Silent Steel casts the player as captain of a nuclear submarine, on what is seemingly a routine peace-time patrol. As outside forces come into play, the Captain finds himself in the midst of a life-and-death struggle to save not only the ship, but to reveal a sinister plot that could start a devastating global confrontation.
The interactivity in the game appears in the form of a Action/Dialog Interface, which is presented every 15 to 30 seconds throughout the adventure. The three choices presented are actually integral parts of the script. The player must select one of the options by clicking on the number (or the line of dialog), or using the numbers on the keyboard. The decisions made by the user determine which direction the story takes, up to the next Action/Dialog Interface box. As the player continues through the game, he'll be presented with a multitude of crises which must be prioritized and dealt with appropriately. Depending on his decisions, he may reach several types of endings, from death to survival, and some humorous ones.
The problem with most of the new interactive movies is that their dialogue is so incredibly lame: shallow comic-book exhortations punctuated by wheezy gumshoe tough talk. This is decidedly not the case with the "cinematic strategy adventure" Silent Steel. In spades. Penned by Hollywood screenwriter Chuck Pfarrer (Navy SEALS, Hard Target), this submarine game is deliriously top-heavy with Clancyesque jargon spewed out at full speed ahead. A typical sequence may feature a character barking a line like "S.O.P., sir! Warshot loaded in tube one, three fish in ready service." Gesundheit? Thank Neptune Silent Steel includes a glossary, replete with nifty little videos, for landlubbers like me.
Curiously, Silent Steel's sense of drama is only heightened by all this macho sonarbabble. As the captain of the nuclear submarine U.S.S. Idaho, you see the movie unfold from your point of view. Crises erupt - there's a Libyan sub on the loose in your patrol zone, a Russian Akula bearing down on you like Yeltsin on a bender, and a pesky saboteur in your command circle - and you have to make decisions, issue orders, and avoid getting torpedoed by selecting one of three choices that pop up at regular intervals along the bottom of the screen. Since the choices include such humdingers as "Bring us around to clear our baffles," Silent Steel is no dip in the kiddie pool. Actually, it's Crimson Tide with a no-name cast and seemingly endless possibilities.
There are catches: The drama slams to a halt whenever you have to switch discs, and the wait to start up again is annoyingly slow. But that may be a tribute to the spell Silent Steel casts. Where other CD-ROM games work overtime to convince you of their cutting-edge hipness, this one literally cuts to the chase with a minimum of attitude (and, thankfully, without the jingoistic frat-boy posturings of Pfarrer's Navy SEALS). Steel doesn't run silent (unless you toggle the sound option off) or particularly deep, but it's a smooth ride all the same.
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