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SummaryOne of the most special games I have ever seen.
The GoodEye candy isn't everything. Every true gamer knows that. In the beginning of the CD-ROM era countless games were released, as the developers were coming to grips with this new medium. Most of them had two things in common: they all had terrific graphics - pre-rendered or filmed cut-scenes, and they were all awful games. Games such as Rise of the Robots and Drug Wars are excellent examples. This has been going on for quite a while, and such games can still be seen today, to a lesser extent. Clones of better games, featuring good graphics but mediocre game-play at best, with nothing original to show. (Luckily, the lesson was mostly learned, and today - eye candy does not equal game-play). But every now and then, something new comes along, proving that maybe, just maybe, if you take an old, tested idea, and build something beautiful around it, you get something special. Sub Culture is such a game. On the surface (no pun intended) Sub Culture is Elite under the sea, instead of in space. You go from one place to another, trading, fighting, collecting, avoiding pirates and undertaking missions. But if you look deeper (pun intended…), that even begin to describe the experience of playing Sub Culture.
Sub Culture has one of the most unique engines I have ever seen, anywhere. The game is breathtakingly beautiful, even when using its software engine. The sun shines through the waves on the sandy ocean floor. Typical flora and fauna, exquisitely modeled and textured populate the water: lionfish, huge sea turtles, algae and coral - float, swim, or just sway slowly in the water. When I first saw this game, I spent an hour just mucking about, enjoying the freedom, and the tranquil scenery before me. The experience is quite unique and is nothing like playing Elite (or any other game for that matter).
The physics model is astonishingly accurate, as objects have drag, momentum and friction. Invisible water torrents push and pull at everything. Tugging a heavy metal coin with your sub's magnet feels just like it should - as you try to clumsily maneuver you nimble sub - now sluggish, between narrow crevices and water torrents.
The game also features a developing plot, as the war between the Procha and the Bohine continues, you can choose sides, try and stay neutral, and can even have a role in ending the war! The story has many twists and turns, and there is a lot to explore, to see and to experience.
The music fits the atmosphere (hydrosphere?) like a glove - changing accroding to your location and the type of mission you have embarked on (if at all). The entire game takes place in the same huge and finely detailed area ("map" in game lingo). The area is ever changing, as new objects keep falling from the ocean surface. As the plot unfolds, you will discover new places to explore, such as caves, chasms and even a sewer system. Even the interface is very simple and easy to use, given that the game is not a sub sim at all, and is more like a "mini-sub sim".
The BadSub Culture is amazing, and the only real hang-up is the overly linear plot. Sometimes there are only two missions to chose from, and the plot will not progress unless you choose on of them. Another small issue is the music, which is good indeed very fitting, but I can't help feeling Criterion Studios could have made the extra effort, to bring the music to the same level of the graphics.