There's a lot of entertainment to be found in this game, but you'll need to wade through a lot of problems to get to it.
Released back in 1999, Hidden & Dangerous helped spearhead the burgeoning tactical shooter genre. It took the careful planning, team coordination, and one-shot-one-kill ethos that have come to define the genre and set them during the dark days of World War II. You controlled daring commandos of the British Special Air Service, fighting Axis aggression with brains and stealth as much as with firepower. For all its strengths, Hidden & Dangerous suffered major flaws, like swarms of bugs, convoluted menus and controls, and plain silliness, like characters dying when they fell several feet. Now, developer Illusion Softworks is back with a sequel, Hidden & Dangerous 2, which again puts you in the boots of SAS operatives who undertake bold missions behind enemy lines. Amazingly, despite the four-year interval, this new game is badly marred by the same kinds of faults that hurt the original. That's a real shame because if it weren't for these problems, Hidden & Dangerous 2 could take its place among the elite of World War II shooters.
One of the first things you learn about Hidden & Dangerous 2 is that it can be very hard work and is best suited to patient and forgiving gamers. Almost everything takes longer than it should or is more complex than it need be. Consider the menus. If you're like many gamers, one of the first things you'll do when you boot up the game is set the options to your liking. When you get to the control options, you'll find page after page of control assignments. There's no quick-reference card or single page in the manual that details them all, so you might wish to copy them down by hand for reference, continually hop back to the settings menus, or search for the details scattered throughout the lengthy manual. What's worse is that a bug can make it fiendishly difficult to change key assignments to your liking.
You'll quickly find that problems aren't limited to the control settings. Throughout the game, many parts of the interface and controls are cumbersome or initially confusing. Games like Splinter Cell have shown how you can enjoy complex character movements with simple, intuitive controls. These lessons were lost on Hidden & Dangerous 2, where you constantly find yourself fumbling or fiddling with numerous controls to switch movement stances, lean, climb objects, switch from a crosshair to your weapon's own "iron" sights, manipulate inventories, give orders, and more. You can easily spend so much time micromanaging that you overlook enemies you would have spotted in other shooters where less button-pressing and menu-navigating is required. Reaction time is vital here, too, since the enemies are good shots in this game. Making matters worse, movement itself, even outside of the control complexity issue, can be hazardous to your character's health: It's way too easy to fall off ladders to your death.
One of the most interesting features of Hidden & Dangerous 2 is the ability to control up to four characters at a time. You directly control any one character via a first- or third-person viewpoint. That character can give simple spoken orders or hand signals ("follow me," "fire at will," and so on) to his fellow troops. Additionally, you can pause the action and switch to an overhead map where you lay out waypoints, set movement speeds, stances, and so forth for your men.
Tactical shooters like SWAT 3 and the Rainbow Six series have shown how you can control multiple characters relatively smoothly and effectively, whether in real time or via premission planning. It's not so easy in Hidden & Dangerous 2. The interface is somewhat cumbersome, but more significantly, your AI-controlled allies often do phenomenally stupid things. They can make bizarre pathfinding decisions, get caught up on tiny obstacles or vehicles, block you or each other in tight spaces, not shoot at enemies in the same room, stand in each other's line of fire without moving, stroll into the ocean for no reason and drown, and perform other maddening acts of folly. The game too often becomes work as you repeatedly handhold your men.
The missions are already very tough, so these sorts of problems, together with major bugs, can really try your patience. A level that should have offered 20 minutes of thrilling adventure stretched into a two-hour ordeal of drudge work, retries, crashes, and total lock-ups. Scripting bugs can make a number of missions nearly impossible to finish, requiring numerous retries.
If you like, you can play the missions in a "lone wolf" mode, where you tackle them solo to avoid some of the hassles of controlling four men. However, part of the fun of Hidden & Dangerous 2 should ideally be in using all of your men to the best of their abilities. It's usually a patience-stretching chore, but when it does work, it's rewarding. You can choose from a variety of men, each rated for health, stealth, shooting, and other attributes that can increase after successful missions. You'll want to carefully decide how to employ your troops to make the most of their abilities. Also, each man can carry only a limited amount of gear, and it will usually have to last through multiple missions within successive minicampaigns. So, you'll have to choose your gear carefully before you start and then decide how to juggle it with items you scrounge from dead enemies.
A load of tosh, it's a great game! Just because you can't play it properly, you need to berate the creators.
Actucally, I fully agree with both the review AND your comment. HD2, like it's predecessor, has tons of unnecessary bugs and issues. That being said... they were both sooo much fun back in the day that I eventually totally forgot about the issues, or - I guess - adapted to them to the point that they faded away and I stopped noticing.
Great games. I wish they had worked on the engine and continued the series...