PC Gamer US Edition|November 2021
The rise, fall, and redemption of Mafia developer ILLUSION SOFTWORKS
Jeremy Peel

For the typical PC gamer, military shooters are no more real than swords and sorcery; a safe way for grown-ups to play toy soldiers. But for the many young men who came of age in the Czech Republic’s long period of compulsory service, military life wasn’t just first-person fantasy—it was first-hand experience. Even today, Czech law requires all citizens between age 18 and 60 to be ready to take up arms, should their home be threatened by enemies.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the country became known for its tough and exacting combat simulations. In the west, Bohemia Interactive produced Operation Flashpoint—the starting point not just for Arma and DayZ, but the software now used to train the militaries of more than 60 countries. And to the east, in Brno, Illusion Softworks made Hidden & Dangerous—a WWII series about guiding a four-man SAS team through meticulously planned secret missions.

Like Flashpoint, Hidden & Dangerous could feel cruel to those who weren’t cautious. Players learned there’s only one thing more painful than seeing your sniper shot dead by an unseen assailant: Seeing your second, investigating soldier shot dead by the same unseen assailant.

It was also finicky in the extreme. Control binding was a mission in itself, an orienteering trip that sent you outward to undusted corners of the keyboard, ending inevitably and desperately at the tilde key. The complexity of its inventory management, meanwhile, was rivalled only by Baldur’s Gate at the time. This was a series that asked you to weigh up, quite literally, the importance of a first aid kit or extra ammo for your M1 Garand—knowing your commando couldn’t carry both while making an expeditious retreat.


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