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Product: Hidden and Dangrous
Company: Take 2 Interactive/Talonsoft/Illusion Softworks
Website: http://www.talonsoft.com/hidden_dangerous
Estimated Street Price: 30
Review By: Alex Harris

The Story & The Features

"Hidden & Dangerous" is an action/real-time strategic game, containing a combination of non-traditional features, elements of real time strategy, action games and partly tactical strategies. Plentiful new features and stunning true 3D graphics give the game original form and dynamic pace. The story is imaginative and full of reversals and forces the player to think ahead all the time.

"Hidden & Dangerous" takes place during World War II. The story begins in 1941 and, provided that you choose the correct course of action, you can get to the end of the war in 1945. Player's task is to lead a small group of Allies soldiers (up to 4 people) who carry-out difficult missions deep in enemy territory. Missions take place in six different localities.

"Hidden & Dangerous" is simply not a game about blindly bursting into a room, shooting at anything that moves. You have to carefully consider each your step. We are convinced that "Hidden & Dangerous" game will make it to the top of market with computer action/real-time strategic games. It is a giant, mega-lo-manic game.

Here is a list of features that are in the game:

Unique, yet simple, system of programming of synchronised actions
Realistic audio-environment
Real-like injuries and few dozens of kinds of animation during a hit
Motion Captured 3D characters
Absolutely realistic graphics
Free usage of all kinds of vehicles
23 graphically and as far as the manner-of-play is concerned, completely different missions
Choice of 40 characters
Fluent transition between animations, counted in real-time
A game set into WWII times, but with modern trimmings
Background animations and atmospheric effects.

Artificial intelligence is very close to reality - each character has its own characteristics and logic, can act differently in stressful situations, is full of human qualities: vengeance, fear, malice.... Chance also plays a certain role. All this ensures that the same situation is never repeated.

The manual that you get with the game is very good. In the first part of it, it gives you the normal keyboard hotkeys and how to set things up. The second part holds all the details about the weapons and strategy for choosing the correct team. The last section called the Combat section gives you instructions on how best to beat certain situation, ie movement across open countryside, correct reconnaissance, lateral formation movement and even how to retreat correctly. Also in this section it tells you some common situations and how to overcome them. Such situations include negotiating high terrain in the open countryside, attacking a hill top plateau, attacking from a plateau and even how to lay traps.

Installation & Settings

Hidden and Dangerous comes on one CD and is easy to install. Once the game has installed there is a hardware configuration utility that lets you choose what Display device, 3D device and video mode you want to use. The video mode goes from 512 x 384 16bit all the way up to 1024 x 768 16bit. You can also choose Triple Buffering, Disable sounds and Low detail textures if you are running it on a slow computer.

Gameplay

This game is a combination of Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines and Rainbow Six. The game is split up into 6 campaigns with a number of missions inside each campaign. Each campaign when you start has an animated intro to get you into the feel of  what is going on and to give you some past history on what has happened previously. Once you have chosen your mission you have to select your team from 40 soldiers available to you. There is also the option to have the computer Auto Select your team. Once your team has been chosen you are given a list of equipment to arm your team with, ranging from military binoculars to Coding and decoding equipment and Colt 1911 to a Lee Enfield Mk4 sniping rifle. Once again you can choose to have the computer Auto select what weapons to give to each soldier.

Each soldier has different attributes which affect the way he performs in the game. Here is a list of attributes that each soldier has:

Shooting - Shows how good the accuracy of his shooting is. The higher the better, a high amount is necessary for snipers.
Reaction - Tells how good he reacts to enemy fire. Not really noticed when you are controlling the soldier, but is apparent when the computer controls the soldier.
Stealth - The higher the stealth, the harder it is for the enemy to hear him. A good skills for the soldier that does reconnaissance
Strength - Determines how much the soldier can carry. A high strength means he can carry items like bazookas and machine guns.
Endurance - Determines what injuries a soldier can endure. The higher the more hits he can survive.

After you have chosen and equipped your team you are then given a very thorough Mission Briefing. This shows you the "battle field" as such that you will be playing on and showing you the mission objectives you have to complete to continue on in the game. It sometimes also tells you of any enemy soldier patrols that you know about and where they are positioned.

After the briefing you are then put in the game. For each mission you can only use 4 members of your squad. The squad normally consists of a sniper, a couple of  soldiers with sub machine guns and a soldier with a machine gun. It is quite easy once you are in the game to swap between members of your team by using the number buttons on your keyboard or using the tab button. You also have keyboard buttons that can give commands like "Follow Me!", "Hold Fire", "Stop!" and "Move On!". These can come in handy during the game especially if you are trying to get your sniper far enough forward to take out some enemy soldiers.

All this sounds well and good, but there are bugs in this game. Some that I have noticed so far are things like the soldiers behind the sniper notice enemy soldiers ahead of the sniper and start firing and kill your sniper at the same time. There are also some silly bugs like your soldier falling into the ground so only half of his body is showing and being able to shoot through some walls at the enemy. Another annoying bug is seeing one of your soldiers die and not knowing how or why. When you go search for a corpse you can't find it. There is a patch in progress at the moment and once those bugs are fixed it will make it an almost perfect game in my opinion.

While in the game you can go into map mode which will show you where you are on the map, which can be very handy if you are playing a mission in the dark or the fog. Also in the map mode you can "program" your soldier to go certain places and perform certain tasks like guarding a specific area or attack certain things. This can be quite handy but sometimes it can be a real pain. A good example of this is the second mission of the first campaign where there is an underground sewer going underneath a petrol plant. I tried many a time to get the soldier to go to a certain part of the sewer while he was in it, but the computer insisted that the soldier had to go above ground and down another sewer entrance to get to his desired location. But besides little annoyances like that the idea is a good one and works well. Another joy of map mode is finding out what enemy soldier is shooting at you if you are not sure.

During the game there are many different View Options that you can choose from. Some are quite handy, others are a bit useless. You can choose 1st person view to give you that Quake type feel to the game. This gives you an impression that you actually see everything through the eyes of the soldier you are controlling. If you are holding a weapon in your hands, you will see through the sight of the weapon. By moving the mouse, you are looking around and changing the direction in which the soldier is moving. While in this view you can choose three different sights. The basic settings displays realistic sights of weapon, while the simplified setting displays the cross of ancillary sights.

You also have a 3rd person view to choose from which give you 2 different distances to choose from and 3 elevations. You can also choose to have an ancillary sight on which makes aiming a lot easier. It points in the same direction as your weapon.

What I will say about this is that it will be very difficult for you to complete a mission first go. You will be finding yourself spending a good hour or two just trying to complete one mission. This isn't as bad as it sounds because it doesn't actually feeling like a couple of hours have passed. Since you are concentrating so much on what your 4 soldiers are doing, where the enemy is, how to get across that bit of land without being noticed time really isn't something you think about. This game has so many "surprise" elements in it that each mission will keep you on your toes wondering where the next soldier is going to be hiding. Sometimes it is quite easy for your sniper to kill of an enemy soldier because you have managed to sneak up behind him and shoot him in the head.

There are down sides to this though. As I mentioned before about the bugs, sometimes you find that if someone is in the guard tower, after you have shot them half of their body appears outside of the tower and the other part is in the guard tower. But besides these small faults you still find yourself enjoying the game immensely.

Weapons

Like I mentioned before there is a huge arsenal of weaponry to choose from. The normal weapons that you can choose from are the following:

Sniper Rifle - Excellent weapon and probably one of the most used in the game. This weapons will really show of the accuracy of your soldier. If the accuracy is low then the shot will not be in the center of the target.

Submachine Gun - You can use any view with this gun and when you fire you will probably use more than one round. Its usually a good idea to keep track of the ammo you have before bursting in a rooms full of soldiers.

Machine Guns - This is the most powerful weapon in the game. This weapon can only be used when the soldier is lying down.

Bazookas - A good weapon to use at short distances only.

Flares - A good thing to have to view areas at night. You can shoot it above your head or in front of you. It lets you see the enemy easier, but it also lets the enemy see you better as well.

Pistol - This is the back up weapon that you use as a last resort. It cannot be used while your soldier is running. This weapon only gives you a chance of killing someone quickly if you hit the enemy in the head.

Hand Grenade - When you throw this you can regulate the length of of the throw. Not as powerful as people would think, but it gets the job done.

Mines - Very effective when used in large numbers.

Explosives - Has a time delay on it which can be varied so you don't blow yourself up.

Uniforms - It is possible sometimes to get hold of an enemy uniform or some civilian clothes, but like with most disguises after a while your cover will be blown if you stay in the same place for a long time.

This is just a small amount of weapons that are at your disposal during the game. You can pick up the weapons off dead soldiers whether they are your own soldiers or enemy soldiers. It is a good idea to get hold of an enemy soldier's sniper rifle just for the fact that they range is 1500m apposed to the 800m of the Allied sniper rifle.

Graphics

The graphics are very good in this game. The game utilizes your 3d graphics card to the full and it is recommended in the manual that if your card has 6MB or less on it you should select Low detail texture. If you do want to run the game in 1024 x 768 then you should only do it if your graphics card has 8MB or more. While running it in 800 x 600 16bit the main thing I noticed was that you do need a fast processor and a lot of memory. Even on my PII 333 with 192 MB of SD Ram you find that sometimes when you spin around it takes a while. But in the normal movement of the game it runs smoothly. I have heard from some people though that without the extra memory the game does run a tad slow. Some of the scenery is breathtaking, what you might find is that you are spending more time taking in the graphics then playing the game. They give you a real feel of what it must of been like in the 1940's during the war.

The characters themselves are nicely rendered as well with authentic looking uniforms and weapons. With such good graphics as this, it almost gives you feeling that you get when you watch films like The Great Escape or Guns of Navarone. The character movement in the game is very good as well, really giving you the feeling that your soldier is crawling along the ground trying to avoid detection by enemy soldiers. The game also has realistic reactions to characters being shot. While you are looking down the telescopic lens after firing a shot to the leg you see the soldier drop and it makes you feel as if you really did just shoot someone in the leg.

Although the graphics are stunning, there are a few problems with it. One thing that I did notice was on the first level. As you are walking through some trees, you walk through them and you get the "flat" effect. I also noticed that sometimes when you lie down in certain places of the game that you get a green screen instead of the scenery that you should have. But with all this put aside the graphics on the whole are stunning.

Sound & Music

The sound effects in the game, like pretty much everything else, is excellent. The sounds of shots being fired and the sounds of footsteps while running through sewers sound realistic. In the background is classical music that you would associate with war movies. There is also music during the game, but it isn't that noticeable. The only time you really notice the music is when it changes to alert you that you have reached a certain part of that level. I found that the music that is played before the actual fighting itself starts is very effective. It gives you the feel of being there and gets you ready for the onslaught that is ahead.

At the time of review I haven't gotten to the Norway Campaign so I can not comment on whether the sound effects for walking on snow etc is good or not, but so far what I have heard is atmospheric and appropriate to the game.

Final Comments

How It Grades
Originality: A-
Gameplay: A-
Story: A-
Graphics: A-
Cutscenes: B
Sound: A+
Interface: B+
Multiplayer: Yes
Overall: A-

I think they best way to sum this game up is to say that it is an excellent game with great graphics, but at the moment it has its flaws. When the patch comes out lets hope that these bugs are squashed. This is the sort of game for people that are die hard action gamers or strategy fanatics. It is made for people that are middle of the road that loves films like The Great Escape and all the other great war movies that have been released. On the down side though, the realism in the game is very high and that might put people off the game. The Easy level is quite difficult compared to other games that are out there, but that still doesn't deter you from playing and trying to beat the level. 

 

Overall Score 87%
Version Reviewed Version 1.0 UK
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 CD
1 Set of instructions
Reviewers PC Setup Pentium II 333
Windows 98
192 Meg SD-Ram
Voodoo 2 - 8mb
DirectX 6.1a
SoundBlaster PnP
Hitachi GD-2500 DVD-ROM
14" Optiquest Monitor
S3 Virge - DX/GX PCI
Microsoft Freestyle Pro (USB)
PC Required Pentium 166 MMX
3d accelerated card (8MB+)
16 MB of RAM minimum
10 MB of available hard disk space
4x CD-ROM drive
DirectX Compatible Sound Card
DirectX Compatible 3D accelorator

 

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