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The Hidden Below (DOS)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Shock Wave (10)
Written on  :  Feb 24, 2010
Rating  :  1.83 Stars1.83 Stars1.83 Stars1.83 Stars1.83 Stars

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Summary

Starts out promising, but fails miserably in the end

The Good

So where to start, well, what I certainly liked about the game was the charm of being amateur-made, which it actually isn't, but well the game was made with a team of 17-20 year olds and it shows, which is kinda cool if you like those 1-man-made games from the 80s. It shows it pretty well with comic style enemies and digitized pictures of the weapons. Another good thing is the feature-set of the engine which has slopes which got into mainstream games only 2 years later with Hexen and Duke Nukem 3D as well as surveillance cameras which we all love since Duke Nukem 3D and of course looking up and down (which this game supposedly had before marathon on the mac). There's also crawling which limits your weapon usage to the only melee weapon (the knife) which adds a nice little twist to the gameplay, even tho it's barely used in the maps.

Another thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack, which is fits the game well, especially the very first level song. The game features FMV sequences which barely any games had at this point of time, even tho the videos themselves are rather useless and dubbed in German, even in the international version.

The Bad

First and worst of all, this game feels very, very unfinished like a beta-version and is very prone to crashing, like when restoring save-games or exiting levels, also in the "high-res" mode using the surveillance cameras always ends in a div/0 error throwing you back to the DOS prompt.

Another thing that's rather bad are the enemies, which are very unbalanced (or maybe that's just an engine issue, more on that later). AI is virtually non-existent with enemies either running straight at you and literally spamming their weapons which can pose a little threat until you figure this out and the game becomes a battle around corners, other enemies will just just randomly walk around, sooner or later bumping into walls posing no threat at all, as they're too busy to look at the pixelated wall textures once they've hit them and won't notice you anymore, even when you shoot at them ... Oh, and not to forget, while the box advertises 40 different enemy types, I only found 20-25, which is including the bosses already, which I found a little disappointing, as a majority of those 25 enemies are basically variations of those spider-esque beasts you'll face right at the start of the game. What really annoyed me, is that while most enemies didn't pose a big threat, the smaller crawlies (like those mini-spiders) seem to be able to kill you almost instantly once they've got you (if they ever get in the mood).

But then again, the above might be an issue of the dodgy collision detection, which also tends to block bullets in passable areas or doesn't register clean hits, overall this is one of the major annoyances when playing the game. Also the engine becomes quite slow when facing multiple enemies, leading to a 90° turn taking up to 4-5 seconds, which doesn't help the slow gameplay either.

What's bad about the actual gameplay is the speed of progress made throughout, it will take half of the game till you get another weapon other than your trusty pistol. If you played that far, if the mostly boring level design (which luckily has a few exceptions) and very little enemy variation hasn't turned you off yet.

The Bottom Line

As the first FPS made in Germany, it's certainly worth a short look if you're into nostalgia, but it's certainly not a game to enjoy. While I've found the feature-set of the engine quite decent, it reaches nowhere the quality of Wolfenstein 3D, Rise of the Triad or DOOM. You can see a lot of unused potential in various places, which is disappointing I guess, as with a bit more effort this could have become a pretty cool game ranging along Blake Stone and Rise of the Triad. The demo version features almost everything you'll see in the full game, therefore don't expect it to be anything but a trip through jell-o. Also it appears the Internet seems to almost have completely forgotten about this game - for a good reason.

As a fun fact, I contacted one of the authors of the game recently, who has his own art studio nowadays, who seemed to be quite embarrassed of the game.