Red Storm Rising was the name of one of Tom Clancy's most famous best sellers, taken from the codename of Russia's military plan for an armoured assault on Western Europe. The novel was set in a number of scenarios with a number of main characters, but this game focuses on the part of the book about underwater warfare. Although it's a submarine simulator, it's set in World War III just like the book: after a prelude of political intrigue, Russia declared war and is rolling west in full might. NATO needs massive amounts of material and personnel ferried across from America, so Russia needs that route cut, and the Norwegian Sea is Russia's path to the Atlantic Ocean. Our NATO nuclear boat (SSN) will be assigned to this crucial scenario, and it will be (entirely) up to us that the war be won or lost.
We'll have many options when setting up a game. First we choose a year, and depending on that the existing technology will vary, both for us and for the enemy. Specially in the later scenarios there are many weapons we can arm our boat with: wire-controlled torpedoes, ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) missiles with torpedo payload, Harpoon or Tomahawk anti-ship missiles, even Stinger SAM (Surface to Air Missiles). The weapons, along with all the sensors, water conditions, etcetera, make for quite a lot of stuff we must know before we can master the game. This isn't one of those World War II sub simulators, in a sense it's a techno-thriller just like the novel it's based on. In this respect I must say that the game's a good adaptation of it: if you read and understood the novel you'll enjoy the game.
We can play a separate encounter at a time, which is good for getting the hang of the game, but eventually we're supposed to play the full campaign. In this mode we're given one mission after another and we'll be responsible to move our boat across a strategic map of the Norwegian Sea while we're fed intel about the enemy forces, to try and hunt our objective down. There's a bar at the bottom that will fill up in blue the closer NATO is to win the war, or in red the closer it is to lose it, and every once in a while we'll get news about war events, all depending on our actions in the all-crucial Norwegian Sea scenario.
Whether we play a separate encounter or we have one in the campaign mode, the game is all about the tactic mode. Here we'll see, along with all the other controls we need, a top-down display of our boat and any contacts we've made with varying degrees of certainty. What we must do is no easy task: acquire the best information possible about the enemy, attack as stealthily as possible, and evade any retaliations. Some advice, when using torpedoes it's important to keep wire control and that the enemy doesn't notice them until they're at very close range, and on the other hand it's very important to maintain a course so that we'll be able to evade the ones launched by the enemy.
As for enemies, we may come up against any kind, both submarine boats and surface ships of any sort: nuclear attack subs, silent diesel ones, cruise or ballistic missile subs, surface transports, cruisers, carriers, varied escorts, even ASW helicopters based on some of the surface ships and extremely good at locating us.
All in all a good sub sim with a well-deserved fame and a great variety of enemies and weapons, and a good adaptation indeed from Tom Clancy's best seller. If you liked the novel you'll probably like this game, and if you didn't try it anyway if you're into this kind of simulations. Enjoy!