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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: August 6, 1999
My first exposure to Illusion Softworks’ Hidden & Dangerous came at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Amongst all the glitter, loud music and hormonally imbalanced Lara Croft fans, Hidden & Dangerous shone brighter than the rest as a rare diamond in the rough, and I knew that, given enough time and care, it could turn out to be not only the best tactical combat title we’ve seen to date, but perhaps one of the best games of all time.
In the past year, serving as a staff writer for the Adrenaline Vault, I’ve had the opportunity to review many titles. Over time and with experience and training, I developed a routine of sorts for getting reviews done thoroughly but in a timely manner. As many of you may or may not know, playing a game for the purpose of a review is very different from just playing one for fun and enjoyment. It takes a different mind-set. You do crazy things like take notes and purposefully attempt to break features, things you’d never do if you were just playing for pleasure. Because you’re under deadline, you sometimes have to cut corners, and while every effort is made to see the entire game, oftentimes, the small nuances can be lost. I relate these personal experiences to you because, for this review, all those things have changed. Never before have I played a game as much as this one. The best educated guess is that more than 300 hours have gone into dissecting this title, all the way down to its bone marrow.
I started by playing as though I were doing it for my own gratification — and was I ever gratified. My first run through the 23 spectacular missions stands as the single best computer gaming experience in my entire life. Not since the original System Shock had I been so immersed in a virtual world, and never before had I experienced the adrenaline of what it must have been like to be in the middle of a war. Whether it was Hidden & Dangerous’ unique ability to pull me into the missions or the dynamically changing environments that evolved on their own, I felt as if it were me in the game as opposed to the digital characters I was controlling on the screen.
After I completed it for the first time, there was absolutely no let down in my zeal to play it again, only this time I’d be doing it for our strategy guide, and that meant a change in focus. Writing a comprehensive guide requires a lot of time, patience and creativity. With Hidden & Dangerous, it meant looking at each mission as an individual game — playing them with every conceivable strategy, squad combination and inventory stockpile. Playing in this manner allows you an understanding of the game that you’d never see otherwise. All the idiosyncrasies, subtleties and nuances come out of the woodwork in droves, and this has the potential to alter your overall perspective.
To counteract this and for the purpose of the review, I’ve gone back and played key areas a few more times. I’ve also, as is standard protocol, engaged my cohorts here at Avault as well as a few other industry insiders regarding their thoughts on Hidden & Dangerous; specifically, how it measures up against such games as Spec Ops, Rainbow Six, Commandos and Delta Force. The truth is, the end result and innovations are better than all these combined, expanding ten-fold beyond the idea of Spec Ops, redefining the ultra-realistic mission design so eloquently introduced in Rainbow Six, taking the atmosphere of war to the Nth degree over Delta Force, and finally giving us the title we all envisioned when we first played Commandos.. This is Hidden & Dangerous.
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