There's very little wrong with it. The team-based combat genre is really taking off right now, with four or five titles all about to hit us before the year's end. No doubt they'll all be improving on each other with each subsequent release, but Hidden & Dangerous provides them with a very strong starting point. Highly recommended.
Download Hidden & Dangerous
Two of the surprise hits of last year, Commandos and Rainbow Six, are coming together. Not in a conjugal sense - that would be too messy to contemplate - but in terms of gameplay. Imagine if you will a game set behind German lines in WW2; a game where you control a squad of up to four commandos - British ones, no less - and the idea is to kill the Boche, destroy trains and capture generals. And all in 3D.
Far from being just Quake with Bren guns, Hidden & Dangerous also features a backpack stuffed to the brim with tactical options. Before you start each mission, you have to make a plan of attack, giving each member of your team specific orders on a 3D map. Unlike Rainbow Six, however, where if your plan fails you usually have to start again, Hidden & Dangerous enables you to adapt your strategy on the fly.
"Hidden & Dangerous utilises an innovative system to control figures in real time," says Radek Bouzek, the game's chief designer. "It allows characters to co-ordinate their attacks, as well as use rapid real-time commands. You can simply program the simultaneous attack of your soldiers against a number of locations, and thus create havoc on the enemy base."
Although you could feasibly complete the game from a god's-eye view, there are also the options to play in both third - and first-person perspectives. Characters can run, jump, crouch, crawl and dive to the ground in the event of any artillery fire. Most exciting of all is the option to steal German staff cars, motorbikes and tanks, and make use of any mounted weaponry to complete the 25 missions. And with one or two shots likely to kill, stealth is obviously very important. "Players will have to be careful," says Radek. "You will have to act when the enemy looks the other way or when the searchlight is pointed at the other part of the garden. Once the enemy comes under fire it's going to be very difficult to attack even one of the guards. The enemy soldiers take cover, lie on the ground and run away from grenades. AI also enables the enemy to cover important sections, set up traps and pursue you across the level."
Graphically the game seamlessly mixes indoor and outdoor areas. Whether it seamlessly mixes action and strategy as successfully remains to b seen. And thankfully we won't have to wait too long to find out.