by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson
Article Type: Preview
Article Date: July 16, 2001
Game Title: Sub Command: Seawolf / Akula / 688(I)
Category: Naval Combat
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Released
Files / Links: Click Here
Prologue“Officer of the deck, come to periscope depth. Make your speed 4 knots, turn starboard heading 270.”
“Periscope depth, aye, sir. Make my speed 4 knots, make my course 270.”
“Raise the ESM mast as soon as we reach the surface.” A minute later the OOD reported mast raised.
“Conn, ESM, I have three contacts bearing 280 degrees. A Kuznetsov, Designate Master 1, and two Slava class, sir, designate Masters 2 and 3. All ships are making 15 knots. I have two airborne contacts bearing 300, approximately 15,000 yards. Airborne contacts are both Helix ASW choppers, sir.”
“ESM, Conn, what is the bearing and range to the surface contacts?”
“Conn, ESM, range is 60,000 yards to Master 1 and 35,000 yards to Masters 2 and 3, sir.”
“Sonar, Conn, any contacts?”
“Conn, Sonar, no contacts sir. If there’s anything out there they are mighty quiet.”
“Fire control, make tubes one through four ready in all respects, including opening the outer doors.”
“Conn, fire control, make tubes one through four ready in all respects, including opening the outer doors, aye sir.”
“Captain, VLS tubes one through four are ready in all respects, including outer doors open,” reported the OOD.
“Very well.” Order by order and step by step the bearings were matched and then the missiles launched.
“Tubes one through four fired electrically, Captain.” After being ejected from the tubes the Harpoon canisters floated to the surface. As the buoyant capsules reached the surface they jettisoned their nose caps and aft bodies. The missiles boosters ignited, sending the missiles out of the water and streaking toward the targets. The booster rockets continued to burn for three more seconds, then the main turbojets fired and the HARPOONS skimmed over the wave tops.
Sub Command: The Latest Alpha Build Arrives24 hours ago the impossible happened. An undercover Fed Ex agent arrived at my door bearing an unidentified package marked “For Your Eyes Only.” The agent smiled, raised his dark glasses, winked, then departed into the gloom.
After my first three hours with Sub Command I was sweaty, tense…and happy. Sub Command takes the earlier Jane's 688I Hunter / Killer and makes it what we always hoped it would be: an authentic, challenging, and broad simulation of the task of the modern submarine skipper in hostile environments the world over.
In reality what I have in mind hands on two CDs, accompanied by what looks like a final (except for illustrations) version of the extensive 225 page manual, is a late alpha or early beta of the final game.
Really, there is so much to the simulation that even if the sim were finished I would need at least 20 hours of play to make a reasonable assessment. I don’t have that much time this weekend, and you don’t have the patience! I want to share some initial impressions and a large number of screen shots, and then get on with learning the ropes toward a full preview.
Command the BoatThe premise of this new version is that you can really command the boat. AI crewmen are smarter than before, and you can automate all tasks of the ship, leaving yourself in control as the tactical decision maker. With a host of sophisticated sensor systems and weapon systems at the ready, and the awesome firepower of two of the most powerful navies, you can command the improved Akuka, the Akuka II, the improved 688 class, or the latest Seawolf class submarine.
The interface is improved and expanded, blending the interfaces of the earlier 688I with the menu driven interface of Fleet Command. Now you can issue most orders from a single screen if you intend only to command the boat. Gathering information requires a few more screens, but these are accessible via a pop-up command bar at the left of the screen or via the function keys.
|Pop-up command bar |
Maneuvering around the various interfaces is a snap. Swapping between the 3D view and map view is as simple as a mouse click. Or losing the 3D view altogether is likewise a simple click away.
Online reference is extensive and context sensitive. Once you have a reasonable degree of confidence in a target you can bring up detailed information on the target in a snap.
As for the 3D views, judge for yourself. Overall they are nicely executed. The water and submarines are the most impressive. Waves rise and fall and wash over your periscope. In a rough sea it’s pretty tough to see anything. On a sunny day the light playing over the surface of your sub at 100 feet is really beautiful. Under overcast or in evening light the 3D view isn’t as pleasing to the eye because you just don’t see much.
All the stations look good, and the only quibble I have is with the periscope station in the Seawolf.
|Periscope: The labels and arrows interfere |
While the instrument itself looks good, and while watching the water on the outside of the lens rise and fall is impressive, I feel immersion is really lost by all the labels and arrows. I’d like to lose the RAISE and LOWER labels entirely, and make the green indicator arrows of the mouse-over variety only. In other words, moving your mouse over the required area to control the pivot of the scope or the magnification would bring up arrows or indicators. This screen looks very arcade in a simulation that is anything but arcade in style.
I’m confused, however, because the interface in the 688I class looks as we would expect.
|688I Periscope Station |
Onward and upward, there is little else to argue with so far.
The main screen is accessed via F7, and from this screen you can do everything except order beer and pizza. Note that most of the images in this section are cut and pasted so that I can fit all the required information into a screenshot with smaller dimensions without having to shrink the image as well as compress it.
|Filters and Tools Menu |
The additional nav functions are extremely useful. In the first image you will see that I have L02 selected. Right-clicking on the map screen brings up a menu that includes Filters, Layers, Drawing Tools and System Menu. I select Drawing Tools to add a Mark to the map or to add a Range Circle to an object.
In this case I selected Range Circle and then brought my cursor over the icon. I click on the icon and drag the circle until I have a 2.5 mile radius. The size of the circle is indicated at the lower left of the screen, not shown in this image.
This allows me to designate an engagement zone. Under no circumstances do I want my ship to come within this circle, since the odds of my being detected rise enormously.
|Drawing Tools: Add Mark |
Using the same menu I can add a Mark and a Label to any point on the map. In this case I added a Mark with a time designation. Nice eh?
What about all those nice command and tactical functions I mentioned?
As you know, Sub Command comes with built-in voice command. So far as I can tell it isn’t yet finished in the late alpha, but the list includes around seventy pre-programmed commands. I’ll give you a tour of the command functions on the Nav Map screen anyway.
|Contact Menu |
Any time you select a contact symbol on the map the Data Display is shown at the top left of the map. As you can see, a great deal of information is displayed there, as well as the degree of confidence. Some of this information won’t always be correct.
Right-clicking on the contact symbol brings up the Contact menu as you see above. This menu also allows you access to the USNI Reference entry for the contact as currently classified.
|Engage With Menu |
If the contact is classified as hostile, the Engage With menu also appears. Your options will be limited by the type of contact as well as by the weapons you currently have loaded. If you have chosen an Auto crewman for Fire Control, then selecting the weapon from this screen will initiate a launch.
In this case, I have a friendly ship but I have classified it as hostile. I then initiated the launch of a TLAM. The sequence of images follows.
|TLAM Launch 1 |
|TLAM on its way. |
A quick tour of some action sequences and underwater images:
|Akula Launched Cruise Missiles |
|Missile Close-up |
Maps of various combat zones at various levels of magnification:
|Sub Command Map |
|Another map...plenty of zoom levels |
|A third map, with air action. |
Submarines, on the surface and submerged (Notice the transparent water):
|Seawolf in Transit |
|Seawolf on the surface. |
|Seawolf - Transparent Water |
Other ships and aircraft:
|Russian AEW |
|Allied Chopper |
|Ticonderoga Firing Missiles |
|Arleigh Burke in Defensive Mode |
|Allied Perry Class |
Various Ship Stations and Mission Status Screen:
|I am steering the weapon.. |
|Mission Status |
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