Dangerous Waters Review
25/2/05 by Beta1
Graphically Dangerous Waters is not going to win any awards - it's a step forward from Fleet Command and Sub Command but its not going to be held up as a example of what the PC is capable of. Most of the ship models are adequately but occasionally look a little plain, unfortunate given that you encounter a lot of non-combatants. The 2D graphics for the ship stations are well designed and laid out, providing the information you need to run you ship without being too confusing. The water effects are nicely done - the rougher sea states may be uncomfortable for those without their sea legs. As you would expect from a company who is mainly involved with sonar operations the sound is excellent. The sonar contacts can be heard through the speakers as effectively as through the sonar displays and the crew voices are also well done with each crew station having a unique voice and each nationality voiced with appropriate accents. Adding an extra level of immersion is the voice control system. Simply shout "All ahead flank" into your mic and you get an immediate call back of the order from the appropriate crew member "Con, Engine All ahead flank". Well most of the time anyway, when things get a bit frantic and the sonar room is calling in torpedo contacts and the pinging of their active sonar is ringing out it seems to confuse the voice recognition and all I got was a lot of "I didn't recognise that command". Of course it may have been the numerous pints of stella during that afternoons six nations match that was causing problems. Drunk in charge of a nuclear submarine - probably a court-marshal offense!
One thing that really shows the work that went into DW is the unit database - this lists every vessel, aircraft and sub in the game Each entry includes photos and 3D models, lists of armaments and systems. It even includes the number of blades on the propellor and the number of turns it makes per knot. That may sound a little obsessive but when your DEMON display shows that rapidly closing contact has the prop characteristics of a fishing boat rather than an Akula you will be glad its there! The manual is also impressive - 500+ pages of instructions on every station in the game.
Dangerous Waters offers both a dynamic campaign mode and a series of one off missions set all over the world and using all of the available platforms. The single missions offer a good selection of locations and scenarios ranging from submarines trying to sneak past ASW defenses to drop off special forces to convoy attack/defence. One of my favourites involves getting your frigate out of dock in Ghana after a coup while rebels trying to blow you out of the water with speedboats full of explosive. This was a level where I learnt the hard way not to use large anti-ship weapons in small spaces full of neutral fishing boats. The scenarios take from thirty minutes to several hours to play although there are several time compression settings to get you through those long patrols. The campaign features a slightly predictable story about a uprising in eastern Russia where rebels seize control of several dock yards, gaining control of numerous surface and subsurface vessels including several ballistic missile submarines. The US move naval units into the area as do the chinese resulting in a standoff. Each level in the campaign allows you to choose to play as one of several possible units and the unit you choose and the way you handle it results in changes between the alliances of the various nations (and rebels) and the way the later levels play out. Sadly I think some of the campaigns levels are not as good as those in the single missions. The first few levels are mostly surveillance and intelligence gathering which while rather tense the biggest risk seems to be running aground in a Russian harbour.
Things get a bit more violent later but this is where some of the level design seems to have gone missing in action. One mission saw me tasked with defending a Chinese convoy with my Kilo from whatever the Americans had ahead of us. Only problem is that the designer decided the best place for an escorting sub was right in the middle of the convoy rather than out ahead checking the path was clear. Compounding this was the fact that the convoy was running at 15kts and my kilo couldn't get past 12 and even that speed would drain my batteries in about 20 minutes. So I trundled along behind watching my convoy disappear over the horizon. Turned out a couple of US subs were waiting and after a tense close battle the helos from the Chinese escorts sank them and the fleet reached its destination. Very exciting. Well it would have been if I had even been within sensor range!!! I only found out why I won the level after watching the replay. Fortunately the game ships with a comprehensive mission designer and if the sub command forums are anything to go by numerous teams will be writing levels as soon as they get their hands on the game.
The game also includes several multiplayer modes allowing each player to take command of their own vessel or a subset of the stations on the same vessel. One problem of having preview code is that there's no-one else to play with but driving a frigate with a mate manning each station either sounds cool, or a quick way of losing all your mates when you fail to spot the Akula sneaking up on you for the fourth time in a row. The single missions are playable in co-op mode and there is also a quick mission for instant "deathmatch" play. Well its not exactly unreal tournament but the option is there for you one-on-one addicts.
So if you're after fast paced high speed reaction gaming you probably stopped reading this review several pages back. On the other hand if you've seen Red October more than five times, think Crimson Tide's portrayal of ballistic missile targeting procedure was woefully inaccurate and automatically repeat back your partners map reading while driving ("Con, Steering: turning left at Sainsbury's") then this is very much the game you've been waiting for.
And for those of you who struggled onto the end of this review in the hope of another Captain Pugwash reference then I'm afraid you're out of luck. I've been trying to fit one in for the last four paragraphs and the best I could come up with was the old joke about what's long hard and full of seamen...
Dangerous Waters is out now and is available from www.battlefront.com, it is not being sold in stores.