Pages: 1 2 3
Review by: Adam Swiderski
Published: July 29, 1999
While modern maritime strategy has become a key point in global power politics, technology has rendered it a bit sterile. Sure, today’s aircraft carriers can transport more aircraft than pass through most civilian airports. And yes, the long-range destructive capacity of latter-day cruisers and battleships is indeed fearsome. But, to me, the effect of watching one of these vessels toss up a cruise missile pales in comparison to the sense of power conveyed in films of World War II naval battles. Fleets of steel-sided titans, standing toe-to-toe and duking it out with massive deck-mounted artillery, fire boiling from their very sides there’s just something primal about it that modern naval combat can’t touch. It doesn’t hurt that, from a historical perspective, World War II witnessed the most intense, crucial sea-borne combat of the century. Some of the conflict’s key turning points focused on naval strategy and tactics.
What fertile ground, then, for the development of a computer strategy game. SSI seeks to prove that fact with Fighting Steel, a real-time tactical simulation that portrays surface combat in the years 1939-1942. Players can take control of the British Royal Navy, the German Kriegsmarine, the Imperial Japanese Navy, or the United States Navy, and recreate some of the best-known battles of World War II. It’s all done in real-time and wrapped in a high-tech 3D engine, making for a wargame that is a bit different than the standard, hex-based fare. Fighting Steel, in fact, is more along the lines of Jane’s Fleet Command, another recently-released naval strategy title that focused on the modern world. It aims to eliminate the statistical density associated with the genre — thereby making Fighting Steel more accessible to the casual consumer — while retaining the strategic depth and flexibility of play for which wargames are known.
To that end, and in the interest of authenticity, SSI has put a lot of detail and true-to-life touches into the mix. There are over 1,000 ships of 90 classes, 50 guns, and 13 different torpedoes. Well-known vessels like the U.S. Navy’s North Carolina, Germany’s Bismarck, and Japan’s Yamato make appearances, and all are rendered very realistically. In addition, the game’s combat engine factors in just about every nit that you can think of when executing ship-to-ship combat. While I can’t say that I’ve ever taken part in a battleship conflict, I can say that the results of all this work accurately reflect most real-world representations I’ve seen of this type of warfare.
Of course, it helps that Fighting Steel plugs its realism and historical detail into a hardware-accelerated 3D graphics engine. While the game is completely playable from the 2D tactical map, I’ve a feeling that most players (myself included) will spend the majority of their time in the 3D view. That is a very good thing, though, because Fighting Steel does look pretty great. Watching these oceanic juggernauts jockey for position on the high seas while their massive guns blaze and smoke is a lot of fun, and it helps that there are several different camera viewpoints that can be utilized. The animations and bells and whistles will no doubt be appreciated (especially during night combat), and help create an immersive effect that many strategy titles cannot match.
Pages: 1 2 3