Requirements: 32 bit Winsock
PLATFORM: WIN95, WIN NT
Most subsims pit you, the player, against the computer. You have the illusion you're confronted by aggresive destroyers and hapless merchants; lethal, unseen enemy attack subs and guided missle frigates. But, of course, it is an illusion, a manifestation of a clever team of programmers. Iron Wolves pits you against real flesh and blood opponents, in real time.
Iron Wolves is an online sim only. You download the program from their home page onto your hard drive and start the program while logged on. There are two sides in this Atlantic War, the Northerners (blue) and Westerners (red). You are given a choice of numerous warships to take into battle:
- Submarine - We're talking U-boats. Two varieties here, standard and "heavy" sub. The heavy has stern tubes. Both have deck guns. Pretty speedy on the surface; depth changes take forever.
- Corvette - You hunt the U-boats, with forward-firing hedgehogs and depth charges. Guns included.
- Destroyer - Faster and bigger than corvettes, you bring torpedo tubes to the party. These destroyers are obviously better suited for action as merchant raiders than ASW. It's tough and can take a lot more damage than the others.
- Tanker - This is what you get if you don't subscribe to Iron Wolves. You're given an assignment, usually to make it to some coordinates in one piece. Fulfill your assignment and you're awarded a warship free. A tanker has no armament and they are slow targets. Keep your life jacket at hand, sailor.
- Computer-generated ships - or drones, can be either destroyers, corvettes, or tankers.
The interface consists of one window or screen. All commands are available from the various controls in this screen. All commands are carried out using the mouse, which is a poor alternative to keyboard control. To turn the scope view, one must center the mouse pointer on a diminutive button and press. Really hard to do when you're under pressure. It would be much better if you could use the keyboard arrows for this. The compass allows you to set the course and views with one click, but this method lacks the precision needed for fast action. The torpedoes reload in seconds, a full reload can take as long as 90 seconds. Not very realistic, but handy when you're beset by ten corvettes.
Submarine control panel
Click here for full size screen shots.
U pon surfacing you can post an observer topside, which gives you a better field of view. To select a target for gun action, right click on the enemy and press the "Commence firing" button. Enemy subs at periscope depth can be discerned as small, white twinkles in the water. When they fire a salvo of torpedoes at you, you can see the tracks coming. Evasive maneuvering helps but doesn't guarantee safety. Firing torpedoes in Iron Wolves is sloppy business. You have to lead your target judiciously to ensure a hit. The escorts use sonar to track subs. Crawl over a contact and drop the charges. A map view allows you to see the field of battle and keep track of your allies and opponents. Graphics are good, though the ocean texture never varies, and the sky is perpetually overcast. Sounds are adequate for this kind of program; the explosions are really good. Program reliability varies, depending on the performance of your server and the Iron Wolves' server. Losing the connection is not uncommon.
One of Iron Wolves' neatest features is the chat box. Players trade taunts and b.s. in a rapid, merry flow. I played this sim when it was beta in the spring of 1996. Many of the old vets are still at large --Captain Nemo, 1baddude, Deogee, Shad. These Iron Cross holders will make your Iron Wolf experience a short and wet one.
War is a costly business but Iron Wolves has managed not to go overboard with their pricing structure. Fourteen consecutive days runs $10; $19 by the month; or $20 for 10 single day tickets. You can play as a target, er, that is, a tanker, and if you finish your mission you can earn a warship free. Unlike a store bought subsim, you never stop paying for Iron Wolves, but on the other side, you are always part of a dynamic battlefield.
Keep in mind, Iron Wolves is not a pure simulation. It has simplified the strategy of undersea warfare greatly. The theater of battle isn't a vast stalking ground, it's one big melee, with improbable numbers of escorts roaming the seas and no weather variations. Convoys consist of three ships at most, and the players manning the destroyers and corvettes have no guidelines or orders to protect them. Tankers and merchants are merely targets for surface ships and subs alike. The structure of subsim gameplay typical of most other sims is notably absent. So if you're after an authentic, historically accurate U-boat simulation, Command Aces of the Deep remains your only option.
If judged solely by its simulation performance, Iron Wolves would come up short. 688(I) has multi-player capability and pure sim character in one cohesive package. That said, Iron Wolves is a step toward the online multi-player battlefield that everyone wants. You can command a sub or a surface raider. Your opponents are human and offer witty wisecracks. It's fun and entertaining, so if you don't mind a simplified sailing model and limited tactics, get in there and shoot!
You can find the Iron Wolves home page at http://www.on-line.co.uk/iw.html
|Game play||Repeat Play||Program stability||Multi- play|
|BONUS: +5: Can play both sides +2: Originality|