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Review by: David Laprad
Published: November 23, 1997
Once the sea belonged to no one, and no one took care of it. The sea was the baliwick of the gods, and their responsibility. That was the childhood of man. When he grew older and wiser, he came to know that the sea was as necessary to him as the air he breathed or the food on his table, and he knew the gods had failed him. The sea was in danger, and if the seas – and man – were to survive, man alone must take on the responsibility he had shirked for so long.” – Jacques Cousteau
For all his years traveling the deep waters that cover a majority of the earth, there were many things Cousteau never saw or discovered. Every day, mankind reveals new wonders about this wonderful, enigmatic planet. For that reason, it can be argued that the concept behind the new politically correct action-adventure game Sub Culture is not at all beyond the realm of possibility. Apparently, in the depths of the oceans exists a life form similar to man in nearly every respect except size — they are barely half an inch tall. They’ve got all the same bad habits, from trashy television to political turmoil, and, like us, they are very capable of complete and utter self-destruction.
The player suits up in the role of an unlikely hero, a miniature prospector named Bubba, who will ultimately be responsible for uniting two opposing races, the Procha and the Bohine, in an effort to save their floundering civilization. Poor, unfortunate Bubba was piloting his miniature, one-person submarine home from prospecting for Thorium one murky day when he discovered that his comfy domicile had been crushed by a large quantity of scrap metal. The offending metal was actually a tin can carelessly tossed into the water by a human.
With his home a shambles, trading and prospecting are all Bubba has left. Well, that and work as a freelance mercenary. Tensions have been increasing between the ideologically opposed Procha and Bohine, and with a civil war looming on the horizon, there is plenty of work available as both sides build arms and prepare for the ultimate confrontation. The only thing floating in Bubba’s way are the ruthless pirates, who have an agenda of their own….
Sub Culture is a first- and third-person action-adventure game based on the exploration of a breathtaking underwater world. It involves a set of 27 non-linear missions divided into four stages, each of which has a distinct scenario that develops the story of tribal antagonism, reluctant cease-fire, and, eventually, successful resolution and lasting peace. The absorbing mission structure is varied and complex; objectives include daring rescues, covert operations, escort duty, material research, hard-core combat, and more. Certain missions are only available from one city, while others are available from every city. The trick is that the missions the player accepts affects their standing with each civilization.
An engaging narrative accompanies the missions. The player is continually updated with briefings and highlights of his or her progress. There are three primary types of communication: mission briefings that explain the nature of a mission, as well as its purpose and location; news bulletins that explain how the world has changed as a result of the missions; and hint bulletins that guide players to freeform activities. There is also internal e-mail that alerts players to new dangers and explains incidents that have occurred throughout the gameworld.
In addition to the missions, there are always freeform activities and trading available. Successful completion of a mission provides financial reward, which enables the player to engage in trade. Trading is an integral part of the game and provides an opportunity to upgrade machinery or purchase the tools, weapons, and commodities necessary for successful completion of missions. The prices and availability differ between races and cities, so players need to use skill and judgment in their quest for getting the best tools at the best price. Freeform activities, which generally involve prospecting for commodities, provide an additional source of income.
The dynamic gameplay is nicely augmented by impressive visuals and lighting, complete with night and day cycles, and realistic physics. Each object in Sub Culture has linear and rotational momentum, as well as true-to-life buoyancy and mass. This yields true 3D movement that is affected by such factors as currents, drags, and impacts. For example, if you stop your sub, it will drift realistically. Additionally, the player can attach a magnet tool to any metallic object by way of a chain and drag it around, subsequently affecting the player’s control of the sub as the object swings on the chain underneath.
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