The USS Tally-Ho is waiting for trade off the northern coast of Bougainville when it receives the radio message about a damaged IJN carrier in the Solomon Sea. It hastens to the area, arriving just before dusk. The flat top is exactly where COMSUBPAC said it would be. What the communication failed to mention was the sizeable bodyguard of anxious escorts and the pair of spotter planes circling overhead.
Keen to minimise periscope exposure and confident he can do without the Torpedo Data Computer on this occasion, Captain ‘sinks-like-a’ Stone acts swiftly. After switching to manual targeting, he launches a fan of four tin fish at the labouring leviathan. The Tally-Ho is plunging for the thermocline when the two torpedoes at the centre of the spread plough into the hull of the target with dull thuds. Both were duds! Horrendous bad luck.
Stone and his crew spend the next ‘hour’ creeping about close to Tally-Ho’s Never Exceed Depth while the destroyers and subchasers hunt in vain for them. They take light damage from one ashcan shockwave, but, compared to that time in Iron Bottom Sound, it’s a picnic. Eventually the cats lose interest in the elusive mouse and slink away. By the time Tally-Ho’s periscope breaks the surface again, there’s no sign of the prize or its guardians.
Disappointed, Stone orders a turn to westward and, with fingers crossed and electric motors humming, waits for good news from Seaman 2nd Class Patterson, his sonar operator. Fifteen minutes later he gets a lucky break. A destroyer is detected and unwittingly guides the Tally-Ho straight back to the Akagi-class giant. This time there are no technical issues. Four torpedoes impact the carrier as it attempts to evade. All detonate. Inquisitive Pacific Ocean brine does the rest.
Although the attack uses up Tally-Ho’s last few eels, the sub still has dozens of deck gun shells aboard. Before heading for home, Stone shares most of these with a lone enemy coaster and a Japanese fuel dump. Both ship and shore installation seem distinctly unimpressed by the generous gesture.
And so ends another exciting unscripted patrol in Crash Dive 2, the best light combat sim I’ve played in years.
Things you can’t do in this £9 delight:
- Skipper a Japanese or British sub. It’s US vessels only.
- Admire your maru mugger’s interior, keel, or screws. Conning tower and gun cams are available when you’re surfaced, but the rest of the time, you play using the periscope, chart, or damage control view.
- See polygonal representations of your crew.
- Traverse oceans. The various Pacific maps are large not huge.
- Savour a homecoming from the conning tower. You end patrols with a button press.
- Play cheeky beggars with escorts and expect to get away scot-free. Although destroyers and subchasers sometimes run aground, they’re pretty decent at ASW.
Things you can do:
- Hunt what you like, when you like. Randomly generated convoys ensures no two patrols are the same.
- Enjoy engagements just as tense and almost as thought-provoking as those in Silent Hunter 4.
- Soak up some serious atmosphere on moonlit nights and during tropical storms.
- Watch your crew’s skills slowly improve over time.
- Accelerate time by up to 3200%.
- Shorten long journeys by using teleport-like ‘fast travel’ waypoints.
- Wait for nightfall with a helpful “Wait in place” shortcut.
- Play without the need to regularly refer to a manual.
- Play without straining an elderly graphics card.
Thirty minutes into my very first patrol, Crash Dive 2 was making me sweat and smile. After stumbling upon and sinking a heavy cruiser near Mindanao, I ended up playing hide and seek with a gang of IJN subchasers in horribly shallow water. I zigzagged and whirligigged, darted and laid doggo, but the depth charges kept coming. Eventually with twelve crewmen dead, my batteries exhausted, and dive planes and rudder unserviceable, I was reduced to sitting on the seabed and mouthing silent prayers. Fortunately, the prayers worked. The sounds of cavitating screws faded, and I was able to surface so that batteries could be recharged and repairs made. By the next morning my craft was as good as new – if a little short-staffed – and I sailed off in search of fresh adventures.
Those lightning quick repairs are one of the game’s clumsier realism compromises (No matter how badly damaged your vessel, it can always be fixed at sea). Generally, Panic Ensues Software streamline and simplify extremely adroitly. Torpedo aiming is a good example. There are two methods. Placing an enemy vessel under your periscope reticle or clicking it in chart view commences an automated targeting process. Once the fire solution bar in the GUI is fully extended (the rate at which it grows is dependent on several factors including the skill of the personnel manning the conn) you can launch an eel at an unsuspecting foe and be reasonably confident of a hit.
Alternatively, the option is there to ignore the TDC and fire quickly ‘from the hip’ with the help of manual bearing changes, and a system of predictor lines that tell you where target and torp will be at various time intervals. This inspired shorthand for instinctive targeting recognises that WW2 sub skippers weren’t clueless greenhorns while quietly acknowledging the accuracy benefits of using a TDC.
Whichever method you employ, the chance of a hit decreases dramatically if your victim is aware there’s a sea wolf in the vicinity. As alerted freighters, cruisers, battleships and carriers jink and circle vigorously, it pays to pick off the plumpest ewe first.
Remaining undetected in CD2 is easier than it is in some sub sims because the game thoughtfully warns you when you’re getting close enough to a spotting unit to be observable. Plausible detection algorithms are, of course, vital in silent service recreations and the ones here don’t disappoint. Weather, light levels, hull angle, speed… it all influences your conspicuousness.
Stealth won’t protect you if you decide to visit one of the minefield-protected harbours that dot maps. Nerve-chafing 3D puzzles, underwater devil’s gardens feature in some of the side missions randomly generated during patrols. In my last campaign outing, fancying a break from convoy clobbering, I decided to take on one of these optional tasks – the destruction of a seaplane base on Luzon.
To reach the objective I had to slip past some coastal gun batteries and find a path through a minefield (submarine nets don’t seem to be modelled). Trashing the base with my deck and AA guns was child’s play in comparison.
Later in the patrol I set a course for another green chart pin and, on arrival, spent a diverting twenty minutes avoiding a pair of destroyers while dropping off an invisible coastwatcher on a deserted beach.
To be honest, steering clear of the DDs was probably unnecessary. Right now one of CD2’s more obvious shortcomings is the ease with which its super-aggressive ASW vessels can be neutralised with deft torpedo slinging. The fact that eels expelled while diving seem just as effective as those launched at periscope depth, and the way torpedoes never seem to glance off angled hulls, make eliminating combative foes much easier than it should be.
If a future patch could discourage down-the-throat torp slinging, make Japanese captains a tad warier of shallow water (I’ve euthanized several beached escorts) and give realism-minded players the option of reducing traffic levels and complicating repairs (serious damage = a return to port?) I’d happily add “this instant” to the end of…
Time-poor and tonnage-hungry? You need the highly entertaining Crash Dive 2 in your life.