The eyes of the world were on Hollywood director James Cameron this week as he became the first man in decades to reach the deepest point of the ocean floor, and the first man to ever achieve the feat by himself.
Good for you, James Cameron. Me, all I could think of was, why can't I see your thermal layers? And why aren't you shooting at anything?
You see, 19 years after it was first released, I'm still haunted by a game called Subwar 2050. Developed by Particle Systems and published by Microprose, you may never have even heard of it. But at the time, and for someone who has watched too many submarine movies and played too many space combat games, it was about as perfect a video game as you could hope for.
Set in the year, um, 2050, Subwar portrayed the same kind of bleak, dystopian sci-fi future we all loved in things like Syndicate and Blade Runner, where corporations have run amok and were now the dominant force on the planet.
You play Subwar as the pilot of what's basically an underwater fighter jet. See, in this dark future, competition over natural resources drives competition - and warfare - between corporations. With much of those resources now being recovered underwater, a security presence is required to both protect your own company's interests and blow the crap out of the interests of everyone else.
It was a fascinating exploration of how to take both a flight sim and an underwater game and make something truly unique. Subwar handled mostly like a flight game, from the feeling of the craft to the controls to the types of mission you'd fly, but introduced underwater elements like sonar and, more importantly, thermal layers (through which sonar and sound couldn't travel) to add strategic depth to the combat.
While it was a little rough around the edges, particularly in regards to the enemy AI, Subwar 2050 looked amazing for the time, and to this day remains one of the most unique simulation games the PC has eve seen. I'm almost certain it's impossible to buy new these days, so if you want to check it out, Google should help you track down a copy.