Platform: Windows, DVD Players
Silent Steel was one of the first, if not the first, game to be released for DVD-ROM drives and DVD players, though it had been released by Tsunami a few years back as a CD-ROM adventure. The game runs more or less like a Choose Your Own Adventure with live acting. The plot is ripped straight from The Hunt For Red October. Even the game’s slogan is “THEY SAID THE COLD WAR WAS OVER…THEY WERE WRONG.” A Libyan sub has run amok in the Northern Atlantic, and your job, as captain of an American sub, is to intercept and determine the threat presented.
I had read some positive, if guarded reviews, so I decided to put down a chunk of change to pick up a copy. What I should have done was read the back of the case before buying it.
● a techno-thriller penned by Chuck Pfarrer, writer of hit action films Navy Seals, Virus, and Jackal.
● “Silent Steel is a winner…right on target, with as many twists and turns as Crimson Tide.”
Hey, that sounds great! Did a well-respected movie critic say that? Which unbiased computer gaming reviewer could have made that quote? Lo and behold, it was Richard P. Henrick, author of Crimson Tide.
Now I like Crimson Tide. And my guess is that Richard P. Henrick knows a great deal about submarines and writing a good adventure. But this is comparable to some amateur director making a space adventure, and then having their primary supporter be George Lucas, being quoted as saying, “This movie rocks. It’s almost as wonderful as my movies!”
Finally, there are the half-truths:
● Over two hours of riveting footage shot almost entirely on location
There are two hours of footage. And it is all shot on location. But 95% of these locations are on the same submarine, and the camera almost never moves. Without a little cinematography, it might as well be a set. The best shot may be from the air craft carrier itself, but one shot of a plane taking off is recycled multiple times. Worse yet, all underwater shots are simply poorly done CGI graphics. The transition between live acting and these pathetic shots and back again ruins all tension.
The acting is fine, and there are even a few above average scenes, but usually the actors are looking directly at you. Of course, you play the captain, and you are never seen, so naturally, they look towards the camera. But it felt to me as though Zach from Saved By The Bell was giving his knowing wink at me, the passive viewer.
Which leads to another problem. Despite the fact you are supposed to be playing the captain making tough decisions in tense situations, it never quite feels like you’re there. Action pauses every time you have to make a command decision(and except in a few cases, your responses are more gut instinct than anything), and then once you make your decision, the DVD takes forever and a day to load the next scene, with very poor transitioning. Once you get far enough in the game, most of your decisions lead to your CGI death, and there is only one good ending, despite a few different ways to get to the pigeonhole.
But what really got my goat were the bugs. In at least one part of the game, the commands given in one conversation tree do not match up with the outcomes. In other words, decision A=B, B=C, and C=A, leading to some seriously confusing results. I checked the net and I wasn’t the only one to run into this bug, so it just wasn’t my DVD. Worse yet, my DVD started about one-third into the game. I loaded it into my DVD-ROM drive, and it did the same thing. This was likely just a disc specific problem, but considering everything else, I couldn’t forgive it. Adding insult to injury, saving the game requires copying a code that takes about forty seconds to transmit on your screen, a real pain considering how often you’ll be saving and restoring.
If that weren’t enough, each DVD has German translations and French subtitles, allowing this tripe to fall flat in three languages! The game design is very appealing on the surface, but everyone should do themselves a favor and avoid Silent Steel like a fleet of rogue nuclear subs.