Review: Hidden & Dangerous

In almost every aspect I consider Hidden & Dangerous a diamond in the rough. An ambitious game that has a great idea, presentation, but is not without flaws.

Developed by Czech based Illusion Softworks (of Mafia fame, later 2K Czech, and later renamed Hangar 13 games), and published by TalonSoft. The first time you start the game you can see that the devs really put everything they got into this game. The talent of Illusion Softworks is obvious and managed to do an amazing game with a shoe-string budget. Hidden & Dangerous was considered by some as one of the pioneering tactical first-person shooters, along with Rainbow Six.

The game is set in WW2, and you begin in 1941 and you control four operatives of the SAS (British Special Air Service). When you start, you must choose which commandos you want, and which equipment you want to take for the duration of the campaign chapter. You can also let the computer do the selection for you if you don’t know which men or equipment to take. Each commando has different stats, and commandos with higher stats, usually have a rank such as major, captain and etc. Also, if one of them dies during the campaign, they will naturally be dead for the rest of the game. You can get to choose from a large number of items, anything from SMGs, Machine Guns, Snipers, Rifle, Explosives and other equipment. Once you choose your commandos and equipment, you can start your campaign.

When the mission is selected, you will be presented with a briefing. The briefing is a rendition of the map you will be playing, and it explains the objectives and possible solutions. Briefings also give an estimate of an enemy force, and a possible course of action, and an exit strategy. The briefings are also nicely narrated and rendered in full 3D. Now, you shouldn’t trust the briefing too much, because things can and will change, and should be used more like a guideline. For instance, in the second mission, the briefing tells you that you can put the sniper on the roof to draw fire from the enemy and that he will be in cover. Doing this will result in you having a dead sniper because the enemy will simply adjust their position to eliminate the sniper. Instead, the game will force you to find alternative ways to complete the mission, sometimes by trial and error.

The game is usually played from a third-person perspective, but at any time you can switch to a first-person view or a tactical view. In the tactical view, the game is paused and you can issue a number of commands to your commandos. Such as where to move, whether to run, crouch or go prone, when to shoot, who to follow, etc. The game gives you a lot of options, and for the most part, it works really well, but the mission cannot be finished using only the tactical map. For instance, if you order your commando to go to a position and then target an enemy, he can fail, because the game will use his stats to execute an order. If your commando has, let’s say low accuracy or reaction time, he can miss the enemy, or take more time to perform the action. The best use of the tactical map is to move your commandos into position, and then for you to take over the control and execute an action. You can also issue orders in real time, and you can hear your commandos voice in a decent British accent, but they will either whisper or yell them according to the situation, which is a nice touch.

Missions usually consist of sabotage, rescuing hostages, capturing buildings, obtaining critical information, kidnapping key officers, and resistance aid. The game does take some historical liberties with the timeline and missions, but everything else is pretty much accurate. Hidden & Dangerous does retain historical accuracy and atmosphere, it is almost like playing an old WW2 movie. You don’t command a group of super soldiers, you control commandos and they can die from a brief encounter with an enemy. Also if they get injured in combat, you cannot heal them, so being cautious and patience is rewarded. There are also good ideas in the game like you can disguise yourself as a civilian, German soldiers, capture vehicles, tanks, APCs and cars. When you capture a vehicle, you must watch out for the gas, as it’s not infinite, and if you capture a tank you can use its cannon to destroy stuff.

The game has missions in places usually not covered in most games. The missions will take place in Italy, Yugoslavia, Germany, Norway, the North Sea, and the Czech Republic. The expansion takes place in Poland, the Ardennes, and post-war Greece. The expansions Fight for Freedom in the UK, and Devil’s Bridge in the US, also add new commandos and weapons.

The game is not without flaws, and at the release, it was riddled with bugs. The AI both yours and enemies can be terrible. Sometimes your own commandos won’t listen to you, enemies have perfect accuracy and reaction time, and other minor problems. The UI is kinda a mess, and you can easily overlook some things. Sometimes the NPC won’t follow you, and in some cases, it is vital for the NPC to reach the end of the level. Also, in one case, while my commandos were disguised as civilians, and while standing next to a German soldier, one of them started speaking English. Naturally this led the German soldier to open fire, and of course fail the mission, prompting me to reload my last save.

The music is good, the main menu music is a classic orchestral movie-like score. The music will usually play when you complete the objective or complete the mission. The lack of music during the mission, adds to the tension and the atmosphere. The atmosphere and mood create good tension. The missions are unpredictable and can lead to some pretty hilarious situations.

Hidden & Dangerous is a good game, but not without flaws. Besides being released on the PC, the game is also available on the PS1 and Dreamcast. If you want to play it you can get the Hidden & Dangerous Deluxe edition which was made freeware as a promotion for Hidden & Dangerous 2. The game was a success, and was popular in the UK, while in the US it had decent sales, but received praise from critics. The game was overlooked because of competition with Rainbow Six, lack of multiplayer and relatively little marketing. It contains all of the expansion packs and a map editor. Give it a try if you have the patience, and you will not be disappointed.

1 thought on “Review: Hidden & Dangerous

  1. drjohngalt

    I picked this up for under a buck at a sale a few years back and while I really like the idea, I wasn’t willing to invest the time to try and figure out how to play it. Too many other similar games with less learning curve available. Plus I think the control or something was glitched a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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