Hidden & Dangerous 2 Hands-On Impressions

We get our hands on a preview version of this soon-to-be-released World War II action/strategy hybrid.

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We recently had the opportunity to play through a preview version of Hidden & Dangerous 2, the upcoming sequel to Illusion Softworks' World War II action strategy sequel. Like the original game, the sequel lets you create a small infantry squad for use in field operations, and it lets you play the game either as an action-packed shooter or as a tactical strategy game. The sequel also has a few alternate play modes, like lone wolf, which requires you to solve missions with only one character. Carnage is another play mode the requires that you kill every single enemy soldier to achieve victory.

Hopefully, your training with the British SAS has prepared you for the task ahead.
Hopefully, your training with the British SAS has prepared you for the task ahead.

Hidden & Dangerous 2 opens with a lengthy tutorial sequence during which your characters are briefed on the basics of movement. This includes jumping, climbing walls, crouching, lying prone, and crawling on your belly. Completing this and other physically-taxing missions, while carrying lots of equipment, can increase your character's endurance and strength statistics, much like in a role-playing game.

The new game is powered by the same engine that the developer used for Mafia, so its interface options should be familiar to fans of that game. And, like in Mafia, you interact with your environment by approaching each object and clicking your right mouse button, which opens a context-sensitive menu that gives you the option to force locked doors open or to climb into the driver's seat of a tank.

While Hidden & Dangerous 2's basic control layout resembles that of an ordinary first-person shooter (by default, you use the WASD keys on your keyboard to move, and you use your left mouse button to shoot), the game has several other options tied to many different hotkeys. This is because Hidden & Dangerous 2 is both a tactical shooter and a tactical strategy game--and you can switch between each of these modes at will. On foot, you can select different movement speeds (anywhere from a silent creep to a full-on sprint) by using your mousewheel. You can also perform many different actions, which include crouching; lying prone; using items, such as grenades, binoculars, and cameras; and picking up or dropping items. The last of these actually matters in Hidden & Dangerous 2, since an encumbered soldier moves more slowly but may improve his physical statistics as a result of the exercise (assuming he lives through his current assignment).

At any point in time, you can switch the game to tactical mode by pressing the space bar. This immediately changes the pacing of the game from action to tactical strategy (that's paused by default); the game then executes your queued-up orders in real time. Tactical mode lets you move your troops across long distances quickly, but it also lets you arrange complex positioning, like perching a sniper atop a hill with low cover and placing a submachine gunner just below him to provide cover fire. The tactical mode is useful even if you prefer to mostly play the game as a shooter, since it lets you double-click on any location to zoom the camera in on it. This lets you get a good look at the surrounding terrain and provides you with a good idea of what kind of cover is available.

While neutralizing enemies is good, hiding their corpses is essential for avoiding detection.
While neutralizing enemies is good, hiding their corpses is essential for avoiding detection.

Hidden & Dangerous 2 looks fairly solid at this point, and, like Mafia, it features good textures and realistic buildings. Also like Mafia, it features many audio speech samples, including barked orders from your British SAS trainers, cries for help from enemy soldiers, and terse warnings from your teammates, who can also give you silent hand signals if the coast isn't clear. You can play the game either as a single character or as a squad of four characters, and each can be outfitted with a different amount of equipment (depending on strength scores), including various types of guns, explosives, and medical supplies. All items were apparently modeled after real World War II-era counterparts, including the game's weapons, which have clear-sounding gunfire effects and let you look down the iron sights to get a better view of your target. This method for aiming is identical to that found in Vietcong, the Vietnam-era shooter that Illusion helped produce last year.

Though we hadn't heard much about Hidden & Dangerous 2 until recently, it looks very promising. The game's unique combination of fast-paced shooter and strategy gameplay should, hopefully, help set it apart from other games when it hits store shelves later this month.

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