COMPANY: Electronic Arts
PLATFORM: DOS CD-ROM,
When you dish out $60 for the newest whiz-bang simulation, you expect the heavens to move at the very least. When you plop down a trifling $9.95 for a CD-ROM "Classic" like SSN-21 Seawolf, the best you can hope for is an outdated program that might give you a change of pace from your usual fare. Prepare for a big surprise! Seawolf is a player.
Seawolf involves a "world crisis" scenario where you are ordered to hunt and kill Russian (see, it is a classic) boomers, Alfas, Oscars, frigates, landing craft, and whatever else they put in your way. You command a Seawolf class nuclear submarine, capable of astonishing underwater speeds. You have a choice of individual missions or the career plate. The missions are accompanied with a cheesy video clip of some computer programmers masquerading as news reporters. Once the mission begins, you utilize a waterfall display to isolate and classify the surrounding vessels. It always seems like the ocean is well-stocked with porpoises and whales. But somewhere, you can bet, thereís an Akula class boat or a bevy of missile frigates looking for you as well. Put out the towed array and begin the identification process.
The waterfall display can give you an idea of whatís out there, but referring to the pages of the identification codes and deciphering the corresponding code was really tasking. It consisted of a horizontal bar that displayed small hash marks in various combinations. The combinations could be daunting. There are something like twenty slots, and marks in different slot meant different contacts. Usually they indicated dolphins or biologicals. But counting the marks and comparing them to the manual simulates the ambiguous nature of target analysis. If that's too much trouble for you, thatís okay because the game will ID the contacts for you if you can wait a little longer. When the targets begin to be classified, you maneuver into range for your torpedoes. For the targets that occupy the fringes of the battlefield, you can launch Harpoon, Sea Lance, and Tomahawk missiles. But the game usually takes on a very different aspect from the point at which you reveal your presence. You can usually take out three or four targets before your friendly sound man reports a "missile launch detected". Take my word for it, those missiles are headed for you.
The torpedoes that assail you are avoidable, through timing and attentive maneuvering, but they tie you down and limit your response. To effectively evade, you must retrieve the towed array, because the boat wonít do over half power with it out. And you need speed if you want to survive. Once the array is in, you can turn and burn but you canít hear, and that means you canít target and return fire. I donít know how realistic this is, because this type of war has never been fought and recorded (and hopefully never will). You shoot through the depths and thermals and torpedoes trail you. At some point, if youíre good and lucky, things cool down and you can quiet down for another round.
A quick look through the periscope (donít surface or youíre toast, man!) shows decent graphics. The enemy ships are usually bunched up, and a quick sweep will assist in IDing the enemy for a snap shot response. Your sub can sustain 3~4 hits before the crew begins breaking down and screaming "Weíre all gonna die!". In most missions, you can sweep the sea before you reach that point. But in the missions where you are assigned to protect a convoy of Allied surface craft from enemy subs or cruisers you have to be fast and deadly, and usually some of the friendlies swim under anyway.
The graphics of Seawolf are vintage 1993, but not really bad. The interface is very playable, through a series of mini-menus that serve pretty well. There is a terrific soundtrack to this sim that picks up tempo when the action gets hot. The game supports modem play and thatís a big plus in this reviewerís book. Playing with a buddy is very three-dimensional. You know heís out there, and he feels your presence, but detection is difficult. Occasionally the enemy fields a submarine that almost defies detection. After torpedoes assail you seemingly from nowhere you realize youíre not alone and the real hunt begins.
This sim has only a few negatives worth mentioning. First is the ever-present overhead mapview, that is a little too real-time to accept. Contacts age and disappear from it to some degree, but it can be relied on too much. It is useful, but adjustments could be made to keep it in line with real life. The program worked well, but it is one of the few that I needed a boot disk to play. And the waterfall bar display with its cryptic hash marks could have been a little better executed. At the least, the hash marks could have been numbered or color coded to assist in identification.
But niggling details aside, Seawolf is a good, solid subsim that is a terrific value for the money.
Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Program stability Multi- play 13/20 8/10 6/10 7/10 16/20 7/10 13/15 3/5 BONUS: -4 Age
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