Service is the latest in simulations from one of
the most respected companies in the field. This one
however, is not just another Flight Simulator
variant. Instead, you take the part of the captain of
a US Navy submarine commander in the South Pacific during
the second world war. The game comes in a medium sized
box, complete with instruction booklet and the game
instruction booklet is a work of art. At fifty pages
long, it covers the aims and limitations of the simulation,
detailed introduction and instruction on use, pertinent
military history from the point of view of WWII Naval
research and combat from American and Japanese points
of view, a plethora of varied scenarios and tactical
advice for novices and experts alike. The presentation
is spot on.
the parameters of play have been selected, the screen
shows the figure of the captain in the conning tower.
His default position is at the periscope. By moving
the joystick, the figure moves to a different area of
the tower. A press of the fire button confirms the move
and so selects a new screen with different instructions.
Selecting the periscope only works when surfaced (which
you practically have to be anyway) and it gives you
a view of your immediate surroundings. Moving the joystick
left and right allows panning. On the game's lower levels
you have a targeting computer so that any surface vessel
that enters the centre of the sights highlights a marker.
If a torpedo is fired at this point it should hit, provided
that extreme evasive action is not taken by the enemy.
Below the viewing area is all the information about
range, heading and so forth of the current target.
right in the tower shows the map screen. This combines
sonar and radar to show your current position and that
of any vessels and active torpedoes. Heading, speed
and depth are displayed at the bottom of the screen
and these may all be changed from here. Moving down
and right is the quartermaster's log which displays
your accomplishments so far in this mission. Moving
the joystick straight down takes you to the damage report
screen. Two profiles of the submarine are displayed
(one solid and one cutaway) with any damaged areas highlighted
Moving left in the tower takes you to the gauges screen.
The status of the submarine is best monitored and adjusted
from here. Apart from the fact that this screen displays
all the mechanical data about your vessel, a nice touch
is that the whole thing is extremely well drawn, with
pipes and buttons giving an almost 'ordered chaos' look
to the screen. Moving up from the bridge gives you a
binocular option (only available when surfaced), and
moving down and right selects the continue patrol option
which is normally selected after a successful engagement.
from being able to practise at just running the sub
and taking part in simple engagements, there are scenarios
of varying complexity. As these are set at different
times during the war, details such as the modification
of torpedoes and capabilities of both your vessel and
those of the enemy are taken into account. This means
that some of your torpedoes may he duds (a problem which
plagued American sub forces until late in the war).
Alternatively, you may be able to take the sub to greater
depths, while the Japanese escorts may be better equipped
in terms of radar or use different hunting techniques.
simulation makes effective use of sound to let you know
when certain things have occurred. One of the best examples
of this is the firing of a torpedo. One minute everything
is quiet, but a couple of seconds after the torpedo
has been fired, a dull boom followed by a whooshing
sound effectively gives the impression of the power
of the weapon. If the launch was monitored from the
periscope, the torpedo can be seen homing in on its
target. Which brings me to the point about graphics.
Simulations of this type often need little in the way
of graphics, but those employed by this game are of
a very high standard indeed.
you read the histories at the back of the instruction
booklet, much of the significance of the simulation
is likely to elude you. The author, Sid Meier (Decision
in the Desert and Crusade in Europe) has
taken his work very seriously and done the necessary
research. It has paid off. Apart from the professional
look and feel of the game, the atmosphere created is
one of tension and excitement. An option which I neglected
to mention earlier is the use of the deck gun. Submarine
deck guns were not fitted with elaborate aiming mechanisms
because they were rarely used. No submarine commander
in his right mind would consider taking on even the
smallest destroyer, as the sub would inevitably lose
the engagement. But the guns were fitted just in case
and this simulation caters for them. Firing the gun
requires that a
few ranging shots be made. Don't make a habit of using
it, though. It won't win many battles.