Subwar 2050 logo AGA

Steve McGill dons his frog suit and flippers and dives into the watery deeps. But will he find a buried chest full of glittering treasure, or just an old wreck?

Subwar 2025 represents what is hopefully a new trend in simulations from Microprose. It takes the basic engine of a submarine simulation, marries it to a flight sim, and throws in a good measure of artistic licence as a present for the happy coupling's honeymoon. Or something.

It all works incredibly well too. Subwar is certainly a lot more fun to play than any of the Microprose sims released since the heady days of Knights Of The Sky.

So just what is it that makes Subwar 2025 so much fun? Well, as previously hinted at, it's a submarine sim that plays and handles like a propellor-basd flight sim. Which means that the reaction time and instrument watching time is unobtrusive.

In your sights
To make a kill, close-quarter contact is obligatory It's where most of the artistic licence kicks in. For a start, you can easily see other craft and structures in the water. Which is an impossibility below about 100 metres in real life.

But that's where this game scores high points. For it obeys the law of virtual unreality. An area where more sims would score extra points if they were prepared to flaunt some of the more tedious aspects of physics and weapons systems.

But, that's not to say that Subwar 2025 flaunts the laws of submarine engagements. It doesn't. What it does do is present the data and information in a more user-friendly easy-to-understand package.

For example. In Silent Service 2 the navigation was done using collated data from your crew. It was a trifle tedious and relied on calculations and chart feedback rather than anything visual. Whereas Subwar, you've got a head up display that superimposes thermal layers and the weapon targeting systems of the depths on to the cockpit.

This is incredibly handy for all those classic submarine manoeuvres, such as skipping between thermal layers so that enemy sonar loses track of you. Or for 'grey knuckling', a manoeuvre where you turn the sub so quickly that it creates a knot of turbulence and confuses the enemies' torpedoes. Or, failing that, you can fire a decoy from your tubes and hope that it's enough to fool the incoming weapon.

Curiously though, you can still shoot at the enemy visually, even if he happens to be in a thermal layer above or below yours. Tch.

It's a submarine sim that plays and handles like a propellor-based flight sim

Making music
All the usual views expected of a flight sim are here, including a novel view from the nose of the weapon that you've just fired. More traditionally, tactical, reverse and chase views are also included. If you're being chased, engaged in a dogfight or simply surrounded, the views prove invaluable. They help even the odds and that's got to be a good thing.

The final good thing, and this is a really good thing, is the sound. Very few CD buffs would be able to differentiate between the 8-bit underwater samples and whale sound in this game and the 16-bit real McCoy. And it makes the game very atmospheric - worth plugging into the hi-fi to heighten the tension.

The only grip that can be held against this game is that Microprose haven't included a serial link. This sim would be a real killer of a game if you could go head to head against a friend. Considering that you also have robot-controlled wingmen the stealth and tension would be nigh on unbearable.

Despite that, the game is still highly recommended and, with any luck, Microprose will release more sims with the same kind of frivolous artistic licence toward physical reality as Subwar 2025.


FISHING FOR A MISSION
The five missions of Subwar 2025. Despite the fact that the seabed, the marine life and the enemy vehicles aren't texture-mapped like the PC version, there are five different topographically correct mission areas to be engaged in. Dive! Dive! Dive!

Subwar 2050
SEA OF JAPAN

Subwar 2050
TRAINING MISSION

Subwar 2050
NORTH ATLANTIC

Subwar 2050
SOUTH CHINA

Subwar 2050
ANTARCTICA


Subwar 2050 logo AGA

Einen Monat nach der CD taucht der Simulationshit von MicroProse auch schon am Sonar des 1200ers auf - doch leider ist hier nicht alles Gold, was da vor kurzem noch im U-Boot schillerte.

Die Story ist freilich noch ganz die alte: Wir schreiben das Jahr 2050, und multinationale Konzerne bekriegen sich um die globale Vormachtstellung. In Diensten einer solchen Company erwarten den Tiefsee-Kapitän nun 40 Misionen plus fünf Übungseinsätze im Nordatlantik, dem chinesischen und japanischen Meer oder der Antarktis.

In allen Gewässern ging und geht es dabei recht originell zu, denn während Eskorten oder das gezielte Ausschalten von Gebäudekomplexen nicht nur hier zum Simulantenalltag gehören, wird man sich wohl nur in diesem Spiel als Entführer ganzer Wal-familien aus Unterwasserfarmen betätigen dürfen.

Tätige Mithilfe leisten dabei "Flügelmänner" und ein voll-automatischer Reparaturrobbi; es sind vier Tauchzigaren vorrätig, die sich hinsichtlich Wendigkeit, Panzerung etc. unterscheiden und individuell mit Raketen und Torpedos bestückt werden können.

Das alles sieht (bis auf die fehlenden Zwischengrafiken) so aus wie auf der CD und hört sich auch so an, wo liegen also die Probleme?

Nun, im Gegensatz zum fast perfekten Joypad-Handling des Vorschwimmers ist die Steuerung über Stick und Tastatur leider nicht ganz so optimal geraten - und wer auch hier zum Pad greifen will, findet nur noch zwei Knöpfe belegt.

Zudem ist die vorliegende Version nicht ganz bugfrei, weshalb der Wechsel von einem Einsatzgebiet zum nächsten zeitweilig nur über ein Reset führt.

Und damit ist halt auch der Hit abgetaucht, obwohl das Gameplay letzten Endes nach wie vor sehr atmosphärisch und motivierend ist. (mic)



Subwar 2050 logo AGA

He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan. Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined and unknown.

Seaquest DSV sucks. I hate it in the same burning way that I hate Star Trek The Next Generation or any other self important, pompous, pious TV program. I have it because it's full of swarmy, neatly dressed, politically correct, non sexist, non racist goody-goody "nice" people, all saying "nice" things to each other and generally being "nice" in a way that real people never are. Knuckleheads.

I hate it because it assumes that everyone in the future's going to get on like first year students during freshers week, when recent turns in the political scene suggest further splintering of ethnic groups and increased localised aggression.

In reality, Might is Right, but Seaquest DSV (and TNG) choose to completely ignore this. I hate it because there's a moral to be learned every week, and everything that happens does so for a reason, and results in some good, when in fact the world's a jumble of unfortunately random events.

BIT POLITICAL
Most of all though, I hate it because it bows before the great god Technology, and assumes that all of humanities' problems can be solved by something that's Kevlar-cored and superconductive.
Yeah, right.

Subwar 2050 could very easily have been Seaquest DSV: The Game, but thankfully someone got their head into gear, kicked out all those wussy notions of peace and harmony got real. Oh sure, You've got technology that allows you to dive to unspeakable depths, but only to plant bombs or poison fish.

And admittedly, you often use your impressive weaponry to protect life, property and the pursuit of happiness, but then again, you could just as easily off a whale or rip out the bottom of an oil tanker with a barrage of rockets.

Sometimes you have to be bad to be good, as Subwar 2050 realises and Seaquest DSV, TNG or any other wishy-washy liberal TV show refuses to admit.

GAME BIT
Subwar 2050 doesn't have any new ideas in it, but it does slap a load of old ones together in new and interesting ways. At the heart of the game, a sub sim lurks, complete with all the features you know and love about submarine warfare. Sub games are traditionally dull to look at though, with a 2-D display showing your position and a depth gauge to place you 3-dimensionally, but Subwar's having none of that.
Forgoing such a traditional view, we've got a first person, polygon-generated view to look at, which is similar to, if not entirely the same as, a flight sim.

Finally, to justify this rather odd blend of game types, and to explain why the subs can go so fast, there's a futuristic setting where corporations battle each other on the sea floor as well as in board rooms, and where freelance submarine fighter pilots are called upon to resolve territorial disputes with force.

So it's F-117 Stealth Fighter meets 688 Attack Sub meets Syndicate, which is a good enough breakdown to use when looking at the separate elements of the game.

The flight sim bit, well, it looks like a flight sim, doesn't it? You've got a few cockpit dials, an artificial horizon, depth, gauge, weapon display and so on, although there are a few things to warn you that you're not in a plane.


Obviously, tainting someone's fish stock means war

BIT CLAIRE
For a start, nothing's got wings, as such a huge cross section would prevent a craft from turning in water. Secondly, if you look at an exterior view when you're turning, you see streams of bubbles trailing off the edges of your craft. This looks pretty cool, but also increases your detectability which, in the shadowy covert world of submersible hide-and-seek, isn't such a good thing.

The craft doesn't handle like a plane anyway, preferring to be either bolt upright or upside down, so when you turn, it either flips over or bobs straight back to the upright position the moment you let go of the controls. I can only assume that this is how submarines handle, but I wouldn't really know.

Your main weapons are torpedoes and rockets, but you do get decoys, mines and 'special' things for certain missions. Rockets are cool because they travel fast and can be used to shoot down aircraft, but they're a bit feeble and of course are unguided, so you have to lead (Aim a bit in front of. - Ed) moving targets to score a direct hit.

Torpedoes use sonar (or something) to lock on to targets and have bigger warheads, so if you blast one off, it'll generally find a target. This is fine as long as there aren't any friendly ships in the area, otherwise you'll end up with one of those embarrassing 'blue on blue' friendly fire incidents.

Another handy flight sim-type feature is that you've often got one or two wingmen which you can direct with simple keyboard commands to protect you, head for home, or (my favourite) attack the target you're looking at. This is such a good one as it means that they take all the risks and leave you to grab the glory and the money - Hooray!

Meshed in with all this dogfighting tomfoolery is the submarine stuff. The sea (as any fule kno) gets colder and darker as it gets deeper, but it does so in dramatic steps. The results in thermal layers (shown in the game as coloured grids) where warmth surface water meets colder, deeper water, which apparently reflect sound waves. In game terms (as all sub game veterans know) this means that if you're above a thermal layer and another sub's below it, then you can't detect each other with sonar, which is particularly handy when avoiding surface ships or dodging by seabed bases

Sub feature number two is your ability to alter depth by blowing or flooding tanks, which is handy as you can climb or dive independently of the direction you're facing. Once aeronautic bods fully develop 360-degree vectored thrust and tie it to fly-by-wire technology, fighter planes will be able to do this kind of thing too, but for the moment they can't and the only reason I'm telling you is to appear knowledgeable and well informed. But I digress.

BIP BIP BIP BIT
Submarines use sonar to detect objects, which is largely made redundant by the fact you can see objects most of the time in Subwar. Passive sonar works by just picking up noise made by other objects and consequently isn't that impressive, whereas active sonar sends out a 'ping' and listens to the echoes, pretty much like radar. Obviously, this is great and everything, but the downside is that it announces your presence and makes it easy for enemies to lock onto you.

Generally speaking, the best tactic is to use passive sonar until you're detected or start to fire weapons, and then go all kill crazy with the active sonar blasting away.

The final element is the story, which is something we generally shy away from on AP, but which goes a long way to making this such an enjoyable game. The problem with Subwar is that if you take it at face value, it's not that impressive to look at.

Most vehicles, surface ships and bases are simple polygon shapes, the sky's blue, the same as the sea, so it's practically impossible to tell if you've surfaced, and although the combat's fun, it's hardly serious competition for Knights of the Sky.

After a few missions of Subwar, none of this really matters, as you really get into it, with the storyline adding to the atmosphere in much the same way that Syndicate's deliberately amoral missions drive you into a blood frenzy. Set all across the globe, each of the six campaigns starts out with a brief missions screen explaining who's employed you, what their goals are and who the bad guys are.

It's the 'brief' that's important here, as it doesn't have to revert to animated film-type sequences or stupid 80-page novellas to set the scene. You're simply told your mission and left to read Under Currents - The Maritime Corporate Defence Journal, which comes with the game and is a sort of AMIGA POWER for mercenary submarine pilots.

The idea is that in the future, corporations can engage in corporate wars, which are an accepted part of business life. As long as the fighting doesn't spread and civilians don't get killed, these wars are used in conjunction with more accepted business practices to get things done. Quickly.

It's therefore considered acceptable to blow up some robot drones to break whales out of an Arctic whale farm, or sneak into a South China Sea fish farm to drop canisters that'll render the flesh of the fish purple and inedible. Obviously, tainting someone's fish stock means war so there's plenty of more traditional shooting action too, from protecting submarine tankers from pirates to blasting surface fleets and trashing VTOL planes.

All destroyed craft slip into the gloomy depths, but surface ships do it far better than anything else, breaking up a bit and plummeting so quickly that if you're directly below them, they stand a good chance of wiping you out.

LAST BIT
To recap. Flight sim(ish), sub sim(ish, Syndicate(ey). Odd controls, nice exterior views of occasional drab scenery. Rockets, torpedoes, mines, fish and ships (clever wording I know. Cheers), corporate nastiness. Subwar 2050 would have Seaquest DSV's bunch of wimpy social workers in a fight any time. Easy.


SUSHI PAYBACK
It's not all saving whales you know. Sometimes you get to sink things.

Subwar 2050
Here's a Japanese war fleet, with a helicopter buzzing around overhead, waiting to land.

Subwar 2050
Things hot up below as your torps start flying. Or swimming.

Subwar 2050
If you control your wingmen, you can attack several targets.

Subwar 2050
And bingo! Torpedoes and rockets strike home. Ooh, Ahh!

TRAVEL THE WORLD
Unfortunately, in the world of international corporations and sinister business organised wars, you rarely get to laze around on beaches, unless you get washed up of course. The waters in which you battle are inhospitable, cold and frequently polluted. Bleeurgghhh.

Subwar 2050
Visit the not so sunny Antarctic, possibly. I get confused.

Subwar 2050
Kill honourable enemies in the seas of the miriad of islands that form Japan.

Subwar 2050
Visit the not so sunny Antarctic. Or the Arctic, possibly. I get them confused.

Subwar 2050
Fight and sink near Hong Kong. Choke on the waterborne filth. Cough. Die.

MARINA, AQUA MARINA
Subwar 2050
  1. Identified by sonar as neutral structures, these oil tankers are the target of this raid.
  2. Your bearing and depth to match up with the nav comp.
  3. All that dull navigation stuff's tucked away here.
  4. Theese handy lines always point up, helping you keep your brearings.
  5. Your next waypoint. Go through it and you're doing fine.
  6. Shows the weapon or device selected for firing.


Subwar 2050 CD32 logo CD32

Under the sea, it is dark, foreboding and scary. In the Amiga Format office it is not any of those things. That is why it is nice to boot up the CD32 version and take to the high seas below the surface on the water, so to speak.

Anyway, superfluous nonsense aside, Subwar 2050 shows promise in simulation land in many ways. Traditionally, submarine sims are a bit bland and boring due to the lack of visual stimulus. Until now, most of the work was achieved through interpretation of charts and sonar readings.

MicroProse, being the smart chappies that they are, have played around with phsysics a bit, ignored the boring bits, where reality intrudes on the fun, and added some blatant unrealities to spice things up.

In Subwar 2050 you can see objects around you at any depth: a Head Up Display superimposes the thermal layers of the ocean depths on to the front of the screen. As such, the game feels like a flight sim taking place under water.

There are two wing men and several submarine tactics to acquaint yourself with. The game handily provides a training mission which gently introduces all of the major elements of successful submarine warfare.

The missions themselves consist of several increasingly difficult stages. The only criticism being that there are not enough of them.

Still, I loved playing it on the A1200 and have no qualms about recommending it to the CD32 version either.



Subwar 2050 CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Joker Hit

Seit "Silent Service 2" ist kaum noch ein U-Boot im Amiga-Tiefen abgetaucht, im Silbermeer treibt sich nicht eine Tiefseesimulation herum - da kommt diese wässerige Zukunftsvision von MicroProse ja gerade recht!

Der Ozean... unendliche Weiten. Wir schreiben das Jahr 2050, wo sich die Meere zum Hauptlieferanten für Nahrung und Rohstoffe aller Art entwickelt haben. Dies siend allerdings nicht die Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Enterprise und auch nicht die der DSV SeqQuest - sondern eines U-Boot-Kommandanten, der im Auftrag der Schwert- und Schildgesellschaft gegen konkurrierende Großkonzerne ausläuft.

Da der Krieg der Multis um die besten Fang- und Schürfgründe längst weg von juristischen Gefechten und verdeckter Spionage, hin zu bis an die Zähne bewaffneten Kämpfern eskaliert ist, darf sich der Kapitän zunächst eines von vier Booten aussuchen, die entweder besonders tief abtauchen können oder besonders wendig sind.

Mit einem diese Pötte geht es in rund 40 Missionen in den umgänglichen Nordatlantik, die tückische Arktis oder gar das Chinesische und das Japanische Meer, wo dann wirklich der ganze Seewolf gefragt ist. Hier wie dort gestalten sich die Einsätze sehr abwechslungsreich, denn mal dürfen Unterwasserkraftwerke zerbröselt werden, dann ist Geleitschutz für Truppen-transporter erforderlich, oder gegnerische Schürfroboter sind zu eliminieren.

Dabei erhält man gelegentlich auch das Kommando über hilfreiche "Flügelmänner", was aus dem jeder Mission vorangestellten Briefing zu erfahren ist. Diese Einsatzbesprechungen sind nicht nur recht ausführlich, hier darf auch eine Übersichtskarte des jeweligen Einsatzgebietes aufgerufen werden.

Der Aufbau des Spiels folgt nun den bewährten MicroProse-Pfaden, es sind also nacheinander mehrere Wgpunkte abzufahren, wobei eine Texteinblendung auch während des Kommandos nochmals in aller Kürze an die anstehenden Befehle erinnert.

Damit's bei Feindkontakt dann auch so richtig schön rumst und kracht, stehen neben gegnerverwirrenden Decoys allerlei Raketen und Torpedoes zum Abschuß bereit - der richtige Umgang mit diesen Knallkörpern darf übrigens risikolos in fünf Trainingsmissionen eingeübt werden.

Und das ist auch gut so, denn anders als beim eher actionlastigen "Silent Service 2" steht hier der Simulationsaspekt ganz klar im Vordergrund: Jede Menge Kontrollinstrumente und Anzeigen wollen beherrscht und betätigt werden, andernfalls hat man sehr schnell ein sehr feuchtes Grab gefunden!

Aber keine Sorge: der hiesige Tiefsee-SChrottplatz bietet eine Wiederbelebungs-Option für abgeschossene Konzern-Kapitäne, zudem kann die Hilfe eines automatischen Wartungsroboters in Anspruch genommen werden. Und der ist in der Lage, selbst die gröbsten Schäden binnen Minuten zu beheben. Sollte auch das nicht genügen, läßt sich die Feindintelligenz dreifach variieren und zudem der Detailgrad der Grafik anpassen, was in der Praxis aber so gut wie nie erforderlich sein dürfte.

In jedem Fall folgt nach bestandener Mission ein De-Briefing, wo man über Abschußzahlen von Freund oder Feind sowie über das mit der Aktion verdiente Kleingeld informiert wird. Allerdings hat der Kontostand hier im Grunde keinen Einfluß auf den Spielverlauf, die erarbeitete Kohle symbolisiert lediglich den persönlichen Erfolg.

Ein Erfolg auf ganzer Linie ist dabei die Präsentation dieser futuristischen Wasserschlachten, denn wer sich nicht von dem Stark instrumentierten Cockpit abschrecken läßt, bekommt ziemlich flotte und darüber hinaus auch hübsche 3D-Grafik mit schattierten Polygonen zu sehen.

Dunst und Beleuchtungseffekte verstärken den Eindruck, sich tatsächlich im kühlen Naß zu befinden; dazu kommen gerenderte Zwischenbilder, die das futuristische Ambiente von Subwar 2050 gekonnt unterstreichen.

Ja, selbst der Sound (das traditionelle Stiefkind im Genre) weiß mit seinen gelegentlichen Walgesängen und dem wohligen Maschinentuckern durchaus zu gefallen, zumal die abgespaceten Musikstücke sehr gut zur Atmosphäre passen.

Auch wurde die durchdachte Steuerung astrein auf das Joypad zugeschnitten, was leider keine Selbstverständigkeit ist; man denke nur an die diesbezüglich etwas mißglückte CD-Version von "Gunship 2000".Und wer unbedingt mag, darf sich ja auch mit Tastatur und Stick abmühen.

Kurzum, was vor einem Jahr schon am PC recht gut gefiel, weiß am Amiga 1200 mit CD-ROM bzw. dem CD32 so richtig zu begeistern.

Das Gameplay vermag wirklich dauerhaft zu fesseln, schon weil es viel Raum für Experimente läßt - und wer hier das Versteckspiel unter Ausnutzung der thermischen Schichten nicht irgendwann ebensogut beherrscht wie lautlose Ballasttank-Tauchmanöver, der wird ohne Zweifel eines Tages untergehen.

Anders gesagt: Subwar 2050 ist nach langer Zeit endlich mal wieder ein toller U-Boot-Simulator, der aufgrund seiner Liebe zum Detail und vieler technischer Finessen selbst reine Flugi-Fans in seine spielerischen Tiefen "hinabziehen" kann! (mic)