Subsim Review's Live E3 2002 Coverage
Updated starting May 23 2300 PST

 

May 19. Groton, Conn. -- Subsim was afforded a preview of Sonalysts' E3 offering-- Battle of the Pacific, a WWII action game. Designed for the X-Box, BOTP features GeoForce3 level graphics and third-person perspective action. Todd Swain demonstrated a small sample of the gameplay while we noodled over some Chinese food, putting a WWII fighter into action against a Japanese battleship and fighter. Still in the early stages, Battle of the Pacific looks like a solid entry into console military games. Hopefully it will serve as a gateway for new simulation players.

We questioned Producer Kim Castro and Game Developer Jamie Carlson on the future prospects of Sub Command. Once again it appears that a Sonalysts recreational simulation may see service as a naval training program. After demonstrating the triple threat nuke subsim to Navy brass they were asked to expand the sim into a multi-person platform, where 4-6 students could man the individual stations of one ship. The Navy feels SC has great potential for immersing new personnel into a submarine warfare environment.

Finally, we asked about PC developments. X-box games and military trainers are fine but we know you are interested in something you can play in conjunction with Sub Command. Kim and the crew were kind enough to draw back the veil of secrecy on a potential follow up to SC--an Aegis ship simulation. Still in the early stages, we watched as Mike Kolar zoomed in on a cruiser, launched an ASW helo, and proceeded to lay down a pattern of sonobuoys. After getting a contact, he triangulated the position of the submerged intruder and launched a torpedo. His TMA was spot-on--we watched as the fish ran down the sub and detonated.

The big question is will there be enough demand for a Sub Command companion sim and will a publisher take it on? SC is reported to be selling on par with 688(I) during the same phase and that's with zero advertising and marketing. We'll keep you posted.


May 22-23; From the LA Convention Center -- In the way of naval sims, pickings are slimmer than ever.

Sea Dogs II -- Bethesda invited Subsim into a private screening of Sea Dogs 2 running a demo on a large screen monitor. Producer Joel Breton asked me if I had played Sid Meiers' Pirates. "Well, we want to take Pirates and make it look a whole lot better." And look better, it does. SD2 packs all the visual brilliance of a big budget Hollywood film. The ship models improve on the original's well-rendered sailing ships by adding more texture to the sails, richer grain in the wood areas, and more detail to the cannons and rigging. Crew members are present in both the on-board view and the external view--they even climb the rigging! The ocean effects are, to employ a word that is often overused, stunning. In calm seas the water surface is rippled with thousands of small wavelets, each gleaming and reflecting sunlight independently. Stormy seas are worth the purchase price of a game just to admire--I cannot express enough how great the ocean looks. Waves are very well-defined, ranging from swells to huge waves. The water surface is turbulent seas is flecked with foam and bubbles. Factor in rain, lightning, and cyclones powerful enough to rip crewmen from the crow's nest and you have one helluva realistic environment. Expect a GeoForce2 as the minimum card and a GF3 to render the best effects.

But looks aren't everything and for SD2 to excel it will take good gameplay and quest scripting. "There's a lot of smuggling that goes on in this game," explains Breton. "That's what pirate games are all about--smuggling and booty." The player can choose one of two main avatars to play the game, Blaze Devlin or Danielle Green. Characters are crisp and detailed. You may now attack any NPC you encounter in the game, so if you get a little crazy you can draw your blade and run them through (a priest was chosen as an example, greeted by hoots from the journalists present). Of course, this could have dire consequences for your character. You now have the choice of viewing the RPG elements of SD2 as the traditional third person perspective or the direct first person view. In-town scenery is much improved and open. When you visit the towns you can designate 2~6 additional crew to accompany you as a shore party.

There are two ways to play Sea Dogs II, follow the quest story line or go free-ranging and siege forts. Breton says it will be much more difficult to strike out on one's own but it can be done. "You may decide to attack and loot all the rum cargos and island and be the Rum King."

 Multiplayer will have anti-cheat protection and feature co-op and deathmatch battles.

They are trying for a pre-Christmas release. For more, visit Subsim's Sea Dogs II Status Page.

 

 


Harpoon 4--Shawn and Carl gave me a demo of Harpoon4. It is still in the early stages but far along enough to go through some basic interface maneuvers. It looks a lot like Fleet Command (which is a good thing--FC was sweet to look at) and plays like the original Harpoon, that is, mainly top-down, CIC, menu driven theater command. You can dock various scenes and vessels in a thumbnail border, which is neat. Filters are available to inform the player of every event and change of just major attacks/detections. The 3D graphics hold up their end well--visual displays of ships and planes are mainly included so the player can witness his triumphs, or catastrophes. The player can assign events on each waypoint for all vessels, such as speed, ROE, and sensor changes. Look for this near Thanksgiving if all goes as scheduled. Norman  claims it would make him very happy to see H4 release on Nov. 10, the Marines' birthday.

    
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