By Al Giovetti
Tom Clancy's SSN
Anyone who has not heard of Tom Clancy has been playing computer games for too long and not the right ones. Clancy has contributed to games of this ilk before. Red Storm Rising by Microprose was a big hit in 1988 a few years back in the big red box. Coincidentally, Clancy and Major Wild Bill Stealey are not too far from each other in the production of this new game, even though Simon and Schuster published it.
Company LineTO: USS CHEYENNE (SSN 773) FROM: CINCPACFLT - COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, PACIFIC FLEET CONDITION: ** THIS IS NOT A DRILL ** Chinese hard-liners have staged a daring raid on one of the world's last great untapped oil reserves, setting the stage for a rejuvenated Communist dictatorship. Representing the United States, you command the USS Cheyenne, an Improved Los Angeles class Attack Submarine. Over 360 feet long and brimming with state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems, she is the finest example of her type in the world. In addition, you're backed up by one of the best-trained crews in any navy.
Your mission is to engage Chinese Naval forces in the area and stop their advance at all costs. Many of the threats you will face will be real; some threats are hypothetical. All of them are dangerous.
The orders take a long time to carryout which is realistic. Submarines are basically shout command type vehicles,where the captain shouts commands which are relayed to the crewmen that carry them out often by intermediary officers. It not only takes time for the relay of information but also for the control surfaces and other components to respond once the commands are carried out.
The fifteen (15) full missions provide full-screen, full-motion news segments, 3-D rendered cut-screens, mission briefing text and maps with the ability to engage both surface and underwater targets.
Artificially intelligent friends, foes, and armaments create enhanced strategies and complex game scenarios. You are up against Chinese shipping and especially other Chinese submarines. Missions are scripted with preset waypoints.
Driving the submarine is based upon a model similar to that used in Mechwarrior with a head's up display at the top two-thirds of the screen but in third person chase view (behind the sub). Direction and depth angle appear at the top of the screen. You pilot the ship using the arrow keys and other hot keys for ballast, trim, speed and others.
The plot centers around the hypothetical discovery of oil off the coast of China. The oil was discovered by Texans who start expoiting the offshore resource. The Chinese want the oil and will do almost anything to get it, including declare war. You need to pilot the Los Angeles-class attack submarine from US waters into the waters just off the China shores.
A custom, real-time 3-D rendering engine provides the three dimensional window on the undersea world which is shown at the top of the game screen. The bottom one third of the screen is occupied by a sonar screen an several readouts of ship condition. The underwater views are beautifully done in dark blues and greys, with some very clever and attractive treatments of the surface of the water.
You view the action from outside of the submarine giving you more situational awareness than the traditional games where all you see is a first person view from the conning tower, or periscope view of the outside world while you look at scads of submarine interiors and equipment. Virtus, the company who designed the game, believes this third person view is more immersive.
AnimationAnimations include briefings, the outside view of the sub and cut scenes all done in smooth animations.
Voice ActorsThe crew does not speak enough for my tastes.
UtilitiesA comprehensive online Technical Reference including detailed information on all submarines, ships and armaments in the game. Compared to other guides of this sort, especially the Microprose Red Storm Rising documentation, this is a small manual. The extra CD ROM has an interview with Tom Clancy and his pal and new business partner, Captain Doug Littlejohns, a former submarine Captain of the Brittish Royal Navy. This interview is one of the best features of the game. A special bonus CD-ROM, Tom Clancy SSN: The interview was conducted on a Greek Island, has a 45-minute duration and was hosted by James Adams, Washington Bureau Chief of the London Times.
Multi-player FeaturesThere are no multiplayer options available. Multiplayer would have made this game.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
Compare ToThis game can be compared to Aces of the Deep, Silent Hunter, and 688 Attack Sub.
ReferencesTom Clancy SSN Web Site
Bernard Dy, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 10, March, 1997, pg. 72, 80%.
Richard Sheffield, Compute, volume 11, number 2, issue 105, February, 1989, pg. 66-68.
George T. Chronis, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, pg. 82, 85%.
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