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Mindscape * £34.99 Mouse and keyboard

U-boat simulations have a strange fascination. Unlike flight sims there is little seat-of-the-pants action because the player is captain, torpedo loader and deck gunner. The ship slowly churns through the sea, so there are few speed thrills. However the claustrophobic undersea battle beckons.

Das Boot offers three different craft and five different campaigns. Each is historically accurate, but can be manipulated to make a beginner's life easier or a veteran's life tougher. Das Boot is a 3D polygon war-torn world that's interspersed with 2D options and control screens. The action can be speeded up by lowering the 3D detail levels, depending on how much accuracy you take with your action.

Deck head
The 12 vital areas of the submarine have been isolated, and their functions streamlined, so that a single deck-hand can sail and shoot simultaneously. Accessed by a key-press or mouse click these control screens allow you to leap from bow to stern in seconds. The business end of the sub - deck guns, anti-aircraft cannon and torpedo aiming are conducted in a 3D environment with you doing the pointing and shooting; while the management of the vessel: navigation, depth control and radio operations are conducted through neatly animated 'flat' screens.

This equal split, forces a visit to the practice ranges before lay, just to familiarise new submariners with their ship. As there is no single central command panel, knowing where to find specific controls, quickly, is vital. As captain, it's all too probable that you will have to flick between control and action screens in the heat of the battle.

After setting sail, radio reports filter through from other wolf-pack members and spotter planes. These need decoding - and the code broken if it is from allied shipping - and the correct course set to intercept. All the while periscopes and binoculars must scan the horizon looking for victims, as the primitive detection systems means visual contact is the only sure method.

On yer' marks
Once in combat Das Boot shows itself to be a game of skill and judgement. Torpedoes require 'marks' to time detonation, while the right choice of torp' (acoustic, magnetic or loop) may make up for targeting errors. They must be fired with a considerable lead - this is where the practice comes in handy - calculating where the sip will be when the torpedo reaches detonation distance.

Das Boot, though, is no turkey shoot. Allied vessels can hit back and merchant ships have escorts who try to force U-boats away using deck guns to stop a surface attack and depth charges against the submerged subs. Stay topside too long and the airforce will join you for a one-sided shoot out. There are even battles with other subs which can be conducted from an 'outside view' in a slow, almost balletic, dog(fish) fight.

Das Boot's cat-an-mouse style will drag for those who seek instant thrills. Here you have to track down trouble, then attack before it gets out of hand. The hunt essentially focuses on navigation, whilst scanning the radio waves and the skyline. Planning pays off and work put into tracking a ship pays far greater dividends than blasting the first ship you sail across. Then, the long hours of tracking pay off in a few brief seconds of destructive fury!

Realismus ist Trumpf

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Jetzt ist sie also auch am Amiga aufgetaucht, die "German U-Boat Simulation". Wir haben uns sofort Jürgen Prochnows Kapitänsmützchen geschnappt, ein Valium gegen Platzangst geschluckt und sind auf Tauchstation gegangen...

Wer seinerzeit den gleichnamigen Streifen gesehen hat, kann schon in etwas abschätzen, was ihn hier so erwartet, den anderen sei der (film-) historische Hintergrund kurz erläutert:
Winter 1941, der Zweite Weltkrieg ist in vollem Gang - in der Luft, zu Lande, zu Wasser und ganz besonders auch unter Wasser. Der feuchtkalte Kriegsschauplatz erstreckt sich vom Arktischen Meer entlang der Norwegischen Küste bis hinunter zur Straße von Gibraltar. Und überall sitzen deutsche U-Boot-Kapitäne in ihren schwimmenden Zigarren und lauern auf alliierte Schiffs- und Flugzeugkonvoys, genau wie wir...

Die fünf Missionen des Spiels basieren weitgehend auf dem Film, was nicht zuletzt bedeutet, daß man hier um größtmögliche Detailtreue bemüht war. So stehen etwa für den Funkverkehr originalgetreue "Enigma" Chiffriergeräte zur Verfügung, die Torpedos verweigern gelegentlich ihren Dienst, und anfallende Reparaturen im Maschinenraum ziehen sich höchst realistisch in die Länge.

Überhaupt befindet sich die gesamte technische Ausstattung auf dem Stand von 1941 - wenn man das so haben will, andernfalls wählt man im Optionsmenü einfach eine pflegeleichtere Einstellung. Ebenso muß der Kapitän hier nicht sofort ins kalte Wasser springen, sondern kann im Trainingsmodus schön gemächlich lernen, wie man seinen Kahn unbeschädigt durch ein vermintes Gebiet lenkt, sich gegen feindliche Flieger mit der Bordkanone verteidigt, tödlichen Wasserbomben ausweicht oder ein Duell mit einem anderen U-Boot besteht.

Die Realitätsnähe wäre also prima, und auch die vielen verschiedenen Optionen (mehrere U-Boote und Torpedotypen) und Einstellparameter erwärmen das Simulanten-Herz. Weniger gelungen ist leider die technische Umsetzungen: Die Vektorgrafik wirk mit ihren verschiedenen Blickwinkeln im ersten Moment zwar recht beeindruckend, aber sobald Bewegung in die Sache kommt, merkt man ihr deutlich an, daß sie einfach vom PC rübergezogen wurde - und auch dort war sie ja nicht gerade die Schnellste.

Die Nachladezeiten beim Stationswechsel sind ebenfalls nicht von schlechten Eltern: Wer sich mal von der Brücke über Maschinenraum, Übersichtskarte, Funk- und Torpedostation bis zur Deckkanone durchgeklickt hat, kann sich ungefähr vorstellen, welchen nervlichen Belastungen die Jungs damals ausgesetzt waren!

Soundmäßig darf man sich 30 Meter unter dem Meeresspiegel natürlich auch nicht allzuviel erwarten, aber immerhin läßt sich's mit der Maussteuerung ganz gut leben.

Für Klassiker wie "Silent Service" oder "Red Storm Rising" stellt Das Boot also weiß Gott keine ernsthafte Konkurrenz dar, dank der trägen Ruckel-Grafik und das eingeschränkten Bedienungskomforts werden hier wohl nur eingefleischte Kriegshistoriker so richtig Freude an der Feindfahrt haben. (M. Semino)

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'Oh no, please don't make me do it!', I pleaded. 'Don't make me review the submarine game! They're all the same, nothing ever happens, and waiting for it not to happen takes forever, and they always use the same excuse about it being 'realistic', and if people want a real submarine experience why don't they join the navy, and how do you expect me to take seriously a game with a manual that actually tells you how to make the game more frustrating than it already is, and I don't want to have to be the Nazis, and I don't care even if it does have some quite groovy 3D arcade-type sequences, it's still going to be completely tedious. I hate submarine games, I hate them I hate them I hate them! Please?'
It didn't work.

Bearing in mind that I hate submarine games, this is actually quite fun. It isn't as slow and action-free as most games in the genre tend to be, and while there's absolutely tons to do, you can still play it on a fairly superficial level and enjoy it.

The graphics are passable and the sound is very atmospheric, you can choose from three different types of sub and from three difficulty levels, there are loads of options to configure the game in favour of playability or realism, and you can even speed the flow of time where there's nothing happening.

You can practice just about every aspect of the game, and generally it seems to have been engineered for maximum player-friendliness. I still wouldn't play it while there are still dogs in the street, but if it's the kind of thing you ever find yourself inclined towards, it's comfortably the best one I've seen, and you're more than likely to love it to bits.

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Submarine simulations might not appeal to Top Gun freaks, but for those of us who get off on the idea of wearing chunky polo neck sweaters, boots and sending thousands of tons of shipping to the bottom of the ocean, they're a must.

Das Boot attempts to offer an in-depth game along the lines of the hottest flight simulations like Falcon and Stealth Fighter and place them in the authentic World War II setting of a German U-Boat.

The manual looks daunting, but much of it is (well-researched) detail while the game is quite easy to get to grips with. Opting for Baltic Training may not be the equivalent of a cruise round the Agaean, but it's definitely a good idea - not only to accustom yourself to the ship, but also to get a taste of the action sequences which take place both on the surface and underwater. You'll find yourself negotiating minefields, fighting off air attacks, shelling enemy ships from the deck fun, and avoiding depth charges. Naturally, there's time for you to get your eye in with some torpedoing.

When you're ready to go into action you get the chance to alter the detail of the simulation. If you opt for total realism then you'll find that nearly half your torpedoes fail to detonate, you have to limp off to base to effect any repairs of consequence and that your equipment is less than perfect. Unless you're a real trainspotter you'll bend the rules for the sake of enjoyment.

There are five missions to tackle, beginning with a patrol in the Norwegian fjords. As you build in confidence, you'll find yourself hunting destroyers in the Arctic, slipping through the Gibraltar straits in fog, savaging supply convoys in the North Atlantic, and chasing an enemy sub in the Bay Of Biscay.

The game is played from a number of different screens depending on whether you're on the surface or not. Up top you can stand in the conning tower and sweep around the horizon with the binoculars. Below there's the control room where the periscope is, and then the various other nexus points of the sub: torpedo room (where you can select the type you use from acoustic, magnetic or looping); the engine room; map room; and radio room.

Communications and new orders are reported to you via on-screen messages, and clicking into the radio room allows you to decode them, but when you send signals don't forget to encode them yourself. If you forget the enemy respond by thanking you for the information and then blowing you out of the water.

The game is absorbing and the actions sequences are good, but while Das Boot strives to achieve the kind of quality found in the class flight simulations, it does fall short. The graphics, while far from disappointing, lack the polish to make you sit there and flip through the external views and gasp. On top of that the scrolling is jerky in places. There is sound, and whilst you don't expect to hear much underwater, far more could have been done to supply atmosphere - at no time playing Das Boot did I really lose myself in the game, surely the acid test for a top drawer sim.

In its original form Das Boot was an epic TV tale, adapted by Wolfgang Peterson in 1981 from a novel by Lother-Gunther Buchheim, that became the most costly German film ever. The story follows the perilous life of the crew of a U-boat patrolling the Atlantic during WWII.
There's no glamorisation of what was a frightening and cruel job conducted in inhuman conditions. It was later shortened for cinema release to just over two hours, but really should be seen in six hours plus form in which you not only cease to view the crew as the enemy, but learn what claustrophobia really is.
Brilliantly shot and thorougly absorbing there's never been a better submarine movie.