Atari User

Silent Service

Author: Bob Chappell
Publisher: U. S. Gold
Machine: Atari 400/800/600XL/800XL/130XE

Published in Atari User #15

Silent Service

Microprose, acknowledged experts in simulations, have another on release. Silent Service is a realistic American submarine simulation set in the South Pacific during World War II.

It offers three types of scenario - torpedo/gun practice, convoy actions and war patrols.

Torpedo and gunnery practice gives you a swift and gently way of familiarising yourself with the sub's controls.

Silent Service

Control of the sub's functions is handled by a mixture of joystick and keyboard inputs. Although the list of more than thirty commands looks daunting at first sight, they have been well thought out and it is surprising how quickly you get to grips with them.

The simulation revolves around multiple battle station screens, all of which are graphically impressive.

The primary battle station is the conning tower. This basically acts like a selection menu, allowing you to gain access to other screens.

Silent Service

The periscope's black cross-hairs turn white when you locate a vessel, the torpedo data computer is then automatically activated and target tracking displayed. Data available includes target identification, range, speed and, for the benefit of really bright submariners, angle on bow and gyro angle.

While on the surface the bridge gives you a wide-angled view of nearby islands, the coastline and ships.

It also indicates current visibility, the bearing of your view and, like most of the other screens, the sub's heading, speed, depth and throttle position.

Silent Service

The maps and charts screen is something extra special. It combines geographic, sonar and radar information on a map and shows the location of your submarine (black blob), torpedoes and any enemy ships (white blobs).

And how brilliantly Microprose have implemented this feature. On call-up you are presented with a superb map of the entire Western Pacific.

Even more impressive is what happens when you hit the zoom key - the map is replaced with a patrol map which shows the 500 by 300 mile area surrounding your position. Zoom again and you'll get a navigation map (60 by 40 miles).

Hit zoom once more and there's the most detailed attack map, showing an area of just 8 by 5 miles with any ships shown as small tails indicating the direction in which they're moving.

You can reverse the whole process by hitting the unzoom key. It's all quite stunning.

On top of all this, there are a variety of reality levels which allow you to customise any situation (limited visibility, zig-zagging convoys, some dud torpedoes, expert destroyers.

All this adds up to one heck of a depth and width to the gameplay. Silent Service has been brilliantly designed, immaculately implemented. Superb.

Bob Chappell

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