Hidden & Dangerous 2 Impressions

Illusion Softworks demonstrated the sequel to its squad-based action game at E3 2003.

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At E3 2003, we got a demonstration of Hidden & Dangerous 2, the sequel to the original Hidden & Dangerous, which was a squad-based action game set in World War II. Like the original, you'll control a squad of four elite British SAS commandos in various missions set in locations such as Burma, the Arctic, Norway, the North African desert, and the former nation of Czechoslovakia.

Developed by Illusion Softworks, Hidden & Dangerous 2 uses the same graphics engine developed for their hit game Mafia. From what we saw, the engine looks just as sharp when used for outdoor scenes as it was rendering the urban settings in Mafia. The forest level we saw at E3 showed a believable amount of ground cover and leaf density in the trees. Character models showed a great deal of detail, particularly in their uniforms, and animated well as they sneaked and crawled over the ground.

Before you start each mission, you'll be given a list of available operatives, and you'll pick out an appropriate team for the mission based on each commando's proficiency in shooting, silent movement, first aid, and lock picking. Each soldier also has varying strengths and weaknesses in attributes like health, strength, and endurance. You'll then custom outfit each soldier with weapons and equipment load-outs. For convenience, you'll be able to save common load-outs to disk, so you can quickly use them again in later missions. If you're not interested in making all these choices, you can have the computer auto-select a team of commandos and outfit them with some basic load-outs you'll need to complete the mission.

Once you're in the game, you can control one of the team members in first or third-person view, and have the rest of the team follow your commands. Teammates can be set to basic tasks like following you, firing at will, or holding fire. What's pretty unique about the Hidden & Dangerous games is that you can quickly switch control between the four team members, and even pause the game and go into a strategy mode where you issue commands for each team member to carry out autonomously.

In the first Hidden & Dangerous, the strategy mode brought up a flat 2D map that made issuing commands a little tricky when dealing with different levels of terrain. In the sequel, the strategy mode pauses the action and lets you issue commands directly into the game world, almost like you would in a 3D real-time strategy game. Once you unpause the action, the team members will execute your commands, so you can sit back and watch, or take control of one of the team members and play the game in a more active role. The command system is sophisticated enough that you can order your troops to hold their fire or move only after you give a specific signal or go-code, like in the Rainbow Six games. However, you must be within earshot of your teammates for this command to work in Hidden & Dangerous 2.

Hidden & Dangerous 2 encourages stealth over gung-ho action, so you'll be able to search your dead enemies for items and take their uniforms for your own use. You'll also be able to drive about 20 different vehicles in the game, some of which, like tanks, will have weapon emplacements to allow you to shoot from them.

The game includes a number of multiplayer modes like standard deathmatch, and skirmish, but we were disappointed to hear that no plans are in place to allow cooperative multiplayer through the campaign levels. Despite that omission, Hidden & Dangerous 2 is shaping up to be a promising squad-level action game and should be a great change of pace for fans of military-style shooters. Hidden & Dangerous 2 is slated for release in fall of 2003 for the PC. We'll post more details on the game as they become available.

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