1. Title

2. Strap – 20

3. Need to know

4. Body copy

5. Your first hour

6. Standard Boxouts

7. Occasional Boxouts

8. Looking Elsewhere

9. Verdict

10. Images

11. Captions

Title: Hidden & Dangerous 2

Strap:

Being both obvious and inoffensive, Dan Griliopoulos was a shoe-in for this review

Dan Griliopoulos thought SAS was a sexually transmitted disease. In one sense, he’s right.

Need to Know:

Price: £34.99

Publisher: Take2 Interactive

Web address www.hidden-and-dangerous.com

Needs: 400 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 400 MB hard disk space, 16mb 3-D graphics card

Wants: (the recommended system spec)

Complete in: 20 hours

Reality check: To become an SAS officer you have to gut a pinko with a knitting needle. Honest! It was on a documentary, and everything!

//Or, if that’s controversial.//

The SAS’s speciality is training terrorists, then invading their country because it harbours terrorists.

//Or…//

During WWII, the allies used a plastic explosive that resembled Cow manure as a road vehicle mine.

//Body//

Ah, the SAS. That impressive bastion of jolly-old British fascism, the aspirational apogee of the rugger-bugger public school system, admired by unthinking knee-jerk twonks who riot about paediatricians… Sorry, did I just say that? ahaha. Heh. I meant ‘The SAS, heroes of the British Empire, upholders of freedom and democracy the world over. Rah!’ Just don’t hurt me anymore, Mr McNab. Or write any more books

Whatever your opinion of the position of trained assassins and saboteurs at the heart of a supposed democracy, if you’ve played the original H&D you’ll probably be looking forward to this sequel; if you’ve not, let us explain. You take control of an SAS unit as it moves across the globe during the Second World War, going from Norway to North Africa, Austria, Burma, Czechoslovakia, and even including a couple of maritime missions. Your teammates are independently intelligent, but take orders from you and can can take cover, crouch, run, sprint and the rest (as can the enemy.)

You’re given a selection of forty soldiers, and have to pick four to take on your mission with you; they all vary in six stats, the most important of which are shooting, endurance (how long they can keep running for, which also affects accuracy), and stealth. The characters are nicely varied, and there don’t seem to be any real boobies. Then you get to equip them, with the selection increasing as the missions progress. Like its precursor, H&D2 includes the option to auto-select both characters and equipment; it doesn’t leave anything out, but you’ll want to get involved yourself to ensure that non-essential-but-useful items like explosives and wire-cutters aren’t left out.

As the campaign progresses your squaddies gain experience, get incrementally better at the jobs they’re doing, and getting medals and promotions for their work. They’re all crack shots, but they’re also human; if they take a bullet on normal mode they’ll die, and it’s irritating to replace them. The missions vary from wipe-out missions (a little too many of them considering the optional Carnage mode – see below), to capture missions, impersonation missions and sabotage missions.

There are other mission types, allowing you to play through the campaign in different ways; the needlessly bloody Carnage mode (where you have to kill every last mother on each mission – something you can do yourself, if you wanted to); the Lone Wolf mode, where you only have one man, turning the game into a true FPS; and a replay mode for completed missions. Thankfully, we found the game has been made much easier since the preview version (at least at the lower levels). On the easiest level you can kill most enemies with one sniper shot, there’s a lot less of them and your men are able to take several bullets before going down. Fighting tanks is still unforgiving, and massively random – a hit from a tank shell will kill instantly, at any level of the game, though the tanks themselves are easier to take down (and much fewer in number) on the easiest level.

Bugged Out

The first H&D was so notorious for its programming failures, causing more problems to buyers than any game since Daggerfall or Black and White, that it was repackaged (admittedly with an expansion pack) as a working version under the title H&D: Deluxe. Though the reliability has improved immensely over the original, there are still issues in this sequel. The AI isn’t consistent, and your troops can sometimes fail to spot troops within a few feet of them; annoying when they can normally spot them long before they figure on your FPS screen at all. Luckily, the enemy often has the same problem, failing to spot the bloody holes in your uniform, not hearing the massed gunfire just round the corner, or driving his tank to a set location and just sitting there.

There are clipping issues, and your buddies’ pathfinding sometimes finds them walking into walls and you wondering if they’re going to pull a brown paper bag from an internal pocket, sip at it, and start singing ‘just a little lost sheep, go me the way to show homes.’ Most irritating of all was a couple of bruising total crashes. Whether this is due to video drivers, or the program itself isn’t clear, but either way stability is still an issue.

Meantime, the pretty pictures are going to divide people too. To call them a mixed bag, would be to put a liquorice allsort and a mousetrap in the same bag. The first two campaigns are off-putting; large expanses of sand or snow, that demoralise and don’t really impress. It’s with a mission smeared across an iceberg that you get your first hint of what the engine can do, and this is reinforced by the Austrian campaign. The Burma levels are just astounding (which is unfortunate as there’s only two of them); jungle warfare has never been done better and these are sure to become multiplayer favourites, along with a covert underwater mission.

So, polish that stiff upper lip. Tweak that pencil-moustache. Ready that arsehole of a mouth for a few mealymouthed emotionless orders. You’re ready to be a leader, son.

Your first hour:

You’ll love: Tactical mode, the first tank you blow up,

You’ll hate: being stuck on the training level, stupid enemies,

Standard Boxouts:

2 pages = 4 SBs

Sticking point

You’re being trained by the best the British military has to offer – God help you.

Time code: 10 minutes 59.3 seconds

Challenge: You have to complete normal training, then stealth training. Here you must break into a compound, sneak past several sentries a la Metal Gear Solid, find an aqualung, and recover some dog-tags from the bottom of a swimming pool, before returning them to a training officer with an iron moustache (he lost it fighting for Queen and Brian May).

Solution: Take the wire-cutters, and belly-crawl to the nearest wire fence of the compound, checking the patrolling sentries are always someway off. Cut the wire, and sneak round to the left, taking the second door on your right. Get the aqualung; the dogtags are at the second depth of the pool floor. Dump the aqualung where you got it, save, and run back.

Don’t miss this

Strap: There are many unmissable missions in H&D2 – this is one of the earlier ones.

What is it?: Your troops are tasked with assaulting a german base on an iceberg. There’s a radio station hidden somewhere in it, a submarines ready to evacuate them all if there’s a hint of fighting, and it’s swarming with troops. Your men sneak up onto the top of the iceberg, and take down the exposed troopers from sniper positions.

Where to find it: During the initial Norway missions, you locate a secret underground base, developing a new sort of plane. You infiltrate the base, find the location of another secret base, and escape in a keystone kops style chase.

//tiny boxout – to replace an image//

If you’ve not played the original H&D, why not go and grab it now? Thanks to the incalculably generous types at Gathering, it’s now available for free download from their official website. http://www.gathering.com/hd2/hddeluxe.html

//walkthrough//

Three kings of Orient(ation.)

1. FPS

If you want to imitate Brainless Generic WWII Shooter 3, then you can zoom into a first-person mode, with tasty sniping options. You can even hide the HUD, if you want to pretend your comrades don’t exist.

2. Isometric

Playing from behind your men is the way ahead, and let’s you check out where your men are; it’s also much more useful for driving the large selection of vehicles in the game.

3. Strategic

Allowing you to plan your troop movements, and explore the whole battlefield in freeze time, the strategic cam’s also useful for checking where your men are under fire from, and quite how far they’ve gone off course.

Looking Elsewhere:

Where else can does your hero dress up as a Nazi?

The Great Escape

Star Trek episode 52: Patterns of Force (where Spock dresses up as a Gestapo officer.)

Not Germany (it’s illegal.)

Verdict:

Upper

Downer

Still buggy,

Score

88

Summation.

Toolset

Multiplay

Images & Captions: