Silent Service (video game)
Cover art by David Phillips
|Artist(s)||Michael O. Haire|
|Platform(s)||Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, C64, Amiga, Apple IIGS, IBM PC, NES, TRS-80 Color Computer, ZX Spectrum, Thomson MO6, Thomson TO8, Thomson TO9|
Silent Service is a submarine simulator video game designed by Sid Meier and published by MicroProse for various 8-bit home computers in 1985 and for 16-bit systems like the Amiga in 1987. A Nintendo Entertainment System port of Silent Service developed by Rare was published in 1989 by Konami in Europe and by Konami's Ultra Games subsidiary in North America. The follow-up game, Silent Service II, was released in 1990. Tommo purchased the rights to this game and digitally publishes it through its Retroism brand in 2015.
Silent Service is set in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, with the player assuming control of a U.S. Gato-class submarine for various war patrols against Japanese shipping ("Silent Service" was a nickname for the US Navy's submarine force in the Pacific during World War II). The game allows the player to choose when to attack and a whole range of realistic tactics are available, including the End Around as well as near invisibility at night (if the sub's profile is kept to a minimum). The game's realism was hampered by the simulation's inability to handle more than four projectiles at a time. This was particularly troublesome when battling multiple destroyers, since the submarine would not be able to fire if four torpedoes were already in the water.
The game accelerates real-time when not in combat. Sid Meier described a number of key factors that influenced the design of the game: The size of the theater, the variety of tactical situations, and evolving technology, such as the use of surface radar and torpedoes that did or did not leave trails of bubbles on the surface—only simulations set after their real-life introduction had access to them. Tasks such as navigation, damage repair, and firing were compartmentalized into different screens to allow players access to a great deal of information, but also focus on the task at hand.
The game was designed by Sid Meier, the art which was made by Michael O. Haire. Silent Service was in development for 8 months and creation of the game was inspired by fractal technological trick.
Info in 1985 rated Silent Service for the Commodore 64 four stars out of five, stating that its quality and graphics "are all unmistakably MicroProse" and "ensure a satisfying level of play for any wargamer". Antic wrote in 1986 that "Sid Meier and his team of simulation experts at MicroProse have outdone themselves". The magazine approved of how the game offered both beginner modes and "complex, historically accurate and challenging war patrol scenarios" for experts, and noted the Atari 8-bit version's "superb" graphics and "well done" manual". Antic in 1987 also liked the Atari ST version's graphics, sound, adjustable difficulty levels, and documentation, concluding "It's a traditional MicroProse product and it's nice to see that they've remained dedicated to detail". Compute! wrote in 1986 that "like F-15 Strike Eagle, Silent Service is both intriguing and addictive... a superior product".
Computer Gaming World in 1986 called Silent Service "easily the best [submarine simulator] for its simplicity of use and execution". It praised the game's realism and only criticized the lack of a save game feature. Gregg Williams reviewed the Atari home computer version of the game for Computer Gaming World, and stated that "The graphics and sound are better than average and support the illusion of realism. Our thanks go to Mr. Meier and to Randall Masteller, who did a good job of the Atari translation. Overall, this is an excellent game and a good buy." A 1987 overview of World War II simulations in the magazine rated the game five out of five stars, praising its "superb graphics coupled with detailed rules, historical accuracy and layers of complexity". In 1993 a survey of wargames in the magazine gave the game two stars out of five, stating that "it has been rendered obsolete by time and superseded by Silent Service II". In 1996 Computer Gaming World ranked it as the 86th best game of all time, for having "introduced the control-room interface for submarine games on variety of platforms."
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