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Hidden & Dangerous 2: Sabre Squadron PC CD-ROM

Published by Global Star Software
Developed by Illusion Softworks
Release Date : Out Now
Price : £19.99 (Original copy of Hidden & Dangerous 2 required)

It's been a while coming but finally we have an expansion pack to the excellent Hidden & Dangerous 2. We said at the time of our review that it was one of the best World War II based games that we have seen and we'd still stand by that statement over a year later. Whilst it was excellent though it did have a few problems that upset some gamers. Most claimed that the default keyboard configuration was too awkward whilst others moaned about the lack of a co-operative mode (something that many say was a superb feature of the original Hidden & Dangerous). Well now it's time to take a look at Hidden & Dangerous: Sabre Squadron to see just what it has to offer and also to see if it resolves the main complaints that most gamers had with Hidden & Dangerous 2.

Hidden & Dangerous 2: Sabre Squadron offers a brand new 9 mission campaign set in various locations such as Africa, Sicily and France. The quality of the missions is once again high and they are easily of the same calibre of those found in the original Hidden & Dangerous 2. Eight new multiplayer maps have been added as have new weapons including the Panzershreck (which is a bazooka to you and me), a SAS flare gun, MAS MLE 36, a Parabellum (with silencer) and the German G43 rifle. OK so this sounds like a good expansion but there is one important inclusion with Sabre Squadron which makes it an essential purchase for those who like to play online, which we'll come to in a moment.

We mentioned the two biggest gripes that people had with Hidden & Dangerous 2 in the introduction and I'm pleased to say that Illusion Softworks have resolved these issues in Sabre Squadron. First of all Illusion Softworks have now included two keyboard control configurations. You can stick to the same one that Hidden & Dangerous 2 used if you want or if you want the more traditional FPS feel you can choose the classic WASD configuration which is much, much better and feels far more natural. Secondly (and most definitely the highlight of the expansion) you can play all 9 single player missions in co-operative mode either over a LAN or online. This is a very welcome inclusion and on it's own justifies the cost of this expansion. The only disappointment is that you still can't play the original missions from Hidden & Dangerous 2 in co-operative mode, which would have really been brilliant. Deaf Gamers will have to be careful joining co-operative games with hearing gamers though as the creator of the game can enable voice communications which naturally would make things awkward.

The AI of your comrades hasn't been improved in Sabre Squadron and the problems that they had in Hidden & Dangerous 2 still exist. Sometimes when moving from one location to another, one of your comrades will usually decide to take another route (even if ordered to follow you) and walk into enemies. In small confined areas your comrades will often block doorways that you want to walk through. These aren't major problems but it's a shame that they are still there seeing as Hidden & Dangerous 2 has been out for nearly a year now. In defence of your AI comrades though, they can really help you out in sticky situations and on numerous occasions they've certainly prevented me from being finished off when blundering into the enemy. Of course if you're playing the game in co-operative mode then you won't have to worry about any AI idiosyncrasies and as a co-operative game it's pretty much perfect.

Graphically there doesn't seem to be any improvements at all from Hidden & Dangerous 2. This is hardly a surprise though as expansion packs are usually designed to add more content rather than to make major graphical enhancements. In the case of Sabre Squadron though this isn't necessarily a bad thing as although the graphics can't claim to be state of the art they are still more than acceptable and still require a well specified PC in order for the game to run smoothly at higher screen resolutions.

Hidden & Dangerous 2 didn't cause any real problems for deaf gamers and Sabre Squadron is no different in this respect. Subtitles can be enabled and as a result you'll be able to enjoy the cutscenes and conversations that take place during the game. Comments from your comrades are shown in text and you give orders via the numeric keypad with the choice of orders being displayed in text so you'll always be aware of the orders you are issuing. As with Hidden & Dangerous 2 a good use of icons has been made to inform you of the condition of your soldier and his comrades. Hearing gamers will hear out of sight enemies and to some extent be forewarned but thankfully you can save anywhere (although there's no multiple save slots) so saving often should reduce the chance of becoming frustrated at walking unwillingly into enemies. Your AI comrades do seem to spot enemies well in advance of you though to be honest.

Hidden & Dangerous 2: Sabre Squadron is a very good expansion that gives us, amongst other things, an additional 9 missions that are equal in quality to those in Hidden & Dangerous 2 and finally the ability to enjoy a co-operative gaming experience. What most will be disappointed by though is that you can't play the original Hidden & Dangerous 2 missions co-operatively and this is a little disappointing. The AI of your comrades still isn't perfect either but all things considered it's doesn't cause too many problems. If you enjoyed Hidden & Dangerous 2 then this is an expansion that you will enjoy and if you are in a position to play through the missions co-operatively then it becomes an essential purchase.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
At last! Thanks to Sabre Squadron co-operative play is now possible but it's a shame you can only play co-operatively with the missions in the expansion and not those in Hidden & Dangerous 2. A very good expansion overall.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No real problems for deaf gamers.