COMPANY: Nova Logic/Electronic Arts
System Requirements: 486
PLATFORM: DOS CD-ROM
Reevaluation; May 1998
Another “CD-ROM Classic”, Wolfpack gives you the unique option of playing as the other side. You can design your missions and choose to conn a pack of U-boats or a convoy of merchants and escorts. Although very old, there is a little life left in this title to merit scrutiny. Bear with me.
Wolfpack shows its age more than SSN-21 Seawolf or Command Aces. The mouse-directed interface is packed onto a single screen and is somewhat vague and confusing. The gameplay manual is all on-line, and printing it out is a must to figure out the interface and rules. The graphics are antique VGA-style fare. You don’t get a real sense of “being there” as with Aces of the Deep. The overall atmosphere is very arcade-like. Wolfpack doesn’t have different views or compartments, and this adds to the less-than-authentic feel of the sim. But if it seems I’m damning the layout and graphics, allow me to praise the concept. Wolfpack includes the essentials for the perfect subsim: attention to detail, historical accuracy, and the opportunity to master the sub or the convoy. At first the graphics served to disenchant me from putting in the time required to master the interface. My initial review ended right about here, with a dismal rating. But since then, I’ve given it another run, and this time achieved much more satisfaction from it.
The most novel feature of Wolfpack, and perhaps its saving grace, is the sim allows a player to command an entire side of ships, both as a theater commander and individual ship captain. You may choose to command a wolfpack or a convoy. The program allows you to make course and depth changes, fire weapons, and maneuver a sub, then jump to another sub in the pack and work it as well. Your tactics can be employed among one, two, or more U-boats, whatever size you consider a wolfpack to be. If you choose to command the convoy, you work the helm of the merchants and escorts in the same manner, skipping from the bridge of one to another. The escorts are natural U-boat hunters. You conn them around the convoy, looking for a subtle grey speck that would be a periscope. Using passive sonar, your message box will alert you to the presence of U-boat screws nearby. Then you let loose with the depth charges and maneuver for another run. Skip over to other destroyers and vector them in for the kill. Once the Brits come through with ASDIC or sonar, you can achieve results much easier. From mid-war on, you can launch hedgehogs and more powerful DCs, with staggering accuracy.
The basic gameplay elements are genuine history. Getting to know your capabilities means getting to know the vessels you command and the time frame in which your game takes place. Certain technologies aren’t available until the historically proper year, which gives the combatants their advantages/disadvantages accurately. Destroyers don’t have active sonar in 1939, so the wolfpack has almost a free reign. As the war progresses, however, the surface vessels quickly gain the edge. With greater speed and tracking gear, destroyers can run circles around the submerged U-boats. The program offers a good variety of platforms, especially the U-boats. Type VII, IX, XXI, and Milche Cows are available.
Wolfpack includes a good number of canned missions plus an adequate scenario editor. You can create an Atlantic Battle or Mediterranean Melee of your own design. Assign roles and routes to the surface ships and place U-boats in the area. Each ship or boat can be assigned computer captains who have names and varying personalities, from aggressive to cautious. Wolfpack even allows two players to compete on the same PC in a turn-based style.
Wolfpack doesn’t have true multi-player capability. Not many, if any, sims did when Wolfpack was released, way back in 1993. But the concept is what I’ve been looking for in a naval/sub sim: interplay between surface and sub players. If a subsim can utilize this idea with Internet multi-play, modern graphics, and capable AI, it would be the all-time King of Subsims. Limited by time and graphics, Wolfpack is merely an aging duke.
|BONUS: +5: Originality