Red Storm Rising logo

MICROPROSE £24.99 * MOUSE AND KEYBOARD

As the Iron Curtain finally comes down on the Cold War, out from the deep of mid-Eighties Reagenesque jingoism sails Red Storm Rising. Based on the techno-thriller by Tom Glancy and Larry Bond, this simulation pits the best of the Russian and US navies against each other in a fight to the finish.

In a game based over four different time zones, commanders can fight battles beneath the sea any time from 1984 to a factitious future where new developments in weapons technology make death-dealing easy. As an American nuclear submarine commander, your job is to sink Ruskie freighters, carriers, destroyers and subs who, not surprisingly, want to do the same to you.

Commanders have a selection of screens to watch as they prey beneath the seas, with cursory shots of sinking ships thrown in for good measure. The skill comes not only from being in the right place to strike, but also from accessing the correct charts and weapons to be effective. The main game's viewed on a tactical map and so subs and ships are only seen as blips on a radar screen.

There's masses of other information a budding Cap'n Nemo must take into account while sailing. Many things make the art of detecting enemy shipping without being detected yourself difficult. Thermal ducts in the water can mask or distort sonar, while certain bits of nautical kit function better at different depths and speeds. Acoustic signatures can be compared to identify a ship class while the detection levels can be watched, letting you know just how sly you've been.

These toys for boys would be incomplete without weaponry. It's here that RSR metamorphoses from a diverting undersea drive into a true game. Torpedoes have manifold abilities, and can be fired undetectably and unjammably on wire, or can hunt ships on their own with sonar in preset left or right search patterns.

Missiles can be launched at shallower depths, but make you rather obvious. You need to know which defence systems which ships pack, because it's stupid to give away the element of surprise with a weapon that will not sink the opposition. Once they realise you're about it's kill or be killed.

The action is largely key controlled, so the MicroProse standard 'punch out chart' is essential. As the hunt takes shape decisions have to be instantaneous and correct. It's the thrill of the chase, the sudden strike from the deep followed by a charge for the welcoming anonymity of the ocean. In the middle of a battle the quick reference chart can save your life, when a reload's needed and you can't remember the key stroke sequence. This speed of action contrasts with the authentic, but terrifying, slowness of the 7,000-ton beast you control.

Simultaneous reading and playing is never a totally enjoyable experience, but it's vital if you're to weather the storm. The list of variables is truly immense, but there are a few manoeuvres that must be learnt - skills which the practice options are designed to build. Once armed with experience it's time to start out on single raids and eventually go for the big one, the Red Storm campaign - the Russian hordes en masse.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

RSR is an odd simulation, because there's no 'cockpit view' - only maps, charts and the virtually useless periscope. This lack of the 'being there' sensation doesn't detract from the excitement. When the torps start scraping the paint from your ship, palms perspire and tempers fray. Zooming in and out of the tactical map, commanders must make the right call at the right moment. Lives - your crew's and your nation's - depend on success.

As with any game there's a 'run silent' option, the sounds of RSR are no great shakes. The prop chugs away in the background, but little else. Even when a direct hit's scored and you watch mighty warships sink beneath the waves, there's no fury from graphics or sound. Explicit violence is not the reason you persevere with RSR.

LASTING INTEREST

Controlling a nuclear sub takes skill and practice. Add this to the challenge of a full-blown war, the outcome of which your actions actually affect (the game doesn't slavishly follow the book - the scenario starts with the same premise but changes as your sink more shipping) and RSR has massive potential in the staying-power stakes. The lack of stunning graphics will inhabit the short-term player who wants to see large vessels flying through undersea trenches, but not the long-term strategist or war techie. They'll relish the test of continual battle with a diminishing supply of weapons, attacking more dangerous targets with an increasingly damaged boat.

JUDGEMENT

In RSR valour is banished to the brig: cold-headed actions and cool nerves see you through, it brings the complexities of modern sub war to the small screen with polish and finesse, if not graphic greatness. RSR is complex enough to challenge, yet structured to allow the player greater freedom as skill develops. Get too cocky, by jumping in at the deep end on ultimate difficulty level, and your next port of call is Locker 3F, Jones D. Develop your sub skills, though, and you could blast the pride of the Russian navy into scrap, unseen and safe.


Red Storm Rising logo Amiga Joker Hit

Ein bißchen hat's ja gedauert, bis diese U-Boot-Simulation der "Hightech-Klasse" für den Amiga umgesetzt wurde. Jetzt, wo sie endlich "ausgelaufen" ist, mußten wir natürlich gleich mal nachsehen, wie unsere Version denn nun geworden ist!

Red Storm Rising bietet (nicht gerade typisch für eine Simulation) sogar eine Vorgeschichte, natürlich basierend auf dem gleichnamigen Roman von Tom Clancy: Die Sowjetunion hat durch einen Terroristen-anschlag eine ihrer wichtigsten Erdölraffinerien verloren und steht deshalb vor einer bedrohlichen Energiekrise. Die alten Herren im Kreml beschließen Energiekrise. Die alten Herren im Kreml beschließen daher, mal eben den dritten Weltkrieg anzufangen. Wer muß jetzt wieder das Schlimmste verhindern? Genau, der Spieler.

Es gibt zwei Trainingseinheiten, acht Kampfmissionen und schlißlich das volle "Red Storm Rising-Szenario". In den Kampfmissionen kann man all das im einzelnen üben, was später im Ernstfall auf einen zukommt: Angriffe von feindlichen U-Booten, Kriegsschiffen, Flugzeugträgern, Helikoptern etc..

Sodann beginnt der Ernst des Helden-Lebens. Zuerst such man sich den gewünschten Zeitraum (von 1984 bis 1996) aus, dadurch werden gleichzeitig die verfügbaren Waffen festgelegt. Dann wird noch der Schwierigkeitsgrad (vier Stufen) bestimmt und das eigene Boot mit Waffen bestückt. Sobald es auf die große Fahrt ins Unbekannte geht, hat man eigentlich nur noch den Taktik-Screen vor der Nase. Das ist anfangs ein ziemlicher Schock, weil dessen Grafik doch sehr nach C64 aussieht. Aber lieber optisch etwas schlichter und dafür superfunktionell: Durch die klare und übersichtliche Darstellung bekommt man die endlos vielen Optionen (Waffen- und Abwehrkontrolle, Periskop, akustische Erkennung, Wetterbedingungen...) sehr schnell in den Griff. Zudem werden die wichtigsten Ereignisse (Angriffe, Treffer) in animierten Zwischensequenzen dargestellt. Beim erfolgreichen Abschluß einer Mission gibt's dann schließlich noch Punkte und Orden.

Mal abgesehen vom Taktik-Screen ist die Grafik für eine Simulation überdurchschnittlich gut, sie wurde für den Amiga auch extra im Halfbrite-Modus neu gezeichnet. Die Sound-FX sind ebenfalls hervorragend gelungen - sie klingen fast schon zu realistisch (die Musik ist allerdings eher belanglos). Die Handhabung ist tadellos, bis auf zwei Aufnahmen: Einmal hätte man mehr Funktionen (weg von der Tastatur) auf die Maus legen können, zum anderen wirken die eingeblendeten Zwischensequenzen im Eifer des Kampfgeschehens oft störend, lassen sich aber leider nicht abschalten. Und schließlich ist die (mittlerweile ja total überholte) Hintergrundgeschichte sicher auch nicht jedermanns Sache.

Davon mal abgesehen, ist Red Storm Rising mit Sicherheit die ultimative Hightech-U-Boot-Simulation, mit deutlichen Abstand vor "688 Attack Sub". Tja, und wie sich's gehört, ist die Amiga-version tatsächlich die schönste von allen! (mm)


Red Storm Rising logo Zzap! Sizzler

MicroProse, Amiga £24.99

MicroProse certainly take their time with conversions and Red Storm must rank alongside F-19 as one of the longest in production. The game is, of course, based on a novel by Tom Red October Glancy and was underrated on the C64 (86%, Issue 43). The now dated plot concerns the outbreak of WWIII. The USSR has invaded Iran, occupying the valuable oil fields, and NATO is scrambling to respond. Global war soon follows, with full-scale conventional combat across Europe, Iceland and the North Cape.

Your part in all this is as the commander of a nuclear attack submarine which is ordered to engage Soviet naval forces ranging from attack submarines (both nuclear and diesel) to surface vessels (cruisers, destroyers and even the latest aircraft carriers) - 30 ship types in all (plus helicopters).

Effective use of sonar is a priority if you're to survive. The manual, like all MicroProse simulations, is a weighty, informative tome and explains how sonar works extremely well. These books are an education in themselves and it's great to see it all working in practice: sonar contacts fade in and out while tracking a target and dodging incoming torpedoes racing around. Even though tactical displays look unimpressive, they work well and there's a lot to think about all the time. The flow of information is constant and no conflict is ever the same. On the higher levels the enemy can get very, very smart with multiple forces employing group tactics and attack subs utilising their advantages to the full - witness an Alfa sub as it uses its depth and speed to sink you.

Sonar contacts can be analysed, and a ship database can be accessed for further information as well as the tactical computer if you're stuck. To the observer it can look very dull. With the 'action' taking place on a screen of lines and dots it's not exactly pushing the Amiga's graphic or sonic capabilities but it's very well thought out.

Overall, the game is a very tense simulation of sub warfare, especially on the higher levels where it only takes one torpedo to down you. Add to this the uncertainty of sonar contacts, leading to a very deadly game of hide and seek, you can really begin to sweat with this realistic simulation. It's a remarkably different game to Silent Service with a lot more emphasis on tactics and textbook manoeuvring. I found it all highly compelling, totally absorbing stuff (even if it's not particularly astounding to look at). Highly recommended - just like the C64 game, in fact.