Torpedoes on the starboard bow!

Silent Service 2 logo

MICROPROSE * £34.99 * 1 meg * Mouse/keyboard * Out now

"Oh Captain", gasped the Engineering Officer, "those bulkheads won't take much more of this! Ye cannae change the laws of physics!" We had attacked a peaceful little convoy of Japanese battleships and cruisers about twenty minutes before, and had spent the intervening time trying desperately to dodge the six escorts and their incessant depth-charging.

So far they had fought fair, but it was only a matter of time before the water was filled with the sound of Des O'Connor as those fiendish orientals resorted to the ultimate weapon. I had to think fast, and engineer Mr Scott's impressions weren't helping my concentration.

"There goes another one", he added as a depth-charge went off perilously close. "Much more of this and she'll break up. Cap'n!".
"Hard left rudder!" I shouted, "Release debris!". There was a sort of drawn out glooping sound as the debris, designed to fool the destroyers into thinking they'd sunk us, was fired from tube one. We'd added an extra touch of realism by coaxing the engineer into the torpedo tube with a story about dilithium crystals. It's a far better thing, and all that, eh?

After ten more minutes of crash diving, hard ruddering, and glancing sweatily at stop watches - well, they do it in the movies, don't they? - We evaded our pursuers. One engine damaged, a fire amidships, our periscope wrecked, and the four torpedoes we'd fired were all duds. Ah well, at least we got rid of the engineer.

Silent Service II is the follow up to MicroProse's Smash hit of 1986, Silent Service, which to date is still the best sub sim on the Amiga. The original game had challenge, detailed control of difficulty level, and tense action. So how can they have improved it?
The answer is a double dose of graphics and sound. Silent Service was excellent on the gameplay front, but fairly under-endowed when it came to presentation. The sound effects were primitive and the graphics functional, so there has always been room for massive improvement.
And massive improvement is what we get after all these years! When the game loads, which can take some time, SS II's heritage becomes obvious. It was designed as a game for VGA IBM compatibles, and as such has digitised pictures of the ships and far more presentable layouts for the various action stations you can access.

These include the map screen, where most of the action takes place, the periscope, which you'll use as little as possible if you want to survive very long, the bridge view, damage control, and the gauges (you have to check these yourself as you've just shot your engineer out into fifty fathoms of the Pacific Ocean, remember?).

The action stations are accessed either by pressing function keys or by clicking on a small symbol at the bottom of your screen. There is enough information contained in them to keep most people happy, but I would have liked a continuously updated depth gauge on all screens. When you're in shallow water and under attack, running around is the last thing you'll ever do.

All the graphics are slick and colourful, yet they manage functionality at the same time. The gauges screen is a little confusing at first - I found myself wondering which was the thermostat and which was the clapometer - but you're soon au fait enough with it to take a quick glance during combat just to make sure there's enough power in the batteries to keep that little rabbit tapping away on his tin drum.

The game's sound effects have been improved out of sight. Everything is sampled right down to the 'Dive! Dive! Dive!' as you slip below the waves. The seagull sounds when you sail on the surface are a nice touch, too. Sonar pings, explosions, and engine noises are all realistic enough to add a healthy wodge of atmosphere when you're in the thick of things, so they do exactly the job you'd expect for a simulation.

You can play SS II in several ways, though the difficulty levels have been greatly simplified. Instead of the individual options in the original, such as whether or not you want expert destroyers or convoy zig-zags, the player is given a choice of four levels - Introductory, Normal, Advanced, and Ultimate. The only realism factor under your control is whether you have historical or flawless torpedoes.

For much of the war, American torpedoes were of a distinctly dodgy design, so if you choose the historical option you will find many of them turn out to be duds. This is a real pain if you've fired off two torpedoes, then crash dived and turned away at flank speed as all sensible commanders will do. By the time you realise your torpedoes have caused no more damage than a quick paint job will cure, you're hopelessly out of position and the escorts have been alerted.

I found the temptation to fire three or even four torpedoes at a small freighter was irresistible after a few of my torpedoes had gone "dunk" instead of "boom". This is wasteful - after all, they are a submarine's most valuable resource after fuel and air.

The difficulty levels work fairly well, introductory is easy and designed to let you get your feet wet - or keep them dry, in this case! - and Normal is a well balanced option for when you've mastered the basic tactics of submarine warfare (sneak up when they can't see you, fire from under cover, and run away very quickly).

Of the two higher levels, Advanced seems to offer more adept destroyers and alert lookouts, which is my way of admitting they saw me coming a mile away and depth-charged me till my ears popped. Ultimate level is hairier than an Afghan Hound.

There's enough of a challenge to keep the average sim fan going for a very long time with SS II, especially when it is played in the War Career mode. This allows you to choose a start date for your career, the base from which you begin, and your patrol zone. From this point, it's up to you where you patrol, which contacts you investigate, and how long you live.

You won't last long if you rush in at every contact. When patrolling, you have a map of the entire Pacific basin and the submarine, represented by a white dot, follows the mouse pointer as long as you keep the left button depressed. When a contact is made, you are given a screen telling you the rough size of the contact, its bearing and the time of day.

This determines how close you can go to an enemy without being seen. There are different values for end-on, broadside-on, and your periscope along with the range at which you'll be visible on sonar. I generally chicken out of any daylight attack as they're usually more hassle and danger than they're worth, but even sticking to attacks in darkness, I've so far failed to survive longer than June 16th 1943 - over two years short of VJ day!

If you're a sim fan, buy this game - it's excellent. If you have the original, try it first. The gameplay is essentially the same and you might not be bothered about the fancy touches.


Silent Service 2 logo

Can you stand the pressure of command or will you sail your crew into deep water? Look out for that destroyer! Dive! Dive! Dive!

In the Second World War, being a sub mariner was incredibly dangerous. Proportionally, six times as many servicemen died in US submarines than in the rest of the American Navy. For the men who served, it was the greatest gamble, but when they got it right, the rewards were enormous. And fo the US Admiralty, it was worth it.

Silent Service II places you in command of a American boat (that is sub to you and me) in the Pacific at the height of Japanese seapower. You can choose from a list the type of your vessel (all historically accurate) and can set the difficulty level. Then you are on your own. And it is a big ocean.

The thing with submarines is that unless you are on the surface (or within periscope depth) there is no way of seeing what is going on. You must rely on a chart compiled by your crew members which tells you your heading, bearings to the enemy and, by way of trails, the speed everyone is moving. All other decisions are up to you.

A view from the Bridge
It is advisable to start off on a practice level which pits you against several unarmed hulks lying dead in the water. Pretend they are the enemy, sneak up to them then fill them full of torps. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well it is not. You can safely surface, which gives you an outside view, but where you are looking is not necessarily where you are heading. Sort this out and you should be in a position to give your helmsman an intercept course to target. When in range, the torpedoes' running times appear. Fire too early and not only are the targets too small, but the torpedoes might run out of fuel before reaching their targets. If you are too close they have not got time to arm before striking the enemy hulks.

So as you manoeuvre, you must always be aware of your speed, depth and heading. If you can do all this and keep the enemy firmly in your periscope sights, you might even have the makings of Richard Widmark.

When you are playing against 'live' Japanese ships you have a certain amount of time before they are aware of you, so you must slide quickly into an effective killing position, then fire off a spread. This means loosing off all four forward torpedoes whilst turning slightly, so they cover a few degrees. It is a compromise, but it ups the change of at least one hitting. As the Japanese stick close together in convoy and present one big target, with luck they all might score.


If you can do all this and keep the enemy firmly in your periscope sights, you might have the makings of a Richard Wildmark

Death of a sailsman
The waiting game begins. It takes a minute or two at extreme range for the fish to get to their targets, so as soon as you fire, dive, then change course and watch the timers. If you get hits, you will hear the explosions. If you have missed, run! The destroyers will be after you. Destroyers are a submariner's nightmare. They are faster than you, they can hear you and they have depth-charges.

Ideally, you should be at a safe depth and heading in a direction they will never suspect. That is the theory. In practice you will sneak to the surface to take a peek at the damage you have caused or even blast away with the 47 deck gun. But what you will usually see will make your blood freeze. Destroyers and cruisers, having spotted your periscope or, if you have surfaced, your sail (conning tower), will be heading towards you like huge steel knives. Unless you can out-think them you will be depth charged causing painful damage to your boat. There is a damage screen which you can call up, which has percentages for each part of the sub. Your engines might be hit, the aft structure could be weakened or, at worst, flooding could occur. If it does, at least you will be buried at sea.

The cruise sub hull
Monitoring your sub's systems when not under direct fire is just as important as battle techniques. The Pacific gets quite deep in places, and if you dive hard, you could find yourself buckling and groaning under the pressure. But it is preferable to having 18 inch shells landing on your deck. The whole game is about making split-second decisions like this, and as you play you learn a lot about the loneliness of command.

The game is split into campaigns and single missions. The missions generally put you in a favourable position with a convoy of merchantmen, a group of cruisers or, if you are ambitious aircraft carriers or even the Yamato herself, the biggest battleship the world has seen (so take that, USS Iowa!). You get straight into the action, and the game takes about half an hour, depending on your tactics.

Incident at Taipei
If you choose a campaign, you get the entire Pacific to roam. You will be given an initial mission, and must chug along for days until you get to your target area. Luckily, Microprose have speeded up the uneventful bits. Campaigns allow you to be more flexible, in that where you position yourself or even whether you decide to attack is up to you. You can break off an engagement to go after some less tough prey if you choose. A map of the ocean with all ports, islands and shallow reaches is included, so you have no excuse for getting lost.

Silent Service is detailed, exciting and clever. If you have more than a passing interest in sub operations, you will get hooked. The graphics are impressive where they count. A lot of work has gone into the look of the Imperial Japanese Navy and it shows.

The systems you control are nicely handled, with clickable icons for each function as well as a keyboard overlay. It is not more complicated than, say, F19. but where Silent Service II scores highest is in the atmosphere. Playing hide and seek with a heavily-beweaponed aircraft carrier is tough, scary and very addictive. Find out if you have got the stubble for it with Silent Service II. You could surprise yourself.


Silent Service 2: Explanation

YOU'RE IN DEEP WATER NOW.
Silent Service 2: Explanation
The engagements supplied with Silent Service II are all based on real situations. Could you handle things better than the pros?
  1. Whales and Duds
    You are in a Gato class sub one morning in 1943 when you meet a converted whaler carrying Japanese oil supplies. It is a turkey shoot, but how do you kill her off cleanly?
  2. Mush on the loose
    You are Dudley "Mush" Morton in a Gato. You have just spotted three unarmed merchant ships. Do you a) sink them, b) cripple them or c) invite their crews to a game of sardines in the aft torpedo tubes?
  3. Flasher's Tankers
    You command the Flasher (a real WWII Gato) when you meet two destroyers and a tanker. Which do you go for first? Or you could get really close and expose yourself. Er, to hostile fire.
  4. Sink the Yamato
    Your Gato has seen the mighty Yamato with a strong escort. It will take some killing, so how do you go about it? If only you could leave the area and call in a massive bombing raid...
  5. Death of the Shinano
    It is a night attack, so wrap up warm and take a torch. The Shinano is a large battleship, but if you get close enough you can put four torps into her hull before she can say "Amelican sub crossing in fast!"
  6. Killer O'Kane
    Night. But you are Killer (a man blessed with compound vision). A ten-ship convoy has been plotted on your chart. It is party time, but which are the escorts? Are you sure they are not Sierras?
  7. An embarrassment of Riches
    The Shokaku, a Japanese carrier, has been seen. Sure, there are destroyers around, but that flat-top is asking for a spread right up the propellers.

Silent Service 2 logo

Unter Wasser waren wir Amigianer bisher immer im Nachteil: "Wolfpack" ist am PC schöner, "Das Boot" schneller, und auf dieses Game hat man uns ewig warten lassen! Aber, was lange währt...

Wer sich von Silent Service II ein komplett neues Spiel erwartet, liegt falsch: Hier handelt es sich eher um eine erweiterte und verbesserte Version des U-Boot Klassikers von anno vorgestern. Also nix besonderes? Schon wieder daneben, die Submarine à la Microprose markiert zweifellos den momentanen Höhepunkt des Genres!

Das fängt schon mal damit an, daß der Seemann nun zwischen neun verschiedenen U-Booten wählten kann - samt deren spezifischen Torpedos und den jeweiligen Handicaps. Gut, üben durfte man früher auch schon, die Einzelmissionen und Patrouillenfahrten gestalten sich jetzt aber deutlich komplexer.

Damit nicht genug, hier kann der Unterwasser-Pilot sogar einen kompletten Krieg miterleben (der Einstieg ist zu unterschiedlichen Zeitpunkten möglich), hier muß man auch mal einen Hafen zum Tanken anlaufen und - hier kann man Karriere machen, mit Beförderungen, Orden und allem was so dazu gehört! Darüber hinaus bietet das Programm vom Schiffsjungen bis zum Seewolf für jeden den passenden Schwierigkeitsgrad, ungeduldige Klabautermänner finden einen Accelerator (Zeitraffer-Funktion) es können endlich Spielstände abgespeichert werden, und die dürftige "Tonnage-Hitliste " ist auch passé; stattdessen gibt's nun gleich mehrere (speicherbare) Bestenlisten.

Freilich hat mittlerweile auch der Feind aufgerüstet: Neben den gewohnten Frachtern, Tankern und Zerstörern schippern vom winzigen Patrouillenboot bis zum gigantischen Super Schlachtschiff Kähne aller Formen und Größen über's Meer! Fairerweise haben die Programmierer auch den Arbeitsplatz des Spielers tüchtig aufgemöbelt, ob Karte, Brücke oder Schadenskontrolle - alles ist funktioneller und übersichtlicher geworden. Bedient werden die schwimmenden Zigarren per Maus und Tastatur, auch diesbezüglich sind keine negativen Vorkommnisse zu vermelden. Naja, mal davon abgesehen, daß die Ladezeiten nicht unbedingt zu den kürzesten zählen...

Aber keine Bange, die Präsentation ist jede Sekunde wert: Die flotte Grafik mit den hübschen Zwischenbildern steht ihrem VGA-Bruder nicht nach, auch beim Sound (atmosphärische Musik und bärenstarke FX) könnte man glatt meinen, einen 386er mit Roland Karte vor sich zu haben. Tja, Silent Service macht einem das Meckern wirklich nicht leicht. Sicher, man könnte darüber herziehen, daß ohne ein Megabyte nichts geht und Joystickunterstützung auch kein Fehler gewesen wäre. Aber was soll's - viel mehr als nahezu unbegrenzten Spielspaß kann man von einer Simulation ja wohl nicht verlangen, oder? (mm)


Silent Service 2 logo

It may not be everyone's cup of tea - heavy duty militrary simulations of this sort never are - but with the original Silent Service selling half a million world-wide, it's unlikely MicroProse are going to find themselves out of their depth with this one. (And - would you believe it? - it's fun too!)

You know the feeling. Every once in a while a game pops up that you just adore completely, and nothing any disbelievers might say will alter your fascination. For me, this year's beauty is Silent Service II. Matt hates submarines games, Stuart hates submarines games, I know a lot of people find them unbearably tedious. I'm not listening though. Honestly, this is special.

Here's one reason why, at one stage, I was enjoying joint command of a sub with a pal, and we were cowering at 300 fathoms with all engines off, and half the Japanese Imperial Navy above and around us, bleeping sonar across the Pacific looking for our butts. We actually sat there (in the safety of my living room, you understand, but with the lights turned off) whispering to one another in case the blighters heard us.


I found the killing enthralling but it was the stalking and hiding that made it so

TAKE A LOOK BELOW THE SURFACE
Okay, yes, the idea of sitting in silence during a computer game, doing absolutely nothing, may sound a bit daft. But it's the extraordinary tension created that counts here, rather than the level of activity - if you give it the time and allow it to, this is the sort of game that'll grab you slowly by the gut, almost so you don't notice, and then relentlessly tighten its grip. Before you know it, a ridiculous number of hours will have flown by and you'll be well and truly hooked.

Of course, it helps that this isn't just any old sub game. While the original, award winning and really rather wonderful Silent Service stuck you in the North Atlantic up against the Nazi menace, this one has you fighting off the Japs in the Pacific theatre. The game lasts from the Pearl Harbour debacle through to the altogether satisfying defeat of the Japanese empire in 1945.

There are a number of ways to play - individual battles, individual patrols, practice - to get you into it, but the more experienced submariner will soon look on these as mere exercises. In the more comprehensive War Career option you'll be attempting something rather more difficult - spending a long time at sea and simply managing to stay alive.

Initially, you'll find yourself based in an available American sub pen, trotting off on missions to hunt out enemy convoys and log yourself up a healthy tonnage of shipping. It's up to you to choose a patrol area, then bimble over there and start sinking the suckers. Using the keyboard, you guide your sub through territorial waters until the computer cuts in to inform you that Japs are about.

The machine will let you know how close you can get to the villain without being spotted, but after that you're on your own. The patrol section, it has to be said, is a bit easy, in that all you need do is move a dot across a map of the Pacific until you happen to bump into something but it makes for a nice intro for submarine game-phobes - at least they can't complain that nothing's happening. There's no notion of navigation in here at all, which is good news - if there were everyone would start complaining that the whole thing is too realistic, and therefore far too boring.

There's still enough in this section to get you going though. If you find yourself attacked (there's a quick tip or two coming up here) try this: first off, get yourself underwater, down deep and out of sight. Just hide. Once the enemy see you, your chances of survival are sliced by a good 50 percent. A good captain will check out his charts, sneak up on the baddies and then bang off a few torpedoes, then get the hell out of there. Submarine warfare, as you'll soon find out, favours the cautious rather than the valiant.


We actually sat there with the lights turned off, whispering in case the blighters heard us

THREE HOURS OF CAT AND MOUSE
Wasting merchant shipping is child's play, but when it comes to disposing of 30,000 tons worth of aircraft carrier, the stakes change considerably. One battle against a military convoy can take hours of cat and mouse tactics before you even get a shot in, and this - stepping out of the all-enveloping game and into the real world for a minute - is where a hard nosed buying decision cuts in. If the notion of taking three hours to kill one sprite turns you off completely then SSII is not going to find its way into your games collection. Ignore the high mark the bottom of the page - this simply isn't you r sort of game. For those of you who do fancy a hard nosed challenge though, SSII is worth ¨35 of anyone's cash. I found the killing to be enthralling, yes, but it was all the stalking hiding and escaping that made it so.

It's a highly emotionally charged sort of game, you see. The Japanese Navy in WWII was all too capable of taking out unwary submariners with little trouble, so once you hear those sonar pings bouncing off your boat (submarines are always 'boats', never 'ships', the hefty and informative manual tells us) you'll use every nasty devious trick available to avoid having to start the game all over again.

To repeat my basic point yet again then, if you can stomach the initial slowness. Silent Service II potentially offers as many hours of gameplay as anything you'll ever see. As with most MicroProse games, this is historically accurate (to a worryingly fanatical degree) and will actually teach you quite a lot while you're playing it (though it's not information you'll find much use for in normal civilian life).

Also, to the publisher's credit, everything is very well presented, and slick, the aforementioned manual worthy of a place on any bookshelf, while the handy keyboard guide proves, er, handy. All this adds up to a heavy-duty but thoroughly enjoyable military simulation that seems to have struck a cool balance between realism and excitement. I love it - but that doesn't necessarily mean that you will.


RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP
Taking on the might of the Japanese in the Pacific.
Silent Service 2
1 Patrolling the area, I chose the Western Pacific because it's close to Pearl Harbour, and there's only sixty days worth of fuel on board. If you run out, the game will ruthlessly bring an end to your war career.
Silent Service 2
2 We have contact. Always take a note of your enemy's chances of detecting you - this will dictate your strategy completely. And remember, if it's night-time you'll have a much better chance of survival.
Silent Service 2
3 I've dived to periscope level and banged off a torpedo at what seems to be merchant shipping. Even so, enemy identification is difficult, and it's always wise to keep ones distance.
Silent Service 2
4 Check out your charts to see how the torpedoes are doing. After firing, smart Captains adjust position.
Silent Service 2
5 This guy is obviously a monkey. I've surfaced to finish him off with some deck guns (range ¨4,000 yards).
Silent Service 2
6 Now it's time to study those charts and close in on a straggler. Many ships will be faster than a submerged submarine, so navigation is a key skill.
Silent Service 2
7 Our other friend has been caught and snared. At the moment I'm on the deck, and looking through the computerised binoculars which you use when deciding on firing strategy.
Silent Service 2
8 Oh dear. Three military ships (probably destroyers) have been alerted and they're out looking for me with sonar detectors. (At the moment I'm spending most of my time trying desperately not to make much noise).

Silent Service 2 logo

Silent Service was one of the first sub sims to make an appearance back in 1985 when computer memories were smaller than your shoe size. Since the Amiga rrived there's been something of a proliferation with titles like Wolfpack, Das Boot and Hunt For Red October all vying for would-be commanders. Silent Service II aims to restore its predecessor's place on the shelf with digitised speech and graphics, historical accuracy and testing scenarios.

Set in World War II, it offers the players the chance to command a number of American subs in the South Pacific raiding Japanese supply convoys and tackling what was the most powerful navy in the world.

The game begins with a spot of training as usual, allowing you to familiarise yourself with the controls and get used to sending thousands of tons of metal to the seabed. You make your way north, where four hulks are moored in the water and open up on them with deck guns or submerge and whack off a few torpedoes until they disappear beneath the surface.

With a couple of notice on the periscope you can begin the game proper.
The options which open up before you offer a number a number of scenarios ranging from individual missions to a total wartime career in which you take command of a sub for the entire campaign, saving to disk and building up a service record.

This is a bit daunting, so go for a single battle and select from eight historical engagements which actually took place. They have names like 'Mush On The Loose' referring to the name of the skipper of their exploits. They range from a nice easy option like sinking a fat tanker, to tangling with a battleship. The impressive manual sets up the situation, gives advice and, a nice touch, tells you what really happened.

Each time you opt for a mission the computer offers you the chance to select the type of submarine you use, the difficulty level and the reliability of your torpedoes, though only a real egghead is going to take the chance of using a dud in the name of realism.

War patrols give you a set time to hunt around the ocean with a base and a limited amount of fuel. You cruise around looking for contacts and engaging as much shipping as possible without getting attacked yourself. A war career involves hours of play and runs the risk of becoming a bit tedious by limiting the number of screens you see unless you're actually involved in an engagement. Thus, you end up staring at a map of South Pacific for considerable lengths of time waiting for something to happen.

Silent Service II works best on the individual actions where you can get straight into the business of running a sub and doing some irreparable damage. Once you're into the game all the screens become available to you - charts, damage status, info panel, binoculars, and periscope. You're likely to spend most of your time on the latter two controlling the ship from your keyboard and without ever living up to the impressive VGA screenshot which adorns the front of the box.

The various control screens are all clear and easy to understand, but it's the views which make a game like this come alive, and they don't exactly set the pulse racing - only the nicely animated shot of the boat firing a torpedo goes any way into giving you some visual feel. It would have been nice if you could take a look at the boat from a number of angles as you can in flight sims and, indeed, Das Boot.

Sound is a success with digitised voices crying 'dive, dive!' as you submerge, seagull sounds on the surface and a klaxon when you're to engage.

What's really missing from Silent Service II is real excitement. It works so hard at being accurate yet you never really feel like you're inside a tin can floating beneath the water. It's a common problem with sub sims that no-one's ever quite tackled effectively.


A M E R I C A N   S U B M A R I N E R   H E R O E S
The exploits of the totally outnumbered submariners in the Pacific are legendary. Despite facing the most powerful navy in the world they were effectively able to strangle the Japanese economy by sinking much of its marine shipping.
The commanders have film star names Dick O'Kane Red Rammage and 'Mush' Morton, and much of their action is movie material.Sam Dealey was famed for facing destroyers charging to ram him on the surface and firing torpedoes into their front bows.
Most died in action. Only O'Kane, who was taken prisoner, and Rammage survived the war.
Silent Service II recreates some of their exploits as missions offer you the chance to refight their engagments and test your skills against theirs.

Silent Service 2 logo Zero Hero

MicroProse/£35.75/Amiga/Out Now

Submarines - not the most appealing form of transport, are they? Cooped up underwater for weeks on end in a small metal tube with a load of sweaty seamen - it's rather off-putting, isn't it? If only you could experience the thrill of the submarine stalking its victim, the tension of being depth-charged and the excitement of a torpedo striking home from the comfort of a nice, airy room, sitting by the fire with someone bringing you tea and cakes every now and then.

Well now you can, with the conversion to the Amiga of Silent Service II, in which you command a US sub patrolling the Pacific in WWII.
First choose your class of vessel and base (while eating a nice jammy dodger, perhaps), then start your patrol around the Jap-infested waters of the Pacific islands by moving your cursor around the map screen (as you munch into a fondant fancy). As soon as the enemy's in sight, it's action stations... periscope depth... load torpedo tubes... and just one more crumpet, please. Get a view of the enemy ships through the periscope to decide on your method of attack, then flip to the radar screen and work out your course to intercept the ships.

Set your speed, lock on your tracking computer, and then slip through the murky depths till you're within spitting distance of the target... then wamm!! Fire tubes! If there are hundreds of destroyers buzzing around, now's the time to crash dive. Then switch off your engines as their sonar bleeps away above you and sit tight hoping no nasty depth-charges come your way.

On the other hand, if the convoy's made up of soppy little transport ships, you ca surface and finish them off with your deck gun, laughing openly as they sink into the tepid Pacific waters. Once you've sunk all the ships or escaped a deadly game of cat-an-mouse with the destroyers, it's back to the charts for more sub-aquatic action and another cup of tea (you'll have let the first one go cold by now).

Amiga reviewBen: Long periods of boredom followed by short periods of high danger - that's what submarine warfare meant to be like, and Silent Service II captures that feeling rather neatly. But it cleverly cuts down the length of the boring bits (by allowing you to speed up time), while still retaining that feeling of tension as you silently stalk the enemy boats. Some very realistic sound effects add greatly to the atmosphere, from the cold tone of the sonar to the digitised "Dive, dive" as you crash down to the ocean floor.

MicroProse has used its extensive simulator know-how (more usually seen in the air) on Silent Service II. As you'd expect, the graphics are rather good, although you'll probably immediately turn off the animated sequences when you fire a torpedo, since they tend to mean long waits for disk accessing. On the whole, though, there aren't too many long waits for the disk (as you might expect from a PC conversion). When you do get a delay, it's more often in the stages where you're waiting for action, so they don't intrude much.

You can play single missions or plough your way through the whole of the war (if you can last that long) with messages relaying events like Pearl Harbour and the like. Whatever you choose, the gameplay is always exciting. What you incorrectly identified as a tanker can often turn out to be a huge battleship just waiting to blow you away with its guns, so you can never fully predict that you'll be able to swim away from an encounter unscathed (unless you crash dive to the sea bed).

Nevertheless, the Pacific setting makes it all seem a bit easy. I mean, it's tropical isn't it, all sunshine and warm water - people go on holiday there. Now the icy depths of the Atlantic, hunting a Nazi U-Boat - that'd be more like it. Still, never mind, despite its south seas setting, Silent Service II is 20,000 leagues better than any other sub game on the Amiga.