Hidden & Dangerous 2: Sabre Squadron Review

The real draw of Sabre Squadron's offerings is the chance to play its new missions cooperatively.

Hidden & Dangerous 2, a tactical squad-based shooter set during World War II, failed to address many of the flaws in the original Hidden & Dangerous. Sabre Squadron, the new mission pack for Hidden & Dangerous 2, likewise fails to address many of the problems in its parent game. Nevertheless, it still offers a lot of solid, new material that fans should enjoy, including the cooperative play mode that was conspicuously absent from Hidden & Dangerous 2.

Not your usual commute... Some POWs need rescuing.
Not your usual commute... Some POWs need rescuing.

Sabre Squadron adds nine new missions that are set in different combat theaters, and you can play them solo or cooperatively online. You also get eight diverse, new multiplayer maps. Furthermore, a few new weapons and drivable vehicles, like Sherman tanks, round out the package.

The game's box also boasts improved artificial intelligence as a major feature of this latest Hidden & Dangerous offering. However, this seems misleading, because if the AI's been significantly improved, it sure is hard to notice. From the very first mission, you see that your computer-controlled squadmates again need frequent direction and handholding. Your fellow soldiers can again wander far afield and end up widely separated from the rest of your men, though at least not as frequently as before. They again allow themselves to be blasted to pieces when they could easily have ducked, run for cover, or shot the enemy first. They again block doorways and otherwise get in your way. They constantly get in each other's lines of fire and then complain about it instead of simply moving. For elite SAS soldiers, these guys exhibit pretty shoddy tactical skills and aim. The enemy AI won't win any prizes, either. You can literally shoot the helmet off a German soldier and watch in amusement as he just stands there without reacting. Most of the time your enemy puts up a decent enough fight, though.

Sabre Squadron also fails to address the micromanagement and control issues that plagued Hidden & Dangerous 2. Movement again feels a bit sluggish and awkward. It still takes too long to fiddle with your characters' inventories. Instead of simply pressing a single button to heal yourself, for example, you often need to open your inventory screen, transfer a first aid kit from your backpack and in to your character's ready supply of gear, then press another button to choose the first aid kit from among that gear, and, finally, press another button to use it. You can easily spend as much time juggling inventory items and searching for the right controls as you do fighting.

Welcome to sunny Sicily. Now keep your head down.
Welcome to sunny Sicily. Now keep your head down.

As for the new missions, they're solid but are rather inconspicuous. You'll infiltrate a sprawling German submarine pen complex to destroy a couple of docked U-boats. You'll rescue downed airmen from an Axis garrison in North Africa. Then you'll race through an enemy-infested canyon to get to the crashed aircraft so you can destroy its top secret equipment before the enemy can get its paws on it. You'll get to mount a dusk raid on a series of German gun emplacements in Sicily, help defend a bridge against enemy infantry and tanks, blow up an ammo dump, and more.

As in the original game, you'll get plenty of opportunities to roar around in jeeps, steal enemy weapons and gear, snipe from afar, sneak through bunkers, blow up tanks, and perform other daring feats. While the missions offer multiple objectives, plenty of combat, and tactically interesting environments, it's nevertheless hard to get particularly excited about them. They mostly feel like uninspired reruns of the original Hidden & Dangerous 2 missions or missions from similar games, like Medal of Honor Allied Assault or Call of Duty. In fact, some of Sabre Squadron's missions essentially repeat themselves with multiple POW rescues. You'll get a big sense of WWII déjà vu playing Sabre Squadron.

On the bright side, Sabre Squadron also offers eight new multiplayer maps designed for the game's three existing multiplayer modes. You'll fight through a sea of bombed-out buildings and rubble in Poland, for example, where it's quite a sniper's paradise. In another map, you'll battle for control of high-altitude Alpine roads and bridges. One new map also lets you fight through a snowy wasteland that's crisscrossed by trenches and bunkers, while another one lets you hop in tanks so you can duke it out in a ruined Norman city.

The real draw of Sabre Squadron's offerings is the chance to play its new missions cooperatively--while online. It can be a blast to fight alongside smart human players instead of foolhardy computer-controlled comrades. The tension and rewards are greater than when playing solo, and you don't have to waste time herding your AI allies around; instead, you can just concentrate on tactics.

Just getting started with multiplayer can be a bit of a hassle, though. We had to switch to a different firewall and then manually reconfigure it before being able to connect to any servers. We also found that servers are currently running a variety of versions of the game. Regardless of which patch we installed, we found many servers grayed out in the server browser. We experienced a number of problems merely connecting, in addition to enduring lag and disconnects once we finally got online.

While Sabre Squadron offers plenty of new maps and missions, it doesn't seem to add anything substantial to the visuals or audio in Hidden & Dangerous 2. It would have been nice to have seen some upgrades to keep up with the times, but Hidden & Dangerous 2's graphics still look attractive, even if they've aged a bit. The environments again get the deluxe treatment, and display a meticulous attention to detail. Barracks look like real, lived-in places, with papers scattered on tables, carpets a bit askew, propaganda posters on the wall, and other little details that suitably set the scene. Landscapes are dotted with little wildflowers or gnarled, old trees jutting from rocky soil, while vehicles and uniforms again look pretty convincing.

A few allied NPCs appear to work with your team.
A few allied NPCs appear to work with your team.

You'll hear the same sound effects, voice-overs, and music as before, and, once again, they're all quite good. Voice-over artists really act and speak in the appropriate languages (with optional subtitles), and weapons and vehicles sound powerful. The music is well orchestrated, though it would be nice to not have to hear the same few tracks repeated over and over and over.

Hidden & Dangerous 2: Sabre Squadron is a good expansion to the original game. It's true that the new missions feel like ones you've already played before, and it's also true that major micromanagement and AI problems--again--rear their ugly heads. Moreover, some serious bugs can cause the game to lock up or fail to save and load games properly, among various other issues. Beyond its co-op play, most Hidden & Dangerous 2 players probably won't find too much of interest in Sabre Squadron. However, fans of the game should by all means check it out, particularly since it retails for only about $10. That's a lot of WWII bang for your buck.

The Good

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The Bad

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