There's enough in Dangerous Waters to keep even the most demanding naval sim fan happy for years.
- Models multiple platforms without skimping on detail
- Fantastic printed manual
- Interesting multiplayer options
- Great campaign mode.
- Fair graphics and sound
- Too much detail for most
- Printed manual costs extra but is worth it.
The phrase "survey sim" is enough to make hardcore simulation fans run for cover. These types of games, which attempt to cover an assortment of different weapon platforms in a single package, generally are aimed at casual users and rarely have the fidelity of simulations that focus on one thing. Leave it to Sonalysts to create a modern-day naval survey simulation that has the breadth and depth of the oceans where the combat it simulates takes place.
Sonalysts' last game, Sub Command, let you control Seawolf, 688(I), and Akula submarines and was notable for its slavish attention to detail despite modeling multiple subs. Dangerous Waters includes those subs, plus the ultraquiet diesel/electric Kilo class, and it also lets you take command above the waterline by including an Oliver Hazard Perry FFG-7 destroyer, a P3-C Orion reconnaissance/antisubmarine plane, and an MH-60R antisubmarine helicopter. There's enough in this package to keep even the most demanding naval sim fan happy for years.
Anyone who has played Sub Command will be familiar with the insane level of detail modeled in this game. Each platform has multiple stations, ranging from radar and sonar rooms to weapon control and navigation consoles, and you are free to skip back and forth between stations to perform nearly all of the tasks associated with operating these subs, ships, and aircraft. Each station represents the one found in its real-world counterpart, so the sonar station in the Akula looks nothing like the more advanced station found in the Seawolf. Each platform also has some unique capabilities that must be mastered, and learning even the basics of how they all work--both individually and in conjunction with other platforms--requires a huge time investment.
A dizzying array of equipment is modeled, and those unfamiliar with it will be lost immediately. Beyond the myriad torpedoes, missiles, and other weapon systems (many of which are programmable, adding an extra layer of complexity), there are several types of sonobuoys, sonar, radar, and other equipment, each with multiple settings to worry about. The interface for accessing and programming everything is fairly slick once you get used to it, but that assumes you already know the basics of naval warfare. For example, hunting a submarine in the destroyer requires plotting a route for the helicopter, knowing what types of sonobuoys to employ (along with where to drop them and what settings to use), and managing multiple data telemetry screens to read the information coming from the buoys. Beyond that there is the ship's own sonar system, towed array, and radar system to monitor, navigation orders to give, and a host of other duties to perform. Once you find the sub, you then have to deal with the problems of plotting a firing solution, selecting a weapon that will get the job done, and launching it at the right time, and antisub warfare represents just a tiny fraction of what this game offers.
Dangerous Waters expands on the fascinating campaign system pioneered in Sub Command, and it works very well. The premise is that there is a revolution in Russia, and you can command American, Chinese, or Russian vessels and aircraft in a fairly realistic simulation of war. At the start of the campaign it is important to recon the opposing side to figure out its intentions, but if you get too aggressive or are spotted spying, you can trigger hostilities prematurely. The American units are the most interesting to play in the campaign since it's not clear for a long time which side of the revolution you should support, and it's rare to see a simulation model the real-world complexities of a modern-day Cold War so well. Although the basics of the campaigns are always the same, the ability to play it from the perspective of all of the sides while never knowing exactly how or when events will unfold offers nearly limitless replayability. A variety of single missions are available for those who don't want to play the entire campaign, and a full mission editor is included if you want to roll your own scenarios.
Multiplayer is interesting in that you are free to each take command of an individual ship, plane, sub, or helicopter, but you also can work cooperatively by crewing different stations on the same platform. This opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities, like one person commanding the FFG-7 while a buddy flies its helicopter and sends data back, or one person classifying targets while another works out firing solutions on the Target Motion Analysis screen. It would take a lot of like-minded friends to crew an entire sub, ship, or plane, but at least the possibility exists.