I can remember the first electronic arcade games I ever saw. I was just a kid and we (my father and me) were taking a late afternoon break from the hot sun on the farm so he could play an hour or two of dominoes with other farmers smart enough to not work in the heat of the day.
It was a coin operated monstrosity that took up a large space in the pool hall up against a wall... and it had a periscope. A real, metal periscope with firing buttons! Yes... it was a submarine game and I was hooked. It didn't take long to get good at it particularly when you consider I spent an hour or two a day on it during the hottest months of the summer. I have never forgotten that experience as I would buy console submarine games as soon as they came out. They were great but all lacked the experience of being in the sub. Even on the computer with superior graphics and interaction it just wasn't enough.
Well, today, I got enough as I stood inside a WWII era (sort of) submarine with a steerage, fire control, and torpedo room plus a gun on top when you were on the surface taking on aircraft. All of these places could be reached with the pull on the hatch or the flip of a switch next to the door. Set the heading, speed, and depth (don't go below 100 meters!). Step into the fire control room and pull down the periscope, twirling it around till you find your target then flip a switch. Wait to lock in a solution for firing. Reach over and fire up to four torpedoes. Sit back and wait for the inevitable explosion on the surface in the distance and... that feeling that comes from being IN a submarine at that time.
And once a destroyer tracks you down... you hear those infamous pings... you might as well get ready for a watery grave until you get a grip on things. Even though I was standing in my living room, completely dry... a terrible sense of foreboding took hold as the water rose within the sub. You flip levers, dump ballast, pump air... do all you can until all that is left it to stare at the gauges until the water goes over your head and everything slowly blacks out. It IS a creepy feeling. All that's missing is the water... thankfully.
There is also the feeling of complete frustration when traveling under the surface at 6 knots or less. Too deep for periscope and unable to surface you must rely on the gauges which is tough to do at first. You can't look out a window or pop the hatch... you're underwater and I'm not talking about a car or house deal... you ARE underwater so you HAVE to get used to it. Besides... you don't have a lot of time to contemplate such things once you line up and take your first shot.
The aesthetics of the submarine are good. They could be better but they could also be far worse. Having to cram four rooms into a small VR play area probably wasn't an easy task but they pulled it off. To go topside you pull down the hatch above your head, assuming you are on the surface of course. The same for the torpedo room which is below the navigation station. I must admit that the torpedo room looks cool and it's neat to watch them slowly load but with the options, I used it wasn't necessary to go down into the torpedo room to reload.
I spent most of my time flipping a switch that opens the door between navigation and fire control when moving around the sub. Occasionally I would go topside when on the surface and take some shots at aircraft but I wasn't particularly good at this so I stayed at periscope depth or less most of the time. The bank of gauges, levers, and steerage are nicely done with an era look that dates back to the big war. The sounds are what one would expect and periscope is... well... it's just awesome. Nothing like coming from navigation and pulling that bad boy down to rotate until you find your target. No, you can't lean on it... but the rest of the experience is there.
There are several mission types (convoys, forts, destroyers and so forth) and what looks like an online multi-player experience but I have not tried that out yet. From looking at a couple of YouTube videos it looks you can team up with someone to run the sub which would be a cool experience and certainly change the dynamics. With multi-player and co-op mode available I'm guessing you can fight against each other too.
So, with all this said... this reviewer will be diving down under the waves again to take on those pesky merchant marines and their protective escorts. Built from the ground up as VR with room scale this title has a lot going for it including a great reception on the Steam platform. Since there is no teleporting the immersion is never lost. You are in or on top of the sub with nowhere else to go so it's defend or die. I'm leaning more towards the defend part but this rookie sub captain has to get some more time under his belt before that will happen. Until then... you can find me at Davey Jones Locker at the bottom of the sea.
Steam Reviews: Very Positive 97% of 144 Reviews as of this writing.
Features: HTC Vive, Motion Tracked, Room Scale (Oculus Forum states it does work with the Touch Controllers being a little off on positioning) Single Player, Multi-Player, Online Multiplayer, Co-op and Online Co-op.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.