Jane’s 688(I) Hunter/Killer

Torpedoes away.

Part of the Jane’s Combat Simulations line, 688(I) Hunter/Killer is the work of Sonalysts, Inc. Bringing their considerable knowledge of submarine sonars, information processing technology, and undersea operations to the table, Sonalysts has created what was, at that point in 1997, the best, most accurate, and most sophisticated modern sub sim ever.

19The game’s strengths are notable. True to their name, the developers of 688(I) have focused on the sonar systems in the Improved Los Angeles-class attack submarine. Unlike most submarine games, where contact leads to classification and a firing solution in short order, 688(I) makes you work for it. Using the bow-mounted spherical array, and the towed array, simulated sonar operators have to find, monitor, identify, and track targets in the sometimes cacophonous undersea environment. You have several useful systems to help you along.

As within the real submarine, audio cues are vital – whales sing, propellers churn, torpedoes whir, and it all means something. Once a target is acquired, gamers have to use narrow band sonars, including a hull-mounted array, to match up discrete ship sounds with stored profiles of likely encounters. All of this feeds into the Target Motion Analysis (TMA) system, where the player attempts to accurately fix contacts in space and time, which is essential to making effective attacks.

No argument possible, the sonar system in 688(I) is superb. The rest of the submarine sim is less stellar, however, and that is the central dilemma of this simulation. The game comes with 7 training missions, 11 single missions, and a campaign of 15 missions in four different operating areas. Some missions are very good, and require great skill. Others are merely navigation exercises. And there is little variability within these missions. Play it once or ten times, they will be about the same.

8Once gamers have won most of these missions, they will not be back for more any time soon. The campaign is more of the same. It has four separate geographical areas and themes, and some good scenarios, but it is just as fixed and immutable as the single missions. Nothing the player does has any effect on the progression of the campaign. In the end, however, 668(I) is far and away the best simulation of certain aspects of submarine operations – its sonar and targeting models are superb, and it is better than any other game in simulating the tension and difficulty of stalking targets underwater.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95

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