SUBSIM Review: Tom Clancy’s SSN

Almost as much fun as "Pitfall Harry" and almost as realistic!


       The author of nearly a dozen international best sellers in the “techno-thriller” genre, Tom Clancy’s SSN is his initial foray into the realm of computer simulations. For all the hoopla about the accuracy of his insights into the classified nature of weapons systems, Tom Clancy’s SSN is a far departure from real life. The simulation has a very involved plot of an impending world crisis, involving the Chinese, everyone’s favorite baddies now that the Soviets are relegated to the history books. You are the Captain of a Los Angeles class nuclear attack sub, and you can expect trouble at any moment. Okay, that sounds like a pretty good start. But if you demand technical realism from your sim, you will be disappointed here. Dominating the playing screen is a large “window” from which you survey all around you, sort of like the Sea View on “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”. You watch your sub and control it visually in a remote control fashion. Change depth and watch that baby rise by the bow and go up. Surface ships are visible from below, and enemy subs drift into view like a Saturday morning cartoon. Fire off a couple of torpedoes and watch them work their way in search of your target, which you can watch evade and return fire. Almost as much fun as “Pitfall Harry” and almost as realistic!

The interface consists of the window/view screen, and several small panels that give the status of various systems. Your passive sonar display does not convey authenticity, it almost looks like an afterthought. You can select several modes of torpedoes, from stealth (slow speed wire-guided that the enemy cannot detect or evade until it’s too late–an intriguing concept), to unguided, to high speed “we’re coming to get you, sucka!” models. You are required to READ! the crew’s responses to your orders, there are no sound files (at least, I heard none). High tech indeed!




       The manual that accompanies the game has a section that almost amounts to a disclaimer, declaring that realism was intentionally played down in order to augment the graphic quality of the game, describing the game as more of an interactive movie or a “flight simulator for submarines” than a simulation. Perhaps there is a market for this style game, and in that light it’s unfair to compare it to a simulation seeking to blend game play with technical and physical reality. But it’s swimming in shallow water as a submarine simulation and fares poorly as entertainment to boot. In addition to its cartoony look and feel, the manufacturers of Tom Clancy’s SSN felt it unnecessary to warn owners of IBM Aptiva computers that the video clips will not play on their PCs. When you get the game home and load it, if you read the “READ ME” file you are told this timely information. Needless to say, I am one of these Aptiva owners and I played this “Tom” turkey for three days without benefit of the videos. I did what you should do in a case like this: I returned it and got a refund.


Rating:  52

Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Program stability Multi- play
5/20 7/10 8/10 3/10 8/20 5/10 13/15 0/5
BONUS: +3 Originality;   



AI Bot running SUBSIM, what could go wrong?!