Release Date: 6/5/2017
Publisher: Killerfish Games
Over the last several years, the bulk of my gaming has shifted from gaming on the computer to gaming on a dedicated video game console. Recently that streak ended courtesy of a random YouTube video. In that video I came across in-game footage of somebody sinking a Russian battle cruiser with a submarine. Cold Waters was identified as the name of the game. As naval warfare is an interest of mine, I wanted that game. I bought it as soon as I saw it was Mac friendly, available on Steam and that my machine met the hardware requirements.
Cold Waters is a game primarily set in a Cold War turned hot scenario. The player is given command of a US Navy submarine in the North Atlantic. They’re then tasked with completing a variety of missions to help NATO to win a war against the Soviet Navy. There are two eras to select from. One in the 1960s and one in the 1980s. While the weapons in the later campaign may be more advanced, remember the enemy is also better equipped to deal with you. A little over a week ago, a third scenario has been released as free DLC. This one deals with China in a more modern setting. So now you get a chance to deal with a modern war in the Pacific. I’ve gotten a chance to play it and I must say I’m impressed as the quality attention to detail in the first two scenarios carries over into the third scenario.
Upon firing up the game one is presented with multiple options on what to do. You can enter tutorial missions to learn the basics of Submarine warfare. The next option lets you jump straight into combat in a variety of missions. The third and most in-depth option is the Campaign mode of the game. This’s where you can select one of the three campaigns I mentioned above. I recommend getting your feet wet with the first two options and then trying a campaign or two. The missions make good practice as they are essentially the types of battles you will be fighting in the campaign.
As with most games, learning the controls require practice. Cold Waters is no exception. Many times in the middle of combat I have accidentally let a torpedo loose way to early, while I thought I was just navigating. Instead of me getting the drop over my opponent, I have to survive a lethal counterattack and then try to get to my now alert target all over again. Jumping straight into the game without a thought is not a bright move and will trigger game over really quick. Fortunately several good tutorials acquaint you with the ins an outs of controlling a nuclear submarine. While they don’t totally prepare you for the combat missions, you get your feet wet with basic tactics and then its off to the real missions to start developing your own personalized combat tactics. Here is an example of a mission from the new Chinese campaign mode. I was in command of the USS Seawolf, one of the most advanced submarines in the game.
The assignment was to sink a Chinese replenishment ship that was under escort by multiple surface ships. Upon entering the battle I found myself at 50ft under water. The water in this area was no more than 300 feet deep so my options to hide and be truly stealthy were limited. Per my standard tactics I made my depth 150 feet and immediately rigged the ship for silent running. This makes me harder to detect. In shallow water I need all the help I can get. Granted the disadvantage here is I can’t reload weapons, make repairs, or move fast if someone does get the drop on me. But often its a necessary risk. The next step was to use My sonar to detect the surrounding vessels. Traveling at a speed of only at 5 knots my sonar really gives me a good picture as to what’s around. Going faster kills the silent running mode and makes it harder to identify who is out there. My sonar detected three contacts. Using the signature menu, I matched up each contacts signature with my signature library. This identified two Chinese frigates and a whale. The target replenishment ship was nowhere to be found. Unfortunately the frigates specialized in anti-submarine warfare and were getting too close for comfort so they had to go. After navigating into optimal position I fired one torpedo at each ship. Using my torpedo guidance wires I made sure the torpedos didn’t get distracted by any torpedo decoys and only would home in on the actual ship. The two frigates tried but did not escape my torpedos. Once they were sunk, my sonar indicated that only a whale was around me. The target of the mission was still nowhere to be found. As the coast was clear, for once I decided to use my radar. Time to make my depth 50 feet. Once at the desired depth I turned on my radar. The icon representing my target popped right up on my screen, out of torpedo range but well within missile range. So I replaced a torpedo in one of my tubes a harpoon missile. I then fired the missile at the target. Once the missile was away, I immediately turned off the radar. The longer the radar is on, the more enemies I attract. In this case as I was near a hostile coastline, enemy aircraft could use my signal to find me and make life really difficult. That’s one of the lessons I learned early on. After the missile launch and confirmation that it had destroyed my target in a matter of moments, I had the ship go to 150 feet again, mixed in a few direction changes while running silent at 5 knots. This was designed to confuse any anti-submarine aircraft that may have been looking for me as the missile launch combined with my radar being on told the world exactly where I was. After roughly five minutes of that, I managed to evade everyone and it was time to prepare for the next mission.
That was just one mission of many. The tactics I used in the mission may help next time or the mission might not be suited for those tactics. Essentially what I’m saying is that don’t marry yourself to one set of tactics. You need to be flexible and develop multiple tactics otherwise the other ships/submarines out there will eat you up and spit you out. The randomness of the mission types and enemies faced will see to that.
To that end, this game is one that you could play over and over again. Each campaign has random missions. You never know what mission you will be assigned next or what enemies you will be squaring off against. One minute you find yourself dealing with a little antiquated Romeo class diesel submarine and next thing you know two very lethal Akula nuclear submarines want to come and play with you. Variety as they say is the spice of life and this game doesn’t disappoint with its revolving door of enemies ready to destroy you if you don’t destroy them first.
While I enjoy the game for the most part, Cold Waters has only one area of improvement I would like to see. I have a huge issue with the starting position for some of the port missile strike missions. In those missions I more often than not start really close to my target in very shallow water. This practically makes me a sitting duck for any defenses in the area. It takes a while to sneak out to safer waters I must say. As I am the one closing in and ordering combat to commence, I should be able to start in a more favorable position farther out. Granted I know war at sea is unpredictable and combat may be forced on me at any moment, this is one area where I should be dictating the terms more or less.
That aside, Cold Waters is a most enjoyable game. With a wide variety of enemies, realistic tactics and a thoughtfully crafted environment, you will think you are truly on the front lines of World War III.