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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.