Hidden & Dangerous 2 Preview
This World War II sequel will offer you the unusual ability to play the game as a soldier or as a commander, all at once.
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Prior to this year's E3 press event in Los Angeles, we hadn't heard anything about Czech studio Illusion Softworks' upcoming sequel, Hidden & Dangerous 2, for a long, long time. But the game has since resurfaced, and we were recently able to get a good, close look at it--and we're glad we did. This intriguing game from the developer of last year's story-driven action game Mafia will let you leap into battle as a soldier in a series of World War II field missions, armed with realistic weapons and supported by a small squad of skilled teammates. You'll also get a bird's-eye tactical view of the action and command your entire squad like in a strategy game--in fact, thanks to the flexible Mafia game engine, you'll be able to switch between first-person shooter, third-person shooter, and tactical strategy game whenever you want.
Like the original game, Hidden & Dangerous 2 will be a World War II shooter that will put you in command of a small squad of highly trained soldiers. You'll be able to assemble strike teams of up to four teammates from a pool of 40 different characters. Each character will have a varying rating in three physical attributes--health, strength, and endurance; these determine each character's maximum health, maximum carrying weight, and how long that character can run (and in a few maps with bodies of water, swim) before becoming winded.
Each operative also has varying levels of training in skills such as first aid, lockpicking, and explosives, though after completing various missions, your troops will be able to improve their abilities. Each soldier is typically equipped with a primary weapon and sidearm, though they can also carry first-aid kits, grenades, and close-combat weapons--exactly how much they can carry is determined by the soldier's strength rating. It's often essential to equip your troops with helmets when going into missions in which you expect to take heavy fire, but these will weigh down your soldiers, as will backpacks that can store additional items and ammunition. If you wish, you can get very specific about exactly which kinds of weapons and items each of your teammates will carry into battle, but if you don't care to, you'll also be able to auto-assign default weapon loadouts for each.
Though the game won't be a realistic simulation of tactical warfare, developer Illusion Softworks apparently procured a sizable set of weapons (decommissioned, of course) and brought them into its studio to help create convincing weapon models and motion-captured animation for the soldiers using them. You'll even find a few realistic nuances when using these weapons, such as how a sniper rifle tends to "drift" slightly to the side along with your character's breathing--and if you happen to get sloppy with your shots and fire your sniper rifle repeatedly, the exertion will cause your character to breathe even more heavily, causing the sniper rifle to drift much more (which makes aiming a precise shot far more difficult) as a result.
The game's single-player campaign will consist of six different campaigns that comprise 23 missions total, and each of these missions can be played in multiplayer as well as single-player. Many of these missions will take place on extremely large maps that will offer multiple objectives that unlock new objectives as you go, similar to the levels in Mafia. The game's maps will take place in a variety of environments, including urban warfare maps in Western Europe, the snowy Alps, the deserts of Northern Africa, and the jungles of Burma.
How the War Was Won
Throughout Hidden & Dangerous 2, you and your squadmates will encounter 25 different types of vehicles, including jeeps, sidecar motorcycles, and tanks, and you'll be able to pilot each and every one simply by targeting it and right-clicking your mouse button to enter as either the driver or in another position (such as the gunner in a tank), similar to in Mafia. And like in the very popular World War II shooter Battlefield 1942, if you don't care to share your tank, you can quickly switch from the driver to the gunner position, in this case, by right-clicking and selecting the new seat.
As we saw, Hidden & Dangerous 2 can be played in different ways. We watched as a new Alpine mission was begun as a third-person shooter (you can switch freely from first-person to third-person view). In this mode, you'll be able to give your teammates quick orders using a streamlined version of the command menu from the original Hidden & Dangerous, which has simple commands such as move normally on a position, move stealthily on a position, attack normally, attack stealthily, and hold ground. You'll be able to call up this command menu at any time simply by right-clicking your mouse, then using your mouse's scroll wheel to switch to a different command. As we saw, infiltrating an enemy encampment will require judicious use of advance and hold-position commands for your teammates, since your enemies will each have an audio range within which they can hear you and either attack you or call for help--but you'll be able to switch control to any of your four teammates at any time if you wish to set up more-complex maneuvers.
At any point in time, you can also zoom out your view of the game and take control of each of your soldiers like in a traditional real-time strategy game, and you can pause the game at any time to continually issue orders to each soldier, much like in the tactical role-playing game Freedom Force. You can select one or more units simply by dragging a cursor-select box around them and then choose the same orders you would choose if you were playing the game as a shooter. Though this view gives you less control over your individual soldiers' accuracy (after all, you'd normally be aiming the sights yourself), it lets you get a bird's-eye view of your surroundings, including hidden areas and elevated outcroppings where you can place snipers, or find the best positions to send your demolitions expert to plant explosives.
Hidden & Dangerous 2 will also feature multiplayer play for up to 32 players over a LAN or on Internet games and will feature the usual deathmatch and capture-the-flag modes, as well as an objective-based team mode reminiscent of Return to Castle Wolfenstein's multiplayer maps. You'll be able to take any of the 40 soldiers from the single-player game into multiplayer and choose from more than 30 different uniforms, though just like in the single-player game, your equipment and weapon loadout will be limited by your character's strength rating.
Though it's difficult for a new first-person shooter--especially one with a World War II theme--to stand out from all the other great games that are already available and on the horizon, Hidden & Dangerous 2's unusual combination of fast-paced shooter action, tactical strategy, and drivable vehicles makes it a very intriguing game indeed. We'll see how the game turns out when it's released later this year.