The Hunt for Red October logo

Argus Press
Price: £14.95

A novel conversion this one. Transferred from the literary masterpiece and bestseller by Tom Clancy, it's based on the tale of a Soviet commander's attempt to defect with a top nuclear submarine.

Submarines play an important part in the world defence network in case you didn't know, and are often described as "Capital Ships" of today. Whereas a plane or a missile can easily be tracked and observed, it is difficult to tell if there is an enemy submarine in your coastal waters. There is one way though: a tracking network can be set up, and if your craft is discovered it is easy to place a one ship sonar 'tail' on it.

You play the captain of Russia's most top secret nuclear submarine. It is also the Soviet's most powerful. Your objective is not to wage the now familiar computer gaming single handed guerrilla war behind enemy lines, but to defect to the West. The Americans desperately want to get their grubby little capitalistic paws on the world's most state of the art submarine. The Russians meanwhile are trying their damnedest to stop you.

The submarine's main enemy is sonar, such devices as anechoic titles on the hull still offer only a slim protection from the all-seeing sound pulse. If the submarine is located the only attack a surface vessel can offer is the traditional depth charge or the ultra-sophisticated anti-submarine missiles. But the biggest threat by far comes from underwater mines. You can try and trigger these off with an acoustic torpedo, cut your speed and perform a one-eighty degree turn.

Combat with a submarine is rather reminiscent of the World War One aerial dog fights. With both vessels weaving and accelerating out of the path of the enemy's torpedo. Or you can use a tactic which I have tried and tested on lethal enemy fishing boats. They don't fool me, they only pretend they're harmless.

Anyway, you sneak up on the ship at a discreet distance of six nautical miles, at periscope depth. Lock the craft on visual, then let rip with a full salvo of four torpedoes. Even if only one connects, the enemy vessel is left pouring smoke from a gaping wound. This is my fave effect in the game, because although the ship hasn't taken enough damage to sink, it still looks splendidly trashed as it tries to limp away from the imminent threat of you finishing it off. You can select elevation angles of launch for the missiles, very difficult this as you also have the port/starboard beading as well.

The more torpedoes you launch the more susceptible to discovery you are as the noise your torpedoes make at the time of launching gives a sonar reading somewhere between an Iron Maiden concert and the eruption of Mount St Helens.

The submarine incorporates one of the latest developments in anti-noise propulsion motors. Called caterpillar drive, it works by sucking in water at the front of the craft then blowing it out the other end, causing a slow maximum speed of twelve knots. The noise given off by the motors is almost undetectable by sonar.

A variety of different maps are at your disposal, plus sonar blips of ships, mines, and other submarines. Terrain maps show the depth between your hull and the sea bed. Cross sections and side views of the ship showing again the depth between you and a ruptured hull.

Red October is a stunning game. Highly accurate and absorbing. The graphics are stunning, not in their complexity but in the effectiveness to which they are used: for instance, if you surface or go to periscope depth in the centre of a pack of Russian ships, the visual display and representation is so realistic that it leaves you with a real feeling of Oh jobbie, what have I done? Another good graphic representation is the infra-red feature on the periscope which portrays the surrounding ocean and ships in glorious shades of red and pink. The sound is adquate with the almost to be expected blip noise of the sonar if you activate it.

I really like Red October and to my mind it is the best submarine simulator on the Amiga. (Not that there's much choice!). The only problem I incurred was that everything happened in the same order in each and every game, so I often found myself almost subconsciously dealing with situations I knew would arise at that point in the game. My other stumbling block came when I found that although I had just checked my maps I got blown out of the water at the most unlikely moments. And I didn't find this out until the game over message came up, which incidentally is the front page of the New York Times.

A good game with a lot to do in it and it should last - it took me half an hour to get to the North Sea of Scandinavia, let alone, America! As my alter-ego might say: "Wow, 'sa 'mazing!"