Hidden & Dangerous 2

You can be dangerous, but not very hidden.

World War II first-person shooters are plentiful these days, but Illusion Softworks� Hidden & Dangerous 2 attempts to set itself apart by offering players a complex tactical stealth-based shooter set in the treacherous and relatively low-tech days of the 1940�s.

You take charge of a squad of SAS members, choosing from a group of soldiers, each with their own specialties and characteristics. Having an RPG aspect, your members' skills go up as you use them in missions. Before each mission, you can select your team�s equipment, which is critically important as you may go for a couple of missions without re-supplying. The game can be played in two modes: first-person mode, and a tactical mode where you assign strategies and waypoints for the team.

Despite WWII shooters being played out, Hidden & Dangerous 2 is one of the few first-person games with enough depth to keep you glued to the screen until you reach the very end. From traversing across crumbling icebergs to raiding airfields, the varied gameplay offers a lot of action and keeps you wanting for more. The crisp gunplay is guaranteed to please with realistically modeled weapons and rag doll physics.

So is it a game destined to become a classic? Not quite. Hidden & Dangerous 2 is marred by quirky AI that prevents it from really taking off as a squad-based game. Your teammates are either completely blank-headed and get instantly slaughtered, or are terminator-like in efficiency, dispatching whole armies. Commanding your buddies to �Take Cover!� sometimes goes in one ear and out the other, forcing you to watch in horror as the guys you spent so much time building up are mowed down. In many cases, it�s easier to simply lone wolf it, only keeping your buddies around as backup, or as bipedal mules.

Bet there are some nifty toys inside that sub...

Enemy AI is just as irksome, with have alternating bouts of zoning out and being super sensitive. Despite the fact that a major aspect of the game is supposed to be stealth, it is often impossible, and frankly unrewarding, to do it the covert way. At times enemies will instantly recognize you from hundreds of yards away, even though you�re wearing the same uniform. Shoot somebody with a silenced sniper rifle, and distant enemies with their backs turned to you will suddenly know your exact location and come running towards you. It is often better to go off with guns a-blazing unless the mission actually requires stealth - and thankfully only a few missions do.

Speaking of guns, there are lots of them, from Japanese Arisaka rifles to U.S. BAR�s to German MP44�s (on a fanboy side note, an FG 42 would've been really nice). Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses, forcing you to plan well before the mission starts. Should you carry a heavy but powerful sub-machine gun or a sniper rifle? Will the standard assault rifle be a better choice? Grenades over a Bazooka? Fortunately, you have the option of letting the game auto select for you, which is great if you just want to get to the action. Due to the open-ended nature of the game, even if you didn�t bring the right equipment, you can usually get the job done by taking weapons from armories or dead enemies.

In addition to playing the game as a first-person shooter, there�s a tactical interface that allows you to plan out strategies, waypoints, and signals � but is too cumbersome to be worth using. For the most part, commanding your troops directly gets the job done more effectively and without hassle.

Another peeve is the unintuitive and illogical default control setting. For example, left-click is primary fire, but secondary fire (or usually scope) is mapped to the �End� key. Spend a couple of minutes to remap the keys and the controls won't ever bother you again.

Visually the game looks sharp, but there�s a price to be paid for all of the glamour and glitz. On a P4 2.0 GHz machine with a GeForce 4 Ti-4200 and 768 MB of RAM, the game still ran a little choppy, even after significantly lowering the detail settings, resolution, and turning off shadows. Unless you have a high-end machine, don�t expect it to run silky smooth.

Hidden and Dangerous 2 provides a decent dose of multiplayer fun, with the standard Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, and team-based scenarios. Although multiplayer is enjoyable, there�s not enough here for the game to attract a broad audience like Counter-Strike.

If you can get past the quirks of the AI, Hidden and Dangerous 2 still is a fun game to play. Sure, stealth doesn't really work out well, but the action is rewarding when enemies don't space out. Although casual shoot-em up fans might find this game to be a bit too much, if you dig tactical shooters, Hidden & Dangerous 2 should be in your sights.