"Hodge-Podge" (n) [from ME; hogpoch]
A kind of stew; see Hotchpotch.
Any jumbled mixture; mess; medley; see GT Interactive's Tiger Shark
Okay, so that last tiny bit was not actually in my 1972 Webster's New World Dictionary (Second Collegiate Edition), but I'm filing a petition to have it included for 1998. I'm doing so, because that's the feeling I get from GT Interactive's recent foray into submarine simulations. Within this one CD, the keen eye will spot Doom, , and especially Descent. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. At least they didn't use Pong and Shanghai. I will also admit to spending far more time playing Tiger Shark than was actually needed to write this review. But this game is definitely a next step in sub-sims, rather than a bold new one, springboarding off the success of 360-degree first-person shooters, and combining it with the z-axis disorientation of space combat. I like the twist of having both underwater combat (space type stuff) and surface combat (Doom in a hydrofoil) with quick transitions between. The result is a fun, challenging game with lots of fast-paced arcade action, but with relatively few surprises.,
The premise is that seventy some years from now, Japan begins tapping into undersea faults around their islands as an energy source to the badly overpopulated country. Unfortunately, after four years of this, something goes 'click' within the earth's crust, and with a great deal of rumbling and splashing, most of Japan sinks.
Upon investigation of this disaster, it is discovered that at some point the Russians snuck in and installed their own fault "taps," secretly linking them to the Japanese devices and basically overloading the system. This plan was masterminded by one Dimitri Konstantin, high commander of Russian submarine forces. His purpose behind this was to see if the energy produced could be used as a weapon. I guess he found out.
Now, scientists predict that if the remaining taps are not removed, the Pacific Plate will destabilize, and we'll all be forced to go for a swim. It would seem to me that this would be incentive enough for even the craziest of military leaders to reach a compromise, but then, we wouldn't have much of a game if that happened. Enter the Americans with their latest toy, the Tiger Shark, a combination submarine and hydrofoil, just itchin' to try it out on something besides mothballed ships and sono-buoys--and the Russians are more than happy to oblige.
Your entire purpose in Tiger Shark is to deactivate any Japanese taps still active, and blow up anything sporting that classic (and currently inapplicable) symbol of world nastiness, the hammer and sickle. Controls while submerged are flight oriented, just as in Descent, including up and down and side to side slides. Weapons control is limited to selecting targets and waypoints, and switching missiles. Going from surface to underwater combat is automatic; your weapons for each realm activate as soon as you dive or surface.
The greatest flaw in this game is that it doesn't really lend itself to anything but a joystick. With the keyboard, you can utilize all the advanced controls, like sliding and rolling, but you don't have the kind of precision control you need to nail high speed sub fighters and pick off incoming missiles and torpedoes. Game pad users will find themselves begging for just one more button than their 4-button can offer. This is because it is essential to have an easy access switch for targeting, which helps you sneak up on your opponents in the murky depths. Joystick users will be frustrated for the same reason if they don't have at least five programmable buttons.
I can't say that your socks will be knocked off, but GT did throw in some nice touches. While underwater, buildings and sunken ships loom eerily from the darkness. Your opponents buzz in and out of the gloom, pecking at you from unexpected angles. Schools of colorful fish swim about, although they're totally oblivious to your forty-ton death machine. On later levels, you go under the icepack, dodging ice stalactites (or is it stalagmites?) hanging from the frozen surface. A good use of this new medium.
My favorite graphic aspect is the sinking ships. While the smaller boats, choppers and subs explode and disappear, the larger surface ships and submarines go out far more spectacularly. They groan and roll over, slipping pitifully beneath the waves, streaming air bubbles from the vent holes you've so thoughtfully provided. For the perverse among you, feel free to follow your victims all the way to the sea floor. Extremely satisfying.
GT should also be commended on the speed of this program. Even with a big boomer sliding past, and four or five annoying little attack subs zipping about shooting torpedoes and lasers, the game never blinks.
One complaint I have is a general lack of cutscenes. The mission briefings are good, but end scenes have only two options, based on whether you finish above or below the waterline, and each mission starts with the same show.
The music is average, though not unpleasant. I preferred to turn it off and just listen to the underwater sounds. Thankfully, GT kept in mind that most of the sounds divers and sub-jockeys hear are bubbles and noises that they make themselves. Explosions while submerged are muffled, just enough to let you know you've killed your target if they happen to be out of your range of visibility. Of course, on the surface, you can enjoy all the noise and mayhem that you've come to expect from a good war.
Windows 95, P-66 with 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 1 MB video card, and 100% DirectX compatibility. It ran very smoothly with no setup problems on a P-133 sporting all of the above. This is definitely a 1997 game.
There are four difficulty settings on Tiger Shark: 'Training,' 'Milk Run,' 'Rock n' Roll,' and 'Good Luck.' In the first two, you only take damage from direct hits, and no system damage. This makes the game really easy and I finished it in a few hours; however, this option limits you to only the first six missions. In 'Rock n' Roll,' you can take collateral damage from underwater explosions and falling debris, and your propulsion, sensors and weapons systems can be knocked out. Suddenly, depth charges and mines become a problem. This level is about as hard as I could handle without a good joystick. The 'Good Luck' setting, which I only played twice, is quite impossible. But impossibility lends itself to replay value ... and ulcers.
The surface ships follow typical figure eights and circle patterns. They're sitting ducks from below. On the other hand, the sub fighters they send after you are a completely different story. Once they get on your tail, head for the surface or you'll never lose them. Apparently, Dimitri cloned about 5000 underwater Chuck Yeagers, because these pilots are really good! The best defense I found was to stop moving, get my back up to something, and just try to pick them off from a stationary position. You're almost guaranteed to lose a dogfight, especially when you're outnumbered, which is most of the time.
The more I played Tiger Shark and got used to the controls, the more I liked it. The fact that you can only save your game at the end of missions bugged me, as did a general lack of cutscenes to keep the plot moving. But with its high speed, clean graphics, and good ambiance, I'd have to give this one a 75. No technological breakthroughs, but a fun time and a new environment to blast big sandy craters in.