Silent Service

Reviewed by Jim Short


Issue 25

Jan/Feb 87

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Microprose/US Gold

48k Disk 14.95

48k Cassette 9.95
1 player
1 joystick/keyboard

Destroyer approaching off the starboard bow.... Clear the bridge.... Tighten down the hatches.... Dive! Dive! Dive!
Humble apologies - I got ever so slightly carried away there. But then it's easy to go over the top when you're playing the exciting new submarine simulation from Microprose.

This company are well known for their computer simulations, mostly of the flight variety, but they've ventured underwater this time to produce what is, in my estimation, their best game yet.

SILENT SERVICE places you in command of a U.S. submarine patrolling the Japanese shipping routes in the South Western Pacific during the Second World War. It faithfully reproduces the role of a submarine captain to provide a level of realism and playability unmatched by any other game of it's type.

Many different options are available to you at the outset, but the best idea is to start off with a Torpedo Gun Practice run until you get the hang of the technical aspects of the game. After that, you're ready for a full-blooded War Patrol!

Familiarising yourself with the layout of the submarine is the tricky part. The conning tower is the central Battle Stations screen and, from here, you use the joystick to access all the other screens. In effect, this lets you operate the periscope, transfer over to the bridge when you're not underwater, of course', consult your maps and charts for enemy sightings, read the damage reports, view the Quartermaster's Log, and check all the various instruments, gauges and torpedo tubes. Different commands are entered on each individual screen and so you will require a good working knowledge of all these screens in order to operate the submarine smoothly and efficiently.

The first-rate graphics are perhaps the main feature of the game. However, they're not included merely for artistic purposes but, instead, give the simulation an added sense of realism. Speaking of realism - just wait till you're sitting there 100 feet below the surface, hardly daring to breathe, listening to the sound of a destroyer's engines overhead and waiting in mortal fear for it to drop those nightmare depth-charges! When the hair on the back of your neck stands on end and the sweat begins to trickle down your forehead ('Bosun - fetch my brown trousers please!') - now that's realism!!

Tactics are an essential part of SILENT SERVICE and you must plot your route to the convoy with great care (the time scale can be speeded up to reduce the boredom) as some of those Jap destroyers are a dab hand at running a sub to ground. You can take a chance (particularly at night) and attack the convoy on the surface, using the infra-red binoculars to line up your targets, or you can attack from the relative safety of periscope depth. Either way, it makes little difference as the first torpedo explosion will alert the destroyer to your presence, and it then becomes a cat and mouse game as you try to run to safety. As well as torpedoes you have a 4-inch deck gun, but using that against a destroyer is the worst case of suicide I've ever encountered! It's best used on the troop carriers and cargo ships.

At the end of your mission you are accorded a rank based on your skills (or lack of them!) as a submarine captain. Who knows, you may even get your name on the high score table if you're lucky enough - and good enough!

SILENT SERVICE has a multitude of options and features which I can't begin to go into here or we'd be at it for a fortnight. The old Thorn-Emi game - 'Submarine Commander'- has just been re-issued as a budget cassette release, but it is no match for this superb package from Microprose. The difference between the two is night and day. If you're looking for a simulation of this type, do yourself a favour and save up the extra cash to buy SILENT SERVICE. You won't regret it.