Silent Service (US Gold/Microprose) Review | ZX Computing - Everygamegoing

ZX Computing

Silent Service
By Microprose
Spectrum 48K

Published in ZX Computing #35

Action above and below the waves in US Gold's sub simulation

Silent Service

Commanding a US submarine during the Second World War, your mission is to sink as many Japanese ships as possible while avoiding the attention of enemy destroyers.

Armed with 34 torpedoes and a 4" deck gun you must hunt down the enemy shipping in a variety of scenarios. These range from the training mission to hunting convoys in the South China Seas.

Before any would-be Submarine Commander can help America win the war (again!) he must first learn how to control the ship. This means frantic use of the keyboard (despite the frequent mentions to a joystick in the instructions). In all, 33 key controls must be mastered before you can terrify Japanese shipping and so practice is essential using the torpedo/gun training mission. The object is simply to destroy the four old cargo ships that are anchored in position to make things easier!

Pressing Caps Shift and one of the number keys moves you between the battle stations on your submarine, that include a navigation map, bridge and deck gun, periscope for aiming and firing torpedoes, instrument and gauge displays, damage reports and a captain's log that reports your "kills".

As you move between these stations you must plot your course control, your engine speeds and submarine depths as well as planning your attack run.

Convoy Attack

How you attack the convoy depends on the conditions (day/night) and how well it's protected. An unprotected convoy is easy and you can steam up to it at full speed and blast anything that moves. Although you should attack its centre, so you can use both sets of torpedo tubes. Be ready for a chase though as the convoy will scatter.

A protected convoy is more of a challenge particularly if there's more than one destroyer. Now you must stalk the convoy at slower speeds while keeping a narrow profile to the ships to avoid radar detection.

Your periscope is fitted with a target identifier that you should use to map out the convoy and plan your attack. You should be able to plot your attack run, so as the destroyer is stuck helplessly on the wrong side of the convoy, giving you a chance to strike and get away. Your periscope also gives you speed, course and distance of target so you can make every shot count.

If there's more than one destroyer and you can't find a gap then you'll have to take one out. This isn't going to be easy as you'll only have one shot before the destroyer locks onto you with its deadly depth charges. then it's dive, dive, dive as you head for the safety of the depths. Cutting the engine will start the silent routine and you can even release fake debris to deceive a persistent destroyer. When you think the coast is clear, begin to stalk the convoy again.

Your sub can travel twice as quickly on the surface and you should do this whenever possible as it saves the all-important battery power. Lose that and you lose your sub.

Conquer the set scenarios and you're ready for the ultimate missions - the war patrols, when finding the enemy, is as difficult as sinking them. Obviously, lengthy voyages can be time-consuming so you can speed up the action to two, three or four times the normal rate until you're ready for battle.

Finally you can make things almost impossible for yourself by adding in skill and reality levels which include limited visibility, dud torpedoes, zig-zagging convoys, no on-ship repairs and the worrying expert destroyers.

The game cassette is accompanied by two instruction sheets that explain almost everything from the control keys to convoy routes, tactics and a submarine commanders' spotters guide to Japanese shipping. When these sheets are folded, there's barely room for the game cassette in the box!

An excellent simulation that will have you sparring with destroyers until the early hours.

A Monster Hit.