Silent Service II. (computer war game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Daniel Greenberg
There are computer games, and there are classics. The original Silent Service was an outstanding simulation of World War II submarine combat, even on the venerable C64. The Amiga port was one of the best early combat simulators for the machine. Silent Service II is a new take on the WWII sub game that's been enhanced to provide more variety, better graphics, new sounds, and improved gameplay. You can take on single battles, individual patrols, or an entire career that spans beyond World War II. Pilot seven different subs with greatly varying features and capabilities through a host of scenarios in one of four levels of difficulty.
Silent Service II is a great improvement over the original. It's not a revolutionary new game, but it is evolutionary--building on the strengths of the previous hit. The graphics in the new game are all very sharp--a major area of improvement. The controls have been upgraded, making it easier to execute orders. The keyboard controls are all well thought out and easy to remember. The game provides a wealth of detail and complexity without swamping the player in trivia. The player can learn the interface at his own pace.
The biggest single improvement over the original Silent Service is the addition of a special control to set the sub's course to the direction of your periscope. This allows the harried captain to target the enemy with his periscope and not risk sailing his sub off in a totally different direction.
The production values here are all topnotch as well, a MicroProse staple. The 128-page manual is well written and thorough, with clear diagrams and solid illustrations. It supplements the usual game control details with technical data, a superb analysis of tactics, a tutorial, and even essays on the history and morality of submarine warfare. The excellent keyboard overlay and full-color poster map of the Pacific theater are very useful.
The game uses manual-based copy protection and can run on faster processors with the use of a special Slow option. It's nominally hard disk installable, though the designers need to clean up the procedure and add a provision for installing to partitions other than SYS: and DHO:. The only real shortcomings in the game seem to be holdovers from the version written for the MSDOS world, where real program memory is scarce. Nonetheless, the game has been optimized for the Amiga and is quite a worthwhile port.
This is an intensely detailed game that sweats the details to bring home an accurate simulation. The few times that realism is sacrificed for playability, the game doesn't suffer for it. (For example, all the subs have a Torpedo Data Computer. Purists can just refrain from using it in the older subs or avoid it entirely.)
Like most MicroProse games, Silent Service II gets better the deeper into it the player dives. It rewards the patient and persistent player the way the sea rewards the patient and persistent sub captain--with more excitement and more opportunities to bag prize trophies.
Silent Service II is an excellent simulation of a particularly gut-wrenching form of combat. Don't be surprised if your heart races when your sub rises for the kill and sinks when your sub gets blown out of the water.