|Yes, the PC to DC game
conversion is in stride. Recently making the jump: Hidden and Dangerous, a tactical sim
that taps into the fascination America has with World War II. The result is a healthy mix
of strategy and action, articulated gameplay and pure frustration.
Hidden and Dangerous lets you control a crack team of SAS operatives. Armed only with what they can carry or steal, your four men must maneuver deep within enemy lines, rescue fellow service men, sabotage enemy equipment, and eliminate all hostiles. But these missions are not carried out on a whim. You must orchestrate a strategic campaign to ensure success. Without a solid plan of action, your men may be doomed before they step onto the battlefield.
This game is an incredible amalgam of styles and concepts. It is a complex and demanding strategy game as well as a guts and glory action game. You toggle between menus, maps, soldiers, and points-of-view (1st-, 3rd-, and 3rd-person distant). You can swap, drop, and steal weapons and supplies. In later missions you can change your camouflage, dress as civilians, even adopt the uniform of the enemy to better infiltrate your target. You can pile your men into classic WWII vehicles such as Panzer tanks, gunboats, even an Avro Lancaster bomber. And they pull most of this off fairly well.
The graphics are top-notch in terms of image rendering and texture. Even under the cover of darkness and in the rain everything is crisp and convincing. And I love those tracer bullets. However, the game does have serious clipping problems and sporadic glitches. You eventually resign yourself to seeing only half of the characters when they stand next to a tree, or wall, or each other.
Overall, the game presentation is awesome. Dynamic load screen art, official file work-ups, and astutely technical click-and-draw 3D maps further your immersion into the theater and generally provide a great war-groove. Plus it has one of the most inspiring soundtracks I have heard in a war game since Return Fire.
The transition from keyboard to controller is better than you might expect and makes me optimistic about the other PC games that are in the works. Hidden and Dangerous utilizes each button on the DC controller twice by designating the left trigger as a function button of sorts. It is quite intuitive. Some issues that come up are limitations with the function button itself as using the overlapping functions force you to pause and change up, making the kind of uninterrupted movement you find in other games impossible. If you want the PC style control you can use the DC keyboard. This will eliminate the overlapping buttons, but as there is no DC mouse to date, it also eliminates the ability to look freely around your character unless you use the analog joystick in tandem, and then again you have your headaches.
In terms of gameplay, the strategy component is handled very well. You chose your campaign and the mission specifics are then presented to you. Then, from a list of forty characters, you chose eight to form your team, four for the mission. Characters are ranked according to strength, endurance, stealth, reaction time, and accuracy when shooting. You supply them with what they will need, according to what they can carry. Or forgo all of that and let the computer set you up. This is good for beginners, as there is no way to fully comprehend the ramifications of your choices until you have a little experience under your belt. From there you enter the game and begin to lay out your strategy. This is the point-and-click part. It is also the key to the game. By assigning and linking orders such as Move, Follow, Use, Use Inventory, Attack, Guard, and Wait, you can dictate a great deal of your teams actions in detail, barring unforeseen developments, in which case you can augment or interrupt their assignments. With the right strategy your unit can function with deadly precision.
Once all of that is done, you enter the action component of the game, which, quite honestly, is one of the single most frustrating experiences I have had in a long time. If you choose play without strict assignments, or if your strategy unravels and you need to regroup, you can use real-time commands"follow me," "move on," "hold fire," and the liketo go it off-the-cuff. And suddenly your precise and deadly unit begins to resemble "Three Stooges on Ice." It is hard to believe they are even the same people. They stumble and bumble around you, never holding still, colliding with you and each other constantly. They knock you off course, off of ladders, into death traps. When you lay down to crawl or hide, it is not uncommon for one of your teammates walk up and lay down right on top of you, forcing you to spend valuable time and energy trying to move, stand, or get them the hell off of you. And remember that "hold fire" command, otherwise they will open fire whenever they see an enemyeven if you are standing directly in their line of fire. Yes, their ineptitude goes so far as to kill their own teammates. It comes down to pre- and in-game commands. Give them an assignment and they are almost masterful. So much so that they sometimes seem predestined to complete a sound plan. But their improvisational and cooperative skills are terrible. And in close quarters, God help you. This points to lousy AI, and, dare I say, poor programming. I dont know whats more frustratingthe fact that this one component of the game is so inept, or that it undermines what was otherwise such a solid game.
This is a game with a steep learning curve. This might have been lessened had it incorporated a more gradual advancement of tactical necessity between each level. For instance, you can fumble your way through the first level with no strategy whatsoever, wasting ammo and time, lose all but one of your team, and still succeed, but you wont last a minute in the second level without an advanced coordinated effort. Either way, though, if I am to give a timely review I cannot possibly complete every aspect of the game. I havent gotten to the point where I can fly the bomber yet, but I am sure it is something else. I have to admit I hated this game at first. Like a stereotypical hardheaded console gamer, I began without reading the booklet, without a strategy, and without a clue. My men followed me blindly, killing each other, getting hit by trains, etc. But the more I play, the more I like it. The frustration never goes away, but you learn to deal with it, work with the game on its level. And the strategy side is compelling, addictive even. I cannot in good conscience recommend this game, given the level of patience and tolerance it requires. But if you are a WWII buff, or just intrigued by the concept, rent it. See if it hooks you.
On a final note, I would like to state my appreciation for the historical bio of the SAS (Special Air Service) given in the opening pages of the booklet. Though there are no cited sources, it is very specific and very informative. It is this kind of attention to detail that gets the player involved with the game before he or she even turns it on, and the experience is the better for it.