Released nearly two years ago, Illusion Softworks' Hidden & Dangerous was one of the first 3D squad-based tactical shooters available for the PC. Though it was marred by some technical flaws, the game itself was an addictive World War II title with just the right blend of action and strategy elements to satisfy both hard-core war sim fans as well as casual gamers. While the series spawned an expansion pack titled Devil's Bridge, as well as numerous ports to console systems, the real exciting news came last week when the sequel to Hidden & Dangerous was announced by Take Two Interactive and Gathering of Developers. Hidden & Dangerous 2 is being developed by the same team that worked on the original, and if early rumors are any indication, the game will undoubtedly build upon and eclipse the factors that made the original a cult favorite. We had a chance to sit down with Thomas Pluharik, lead designer, to find out some details about Hidden & Dangerous 2.
GameSpot: The original Hidden & Dangerous featured a wide variety of different settings for its missions. What are some of the new mission objectives in the sequel?
Thomas Pluharik: Some of the mission objectives are similar to Hidden & Dangerous, but there are many new objectives (recon and photography, stealth and sabotage, etc.). The missions are also more complex than in Hidden & Dangerous and can have more than two or three objectives per level.
GS: What are some of the new weapons in the game?
TP: Some of the weapons include the Garota, M1 Garand, Flak 38, and the flamethrowers.
GS: Hidden & Dangerous was criticized because, at times, your characters had difficulty following your directions and moving from point to point. Have you managed to address this in the new game?
TP: We are working on an advanced group AI that should minimize these problems.
GS: The graphics in Hidden & Dangerous were quite impressive. Does the sequel use the same 3D engine? What are some of the technological advances you've made since the previous game?
TP: No. We started the game using the Insanity 2 engine (an improved version of the Hidden & Dangerous engine), but after six months of development we decided to switch to another internal Illusion Softworks engine--LS3D.
GS: Although Hidden & Dangerous featured a huge roster of unique characters, they didn't have much in the way of distinctive personalities--only distinctive statistics. Will the characters in the sequel be more different from one another than they were in the first game?
TP: Yep. There is a main character and his commando specialists. Of course they have many statistics and characteristics. There are also many NPCs [nonplayer characters], each with their unique stats as well. For example, Mr. Murrau is an expert in jet engine engineering, but he is physically weak and he is a coward. You must protect him in three different missions (have fun).
GS: Though at its core Hidden & Dangerous had action elements, it had to be played like a tactical simulation. Will the sequel preserve the essence of the original, or will it further emphasize the action elements?
TP: We realize that many players have played Hidden & Dangerous as an action game, while many played it as a tactical game, but for everybody, a big obstacle was the tactical interface map. So we have made it more easily accessible for players. Now, due to the complexity of missions, you have to play the game more tactically.
We have also added a "lone wolf" mode of playing the single-player campaign.
GS: Why do you think computer game players are drawn to military-themed games such as Hidden & Dangerous? Do you think military-themed games are more popular now than they used to be?
TP: I think that there was great interest in military games (look at the successful simulators era), but the core gamers are migrating from style to style. If you are able to create an interesting and clever game, you can attract more non-hard-core players, and the military theme is perfect to create such a game. You know, things like an atmosphere of permanent stress, danger, and adventure are all what people are searching for in the comfort of their own home.
GS: How long has Hidden & Dangerous 2 been in development? Did you decide to create the game in light of the success of the original?
TP: Hidden & Dangerous 2 has been in development since the beginning of 2000. We decided to create the game after we recovered from the shock of the success of Hidden & Dangerous.
GS: Not counting feedback from Hidden & Dangerous and Devil's Bridge, what were some of the games that influenced the design of Hidden & Dangerous 2?
TP: Metal Gear Solid and Ground Control in some ways. We were also extremely inspired by some war movies like Where Eagles Dare and The Bridge on the River Kwai.
GS: What do you think is the best new feature in Hidden & Dangerous 2?
TP: Improved single-player gameplay with the same mechanics of Hidden & Dangerous (simplified controls, better tactical mode, ballistic model, etc.), impressive graphics supported by the LS3D engine, improved animations of the characters, massive multiplayer (nine styles), and tons of weapons and cars.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add about the game?
TP: I don't [think so]. Just wait for the multiplayer demo.
GS: Thanks, Thomas.