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Atlantic Fleet - the CombatAce review

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Killerfish Games's PC version of its iOS WW2 naval simulation/wargame takes the high seas by storm!


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I started playing PC games on a system with a 14" screen and an early Pentium, and I'm not about to go back there, so I watched with interest but from afar, when I saw Fred 'Heinkill' Williams's affectionate and very favourable SimHQ review for the iOS-based Atlantic Fleet. Sometimes, though, dreams do come true, it seems, for a PC port has just arrived, after the developers completed the work and updated the graphics for the new platform.


Since the release of Fighting Steel and Destroyer Command in the late 1990s, it's been a bit of a famine for WW2 naval simmers, broken recently by the arrival of the rather good Victory at Sea. Well, now we also have Atlantic Fleet, so it's time to cast off, put to sea again and enjoy the feast that's followed that famine. And Atlantic Fleet is indeed a veritable multi-course meal of a feast, for anyone who remotely fancies tugging on his (or her) virtual seaboots and taking to the high seas to fight out some of the classic sea battles and campaigns of World War 2. Your mission is to preserve, or sever, the vital sea-lanes which kept Britain fighting against Nazi Germany, bringing vital supplies of food, weapons and raw marterials of all kinds to the British Isles...or not, if the Kriegsmarine has its way...


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Atlantic Fleet iOS was the sequel to Pacific Fleet, and while our US cousins might regret it, I for one am very happy that Killerfish decided to get their PC feet wet with a port of the more recent, more modern game. I was brought up on a happy diet of Airfix 1/600 warships from the same theatre and the great little Eagle 1/1200 kits, released in themed sets like the Battle of Narvik, complete with accounts and maps of the relevant action. I soaked up films like Battle of the River Plate and Sink the Bismarck!, and later Ludovic Kennedy's excellent BBC TV documentaries on WW2 warships and battles - his later, excellent book Pursuit - the sinking of the Bismarck is on my desk as I type this. It was probably in the 1960s BBC documentary series The Valiant Years that I first heard Winston Churchill's famous observation that '...the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril'. Of course, while he was talking about the submarine threat to the supplies that kept Britain alive and in the fight, for much of the war the Kriegsmarine's surface units were also part of the threat that so concerned the great British war leader. And the air power of both sides played an important role. One of the joys of Atlantic Fleet is that when you step back into those dark and dangerous days, you can re-fight the Battle of the Atlantic and its most famous historical actions on, above or below the waves.


Installation and features

At time of writing, Atlantic Fleet is distributed via Steam - at a mere £6.99 Sterling. As we will see, for a game with high production values, engaging gameplay and an historical depth and coverage that would put many a full-price simulation in the shade, if not to shame, this is a very considerable bargain, to put it mildly.


I gather there are no plans to offer a different distribution channel and while I prefer the 'good old days' of standalone game installation, I have had no bother at all with any of the excellent Steam-based games I have purchased (Victory at Sea, Wargame: European Escalation and Wargame: AirLand Battle being the others) and would not consider passing up on a good game merely because of that.


I must start with Atlantic Fleet's high production values - these you will see from the moment the game loads. Here's the main menu screen. The ship seen here is the famous German battlecruiser Scharnhorst,* lost fighting against the odds at the Battle of the North Cape - which you can re-fight in Atlantic Fleet. Scharnhorst's brave showing prompted Admiral Fraser in Duke of York to say afterwards to his officers "Gentlemen, the battle against Scharnhorst has ended in victory for us. I hope that if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today". Such is the world of steel ships and iron men that Atlantic Fleet re-creates for us. But I digress...can't help it, I feel the hand of history on my shoulder, as TCB once said.


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*...and yes, before you start posting corrections, I know the ship above is actually a Hipper class heavy cruiser - Prinz Eugen, probably -  not Scharnhorst, but I couldn't resist the quote above and don't have a menu pic of Scharnhorst, to hand :biggrin: .


The point is, it looks great, it's animated, with camera pivoting around the ship, and there's a different ship each time. See, here's another menu shot, and this time, it's one of the big German destroyers, several variations of which appear in the game:


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Atlantic Fleet is single-player only, so you will not find here any way to blow up anything other than an entirely virtual foe-man. You do, however, get a sombre but really effective musical theme to accompany the menu, and you can have music in-game, too.


Taking the menu options from the top, first there is 'Training Missions'. These missions are actually rather useful, and a good way of ensuring that it is the enemy who ends up like this, and not you:


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And again yes, you heard right, you can drop the camera below the waves, to get this view, complete with rather scary grinding and booming ship sinking sounds;


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As for those training missions, which will hopefully reduce the frequency with which your own ships feature in such scenes, here's what you get. Again it's nicely presented, with good artwork and a clean, crisp interface. I did mention the high production values, didn't I?


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Here's the intro screen for the torpedo training mission. I really like Atlantic Fleet's artwork and the general design:


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Load the mission and you get a little scenario, here a Royal Navy destroyer steaming alongside a hapless German merchantman. You click your way through a series of topic boxes, to learn the lesson. You can toggle the topic box on and off, for a better view. They each do a very good job of taking you through the relevant drill.


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This is where you may first get to see the Atlantic Fleet mode of gameplay, and its most prominent feature is that it is turn-based, like a wargame. The sequence is: You move-You shoot-The enemy moves-The enemy shoots. We'll see how this works in more detail, later. Continuous gameplay would be better, and certainly more simulation-like, but it is what it is, and I soon got quite comfortable with it.


Jumping ahead to the last menu option, we come to 'Options/Help', and here's what you get:


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As the menu title suggests, some of the things listed on the right of the screen above are options screens, others are help. The 'home' screen, above, lets you tweak various gameplay and difficulty options, as you can see. The 'Default controls' screen lets you re-map keyboard commands, like this...


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...while the 'Damage Report' is a help option and looks like this:


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I find it all very well-presented and impressively thorough, very well up to the standards of PC sims and better than many I've seen, including the very best.


My main interest in a WW2 naval sim or game is the ability to re-fight historical or hypothetical battles, and it's that option we will look at next. Here, we will see how Atlantic Fleet's gameplay comes together, when the shells, torpedoes and bombs start flying.


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...to be continued!

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The single battles



As a child growing up in the days when World War 2 was fresh in the minds of our elders - an uncle was injured in Normandy, while my late mother well recalled being bombed during the 'Blitz' in Belfast - the great sea fights of the war always held a special place in my interest and imagination. So while Atlantic Fleet comes with no less than two campaigns, its single battles are what I was most looking forward to. And I wasn't disappointed! There are no less than thirty historical sea battles for you to re-fight. The two screenshots below show what's available. As you can see, the first item on the list is 'Custom Battle', which is actually a 'quick mission builder'; this, we will look at a little later.






For me, never mind the campaigns - this little lot, on its own is more than worth the extremely modest £6.99 price of admission. I find such sea battles are pretty well endlessly re-playable. In the lower part of the list, in the screenshot immediately above, you can see that I have highlighted the aforementioned Battle of the North Cape, Scharnhorst's last fight. The map has panned to show its location, ringed white above the northern shores of Norway; while the panel on the right provides brief notes on the battle and its real-life outcome. Attempting to locate Arctic convoy JW55B, the German battlecruiser instead bumped into a covering force of British cruisers - including the now-preserved HMS Belfast - who shadowed Scharnhorst by radar in the darkness. When the 'KGV' class battleship Duke of York arrived on cue, Belfast famously illuminated Scharnhorst by starshell, and the fight was on. With her radar destroyed by an early hit, Scharnhorst fought back, using her superior speed to disengage. She might have made it, too. But a 14 inch shell fired just as she was about to slip out of effective range destroyed a boiler and her speed advantage was lost. From Scharnhorst's bridge, Admiral Erich Bey, knowing what would now happen, signalled Berlin, 'We will fight on till the last shell'. And they did, more or less, all but 36 of her nearly 2,000 complement going down in a hail of shells and torpedoes, or perishing in the dark, icy Arctic waters. Such, let us not forget, are the sombre events that we re-create in the warmth and safety of our homes. But I digress...


Having selected your battle, the next screen lists the forces on either side, as seen below. The little flags at the bottom of the screen enable you to pick the side you'll play for, and who will hold the initiative  - who moves first, I believe. Naturally, choices you made in the Options & Help screen will come into play here, and my own selections include wind affecting trajectories and battles beginning at longer range - which increases the difficulty and probably the realism, though I'm pretty sure that even at the shorter starting range available, you won't get the sort of silly close-in knife fights between major warships which one sees in certain other games.




The sheer variety of battles is most impressive. For surface action, there's everything from an all-out slugging match between capital ships - like the Battle of the Denmark Straits - Bismarck and Prinz Eugen -vs- Hood and Prince of Wales...




...to HMS Cornwall's despatching of the disguised commerce raider Pingiun, in the South Atlantic (which was a relatively close-range affair, with the Germain ship maintaining her disguise in an effort to escape, then suddenly turning on her pursuer):




In between, there are battles between U-boats and convoys, and even the Swordfish torpedo plane attack on Bismarck, the damage from which ensured that the big battleship's first war cruise was her last. And you can even sink another sneaky surface raider in warmer waters, with the Pacific battle between HMAS Sydney and Kormoran, which in real life resulted in the ultimate destruction of both ships, after the Germans managed to lure their much more dangerous opponent to close range and inflicted devastating damage on the big Australian cruiser before she could start returning fire. Many of Kormoran's crew were able to take to the boats and most were rescued, but Sydney lurched off burning into the gathering darkness, with neither ship nor crew ever to be seen again. Once more, lest we forget...


But a review's a review and we must needs press on. In the next part, we'll look at how a typical surface action plays out, in Atlantic Fleet.


...to be continued!

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The single battles in action

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The sea fight I have chosen to illustrate Atlantic Fleet's gameplay doesn't have a 'Battle of...' name, presumably because it took place so far from any named landmark - it's Bismarck's last fight. Her rudders jammed by an air-dropped torpedo, the great ship was slowly steaming in a circle, when the Home Fleet finally caught her up. And the rest is history...


Here's the launch screen for the battle, as portrayed in Atlantic Fleet. Bismarck (eight 15 inch guns) is on her own, her consort Prinz Eugen having been detached for independent operations after Admiral Gunther Lutjens decided that fuel loss from a earlier hit from Prince of Wales made a dash for a friendly port necessary, for the flagship. The Royal Navy has the battleships Rodney (nine 16 inch guns) and King George V (ten 14 inch guns) The heavy cruiser Norfolk (eight 8-inch guns) is still shadowing Bismarck, and coming up from the south is another three-funnel 'County' class heavy cruiser, Dorsetshire.




The more eagle-eyed readers may have noticed, in this screen, the setting 'Player 2', top right, here set to 'OFF'. Meaning what, exactly? OK, remember that I said there was no multi-player in Atlantic Fleet? Well, there is, actually...sort of. Leave 'Player 2' set to 'ON' in the previous, mobile device version and after taking your turn, you could hand your smartphone or tablet to another player, to take the other side's turn. In the PC game, you can slide out of your seat to make room for the other player, or even play both sides yourself, turn by turn!


Anyhow, you launch the battle (by clicking on the word 'ATTACK', bottom right of the above screen) and you're in the 3-d world. If your enemy has the initiative (first move) you start with that happening; then it's your turn, starting with your first ship, if you have more than one. Below is mine for this battle, playing on the RN side - a 'KG Five', nameship of the class, HMS King George the Fifth, with Rodney on the port beam.




As I said previously, each ship in a class has the same Atlantic Fleet model to represent all, and at any period in their service lives. This works less well for the likes of the Queen Elizabeth class, battleships whose inter-war and early-war refits left them in several different configurations. But for the 'KG Fives', it's not such an issue; and regardless, the superb ship models are certainly one of Atlantic Fleet's best features, a joy to the eyes of any WW2 warship afficianado.


But let's see how you wield these beauties in virtual battle! As I said earlier in the review, Atlantic Fleet is turn based, with the sequence 'You move-You shoot-The enemy moves-The enemy shoots'. Ship-handling and gunnery are simple enough. Before doing anything, it's a good idea to orient yourself by bringing up the map ('M' key, or click the little icon bottom centre). Zoomed out a bit, the screenshot below shows the relative positions of the ships in this battle. We're closing the enemy nearly head on, Norfolk is trailing Bismarck on her starboard quarter, and Dorsetshire is coming up from the south. The grid doesn't change as you zoom so doesn't help much with the range. But if I click on Bismarck, I get a 'firing solution', the red text top right - this displays estimates for speed (in knots), range (in yards) and recommended elevations (the setting for the indicated range) for my main and [in square brackets] secondary batteries.




The functions available from the icons on the bottom edge of the map screen include zoom, centre on current ship and - the little compass dividers - a 'Shot History', which when turned on shows the elevations at which previous shots at my current target were taken, and where they fell. This is one of three gunnery assistance tools the game provides. The other two are the evevation in the top right 'firing solution' - provided by your ship's radar or optical rangefinders - and a 'Splash [as opposed to 'Shot') History which you can call up in the 3-d world, not the map, and which helps you judge your next salvo from the shell splashes of your last one. Adjusting your fire from the fall of shot as seen in shell spashes is classic WW2 gunnery practice, to the extent the Japanese put colour dyes in their shells, differently-coloured for each ship, so that fire from multiple ships could be better plotted, from the colour of the shell splashes. Hence the classic reaction from one US sailor at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 'They're shooting at us in technicolor!' Hence also the tactic of steering towards the enemy's last shell splashes, so that his next correction would actually throw off his aim. This seems to work well enough against the AI in Atlantic Fleet, incidentally.


Now, you can get your ships moving - until you do, they roll in the swell, but are not going anywhere. This is easily done. Select your speed and course using the two sliders at the bottom left of the screen. The '<>' brackets down there increase or reduce mouse sensitivity for fine tuning, as you cannot input a figure. Then click the big 'MOVE' button, bottom right. I say 'big', but the on-screen icons in Atlantic Fleet I find neat and quite inconspicuous. Incidentally the blue arrowhead, top left, is a wind speed and direction indicator, which will be important if you have elected to let this affect trajectories.




Your ship will now suddenly spring to life and make its move, the icons mostly disapppearing. The effect is a bit sudden but you get used to it and as far as I can see, the response is realistic, in terms for example of inertia, acceleration/decelleration and turning circle. Once you have moved your first ship, you can then shoot, and go on to move & shoot from the others on your side, completing your side's part of the turn. There is a 'fleet move' option, to move all but the current ship on a common speed and heading, but it's for pre-battle (or convoy) moves only, as the other ships lose their firing turn.


Once your ship has completed its move, it stops, and the icon set re-appears, this time a different one, those for gunnery, as seen below. At the map, I had decided - as I think Admiral John Tovey did in real life - that I would manoeuvre my battleships independently, to split the enemy fire. Below, King George V has begun a turn to starboard and Rodney to port, to get the plan under way. Bismarck is still fine on our bows, and as I have mouse-click selected her as my target, a red line now links us. As you will doubtless be expecting, this is where things get interesting!




...to be continued!

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Great review 33Lima, I downloaded the manual and in the credits artwork and design is by a fellow called Nils Ducker that I have heard that name before maybe around here in the past?

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Yes, otherwise known as Julhelm around here :smile:

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bought it but havent had time to play. how are the u-boats and is there any pt boat action or flower corvettes you can control?

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No S-Boats/E-Boats or MTBs I believe Dsawan, this being primarily an ocean-going sim, but there are Flower and Castle class corvettes, which feature in some of the convoy actions and can be player-controlled...


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...and yes there are some playable subs, more on that soon;


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Single battles - the violent bit...



Ok, I’m re-fighting Bismarck's last action, playing as the Royal Navy. I’ve moved my current ship, King George V. Now comes the second phase of Atlantic Fleet’s 4-phase turn system – I get to do some shooting! I decide KGV will hold fire for now, and so a couple of mouse-clicks on the weapon selection button, bottom right, cycles us through the available nasties, until ‘None’ is displayed. The ‘FIRE’ button changes to display ‘DONE’ and clicking this, my current ship switches to Rodney, for which I order a turn to port. Built to live within the Washington Naval Treaty, her nine big 16-inch guns are all on the forecastle, ahead of her compact superstructure. This is good for engaging targets on the bow, although ‘C’ turret will be masked by ‘A’ and ‘B’ until I ‘open my ‘A’ arcs’ in my next turn.




It’s worth noting that during the firing phase, you can fire only one type of weapon – either your main armament; or your secondary armament (tertiary, where available, is generally AA, which engages planes automatically); or torpedoes (if your ship has them); or anti-submarine weapons (depth charges, Squid or Hedgehog). In the same turn, you can’t engage multiple targets, or the same target with multiple weapons. And you can fire only full salvoes, except that you can pick how many torpedoes you launch in one turn. Ammunition loads are realistic, by the way.


There are different ways of selecting a target in Atlantic Fleet but the easiest is just to mouse-click on it. If you want a better view, you can switch to a first person one through a sight with 2x, 4x and 8x magnification.




Selecting a target draws a red engagement line through the chosen enemy, as seen above - it's a lot less conspicuous, in the external or 3rd person view. Selecting a target will also cause the ‘Firing solution’ I mentioned earlier to be displayed, top right of the screen. This simulates the work of your sensors – optical rangefinders and/or radar, and the people who operate them.


This is the point from which you need to start applying some skill. You don’t have an AI Gunnery Officer, who will just take the engagement from there. In effect, you are the Gunnery Officer. You need to take the information you have, order a range (as a barrel elevation) and a bearing, correcting both for wind and movement, and then push the Big Red Button.


As at the start of the ‘Move’ turn phase, for firing, ships are static. But you have to take account of the relative movement of both your ship and the target – and the wind strength and direction, unless you have disabled its effect  – in choosing the bearing on which you will open fire. Typically, this involves leading a moving target, allowing for its speed and angular direction, then making some estimation of  the allowance you need to make for the wind (whose strength and direction is indicated by the little blue arrowhead, top right). With the mouse cursor, you drag the bearing left or right of the target as you judge necessary, in the little horizontal scale bottom left of the screen. As you do, this, the red target line is dragged left or right. Your gun turrets – those which can bear on the target – will swing around, to train out onto the desired bearing.


OK, so your aim is good for line...you hope. Next, you need to get the range right – by elevating your guns, mouse-dragging the setting in the vertical scale bottom left of the screen. Typically, you start with the estimate shown in the ‘firing solution’ (top right of screen). As you do this, you will see the barrels elevate. For future salvoes, you will be able to use either the ‘Shot History’ (from the map) or the ‘Splash History’ (from the 3-d world) to get a better range estimate. But first time with a new target, the ‘firing solution’ is all you’ve got.


But wait! We’re not done yet! Is the target closing or receding? Will the wind’s speed and direction – as well as pushing your shells left or right – push them over or short of the target? Especially at longer ranges – relative to the heaviness of your weapon’s calibre - you might want to add to or drop your chosen elevation a little.


Now you are ready to cut loose. Hit the ‘FIRE’ button and with a flash of orange fire and a (rather small) puff of brown smoke, you’ll see your rounds arc up into the sky. They are rendered like actual, oversized shells with bright bases, so appear as tracers, visible even in daylight. In the screenshot below, Dorsetshire is engaging Bismarck, which can be seen fine on the heavy cruiser's bow, moving right to left.




If you have the ‘switch ship view’ button active, the view will pick up the rounds as they near the end of their trajectories, roaring down on your target – you hope! In the pic below, you can see the first salvo from Bismarck's turrets Anton and Bruno, just short of impact. You know what, I'm rather glad I had turned Rodney to port, just now!




Just like the real thing’, as the Airfix slogan went, you’ll see the white shell splashes leap up, and if you’re lucky or skilful, the flash and smoke of one or more hits. You get to do this for each ship on your side, one after the other – move-shoot; move-shoot.


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No ships are visibly moving during the firing phase, but the overall effect, the sense that you’re directing a WW2 surface engagement, is still highly engaging. Ship-handling in Atlantic Fleet is relatively simple, but gunnery is an acquired skill, rewarding concentration, practice - and patience.


Next, it’s the enemy’s part of the turn, and you get to see his ships move and then (stop and) shoot, one ship after another. The enemy AI appears reasonably good, neither super-human nor super-dumb. His shells will splash down near or around you – the latter is a ‘straddle’, from which hits are possible – and you can try ‘steering to the shell splashes’, to throw out the enemy’s correction of his next salvo.




After that, it starts all over again, ship by ship, within each of the four phases of a turn – You move-You shoot-They move-They shoot. If you have chosen ‘Player 2-ON’ at the battle launch screen, you get to make his move, too! Incidentally, having tried this once for Bismarck’s last battle, I found that I could steer normally – my rudders weren’t jammed, as in the real fight! Nevertheless, you''ll get plenty of practice in ship handling and gunnery in this mission playing for the Royal Navy, with the odds pretty safely in your favour. Plenty of opportunity also to savour the damage modelling, both in terms of the seeing your shells hit, burn and begin to demolish your target, which you might want to finish off with torpedoes...and in terms of the 'under the hood' bit, where Atlantic Fleet simulates and can display different levels of damage to a big range of components and systems, as well as modelling the effect - hit and damage enemy radars or rangefinders for example, and their accuracy will diminish. All very impressive...especially if it's not one of your ships, that's taking the damage...




Coming next, a flavour of some of the other single battles!

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Going to give this a whirl for sure and thanks for that Stary he always struck me as great modder but bloody awful diplomat!

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Single battles - below the waves...

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Here's the lauch screen for one of the included submarine actions, a night attack by a U-Boat 'wolfpack' on Convoy SC7. U-boat buffs will see that we have two 'ace' boats participating in this attack, Kretschmer's U-99 and Schepke's U-100. You can play as the convoy escorts, or as the attacking U-Boats.


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The next three screenshots show the start of the action from three different viewpoints, before I have begun to move my first submarine - the external, above-water view, showing the periscope wake from my first boat, U-46; the submarine view of the same, which is evidently a Type VII; and the map view, showing the pack slavering to get at the convoy, which is formed up into two columns, with just two escorts, both on one side of the merchantmen (I refuse to use the term 'merchants', that is for people who sell you stuff, not ships).


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I have had very little practice with torpedoes and none with Atlantic Fleet's subs, but it wasn't difficult to fall back on a little of my old Silent Hunter experience, here. I turned my boat right, to lead the ship I intended to attack, and made my move. Below is the periscope view, before I had clicked on the target to select it.


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At the firing turn, I had to cycle past deck gun options to get to torpedoes (one day I will see what happens, if I try to fire the gun submerged!). Following the drill taught in the torpedo attack tutorial mission, I then set up a fan of shots from my four bow tubes, calculated so that at least one fish would hopefully connect with the target, as it moved left to right into their path. From what I can see, you just judge all of this by eye or experience. EDIT - got that wrong - the 'firing solution' display, top right, when torps are selected, gives you an estimated gyro angle. As in real life, you can set up your torpedoes to veer left or right, over a decent angle either side of dead ahead. It's easier to do this from the external view, above the surface. Then, it's 'Torpedos, los!'


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Unless the range is very close - Atlantic Fleet seems to impose a rather high minimum range for torpedoes -  you next do the same for your other three subs - one of which, U-123, is a bigger, Type IX boat:


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You can then watch the enemy ships move and shoot (not the latter in this case as you are undetected, at first) - provided, I think, that you have the option selected to switch views back and forth. Like this:


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I have this option on, and via the 'torpedo cam' and 'enemy ship cam' views, was gratified to see that I was getting some hits...


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I didn't hang around to wait for retaliation - I could already hear the pings of asdic - but dived away from periscope depth, while the crew reloaded my bow tubes.


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I didn't hang around to complete the mission, so I have yet to have the anti-submarine experience, from the sub's viewpoint. But so far, while much simplified compared to a dedicated subsim like the Silent Hunter series and I doubt if I'll be seeing acoustic torpedoes or chemical air bubble decoys, it plays rather well - and looks terrific! I'm looking forward to risking a typical Kretschmer night surface attack, trying to get between the columns of ships and watching the escorts let fly with starshells, hopefully not in my direction!


Coming next - single battles, above the waves!

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Single battles - above the waves

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Atlantic Fleet provides for aero-naval combat in the form of airstrikes, which can come in two flavours - those called in from a ship, and those despatched from an aircraft carrier. I have been on the receiving end of one of the latter, when, attacking HMS Glorious with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, I was harried by flights of Swordfish despatched by the carrier, before I could sink her. Despite taking losses from our flak, the first wave dive-bombed Scharnhorst rather severely, and the second finished her off with torpedoes.


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I believe air-to-air combat can also occur, where opposing aircraft come into contact - for example, a German long range maritime patrol aircraft being intercepted by fighters from an escort carrier.


I decided to try out the mission featuring a Swordfish strike on Bismarck. Here is the launch screen for this single battle. As you can see, this has been set up so that HMS Sheffield will be calling in the strike. In real life, the cruiser was shadowing the German battleship and when Ark Royal's Swordfish first attacked, they went for Sheffield by mistake. She likely escaped loss or serious damage only because several of the torpedoes dropped exploded prematurely. A subsequent attack with different fuses was the one which sealed Bismarck's fate, with Admiral Lutjens signalling Berlin "Ship unmanoeuvrable. We shall fight to the last shell. Long live the Fuehrer!"


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Here's Sheffield. In this action, she starts within range of Bismarck's guns, so you need to begin evasive manouevres right away, while you call in the Swordfish!


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When airstrikes are available to your side, they operate is if they are an additional weapon for your current ship. Cycling through weapon types while in the 'You shoot' phase of a turn brings up the airstrike option, and at the same time, the red 'FIRE' button turns blue and its label changes to 'LAUNCH'. Which 'does exactly what it says on the tin' as the saying goes. Simplified yes, but rather clever and very nicely presented, most definitely! So, select the target, and you get this:


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Using the similar bottom-left-hand scales and mouse dragging that you use to direct gunfire, you swing and drag the blue air attack marker which now appears, placing it on your target, rotating it to set up the attack direction, and moving it laterally on the sea surface to set the path of the aircraft. In the pic above, I forgot to allow for target movement - I should have dragged the marker ahead of Bismarck, sufficiently far to allow for her movement, and possibly evasive action. The attacks are semi-automated, after that - planes will follow a suitable attack profile which you can't change, but you do need to remember to drop the weapon or weapons, when you judge the moment is right.


Each airstrike is like a salvo of shells, but arriving in succession - four to a wave usually, it seems. My first Swordfish got shot down, during attack number one. Second time around, the plane got through, although I nearly forgot to drop the torpedo. And when I did, I suddenly realised that I had not allowed for target movement, resulting in a miss astern.


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If I recall right, you can adjust the target maker for each attacking run, and when I did that, to aim ahead of my target, things went rather better. The centre screenshot is the view just after dropping the torpedo, which is just below the aircraft. The last pic shows the satisfactory result, though I'll likely either need a lot of hits like that, or some better-aimed ones, targetting her propulsion or steering.


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The aircraft 3-d models are a little low-polygon, but quite realistic and nicely textured. As with the submarine action, and indeed the more sophisticated surface combat, this aero-naval element plays like simulation at the level of a tactical wargame, rather than at the level of individual weapon systems, but that is per design. The net result is this - here, we have, for a remarkably low price, a highly accessible, more than adequately realistic, visually impressive, ship-filled, historically well-founded and hugely engaging product, in the air, on the sea, and below it.


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Atlantic Fleet is, in short, this WW2 naval gamer's dream come true. And I make no apoligies for spending so much time on the single battles, for they are (a) what I enjoy most (b) at the heart of Atlantic Fleet's gameplay, and © a wonderful advertisement for the game. But be patient, grasshopper, we've got one more section to go, before we take Atlantic Fleet on campaign!


Coming next - a quick look at some of Atlantic Fleet's other single battles!

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This is the game I've been looking forward to for years. Got it two days ago and it IS addictive for sure.

All of the above is true. Great action above and below surface. U-Boat play is great once you get the right "switchology" sequence down. German glide bombs are ship killers!


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Looks pretty interesting - and thanks for continued great reviews of new simulations and their add-ons, 33Lima!  Here's a couple questions - using the "Hard Difficulty" selection, do a lot of the fancy graphics (e.g., the red "engagement line" for surface fire or the blue torpedo airstrike guide) remain available to the player?  From a cousin across the pond, are there any (U.S.N.) DD's or DE's in the mix of the simulation's available warships?   

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Yes guys, it's quite a package. Silberpfeil, I'm pretty sure the red line and blue airstrike marker are fixed, and not affected by the difficulty setting. I believe these markers are essential to be able to direct fire and airstrikes, although they may be mod-able eg replaceble with transluscent or slimmer graphics. It's worth pointing out that as the screenies show, the markers only appear while you are using them for their assigned purpose during the 'Fire' part of the 4-part turn sequence - they disappear, the rest of the time, so your view of the action is not spoilt by these 'gamey' on-screen markers.


As for USN ships, I have seen some merchantmen flying the Stars and Stripes, but the only US-flagged warships I have seen are these:


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It would have been good to see at least a 4-stack flush-decked US destroyer (and maybe a DE as well) but I don't think she's there.


Assiming the PC version of Atlantic Fleet is as successful as it deserves to be, FWIW I reckon that similar treatment for Pacific Fleet would be a sensible next move, though there is talk of a world-wide version being a future project.

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Custom battles

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Before moving on to what you can do with the 'Custom Battles' option, I'll give you a quick flavour of a few others amongst the thirty historical sea fights that come with Atlantic Fleet.


There’s the Battle of the Barents Sea, with two German forces, in darkness and snow showers, trying to catch an Arctic convoy, while British cruisers attempt a rescue. As seen in the screenshot above, this mission shows off some nice weather effects, and the ability to improve your shooting in low light by firing starshells. Having six ships on the German side is a bit of a handful to manage. Each time you move to a new ship, it helps to call up the map to get your bearings all over again, especially as the six German destroyers are in two groups, on opposite sides of the convoy.


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A minor visual quibble is that Lutzow is represented by the 3-d model of Graf Spee, but the former had a quite, different, boxier bridge (the other ‘pocket battleship’, Admiral Scheer, started off looking like Graf Spee but was rebuilt with a much slimmer, Lutzow-like conning tower during the war). This is one of those classes where variations in the 3-d model would be good to see!

Cornwall –versus- Pinguin is a bit one-sided, but as the battle starts with the disguised raider close on your beam, having evidently fooled you into thinking he’s a harmless merchant vessel, you may well take some hits! The sun is low and the lighting effects on the new sea visuals added for the PC port are much in evidence.

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Ships sink moderately slowly in Atlantic Fleet and this can be a good mission to enjoy the sights and sounds of a vessel heading for Davey Jones’s locker!


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The Battle of the River Plate is a really classic naval battle, good to play from either standpoint, as the Graf Spee or as Exeter, Ajax and Achilles. Can Captain Langsdorff nail his pesky, lighter foes before their combined fires do him serious damage? Or can Commodore Harwood sink the pocket battleship before it can make good an escape, without losing any of his own cruisers? The Graf Spee was one of the classic warship designs from the period, and it’s great to the opportunity to fight virtual battles in such an excellent replica. Ajax and Achilles are really nicely represented too, reminding me of the Airfix model (I had a FROG Exeter, too!)

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Before leaving the Single Battles in our wake, we need to say something more about the included Custom Battle option. Here, you can set up a fight between up to ten ships or subs on either side. Here’s the set-up screen:

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Click the 'Add ship' button for each side in turn, takes you to a ship viewer screen, where you can tab through the vessels available for each side. Here are some that we have I think not seen before in this review:


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Due to the ability to adopt different tactics, I reckon the included thirty set-piece, historical battles provide Atlantic Fleet with more than enough re-playability, so for me, the Custom Battle option is really icing on that cake. You can fight a real battle with different ships or subs, or create one of your own, perhaps with ship types only otherwise seen on campaign. This option is also a great ship viewer, for in choosing ships, you get to view them, as seen below. Note that you can choose any ship in the modelled class. Killerfish tell us there are 60 distinct classes included, representing about 630 individual ships and around 350 individual submarines! It would be good to see the odd physical difference thrown in here, perhaps just a different camouflage pattern for each ship (or like in Fighting Steel, the ability to choose your camouflage pattern, even if that game’s options usually weren’t historically accurate). Still, even if the names are just...well, names, the variety is most impressive, adding depth to the game’s breadth....or is it breadth to the game's depth :)


To digress slightly, as with the single battles, ending a custome fight prematurely rather strangely forces you to do this by selecting the option to scuttle your ships. I think this happens if you end an unresolved mission while still in contact with the enemy. There is a 'Disengage' alternative, but you must have broken contact, before this is available. After ending a mission, you get a results screen, like this one:


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Back to the choice of ships available, this is Atlantic Fleet, so while it might be nice to have had a Strasbourg or a Conte di Cavour, good coverage of historical British and German navies is what we really need here – and that is exactly what we get. ‘What if’s’ like the uncompleted German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin I can also well live without. We do get a USN North Carolina class battleship, which is useful and appropriate, since the USS Washington served initially in the Atlantic, to reinforce the Home Fleet after the USA joined the war. The good selection of merchant vessels (and for the German side, disguised raiders) is also most welcome. Subs and carriers are less varied, but enough to ‘fly the flag’. For the German side, we have Type VII and Type IX U-boats while the British have an escort carrier, a light carrier and a fleet carrier. For aircraft, we have the Ju 87, Focke-Wulf Condor and Do 217 for the Germans, and the Sunderland and Liberator patrol bombers (RAF and US variants), Avenger, Swordfish and Barracuda torpedo bombers, and Seafire and Wildcat fighters, for the Allies. Atlantic Fleet’s order of battle is well balanced and ideal for its scope – most comprehensive, leaving room only for a few ‘nice-to-haves’, like a 4-stack US destroyer or variant 3-d models for ‘half-sisters’.

So, we have now seen how Atlantic Fleet handles its core business – simulating WW2 naval combat. At this, it does a great job. The super ship models for me are the stars, really bringing the battles to life.

The environmental visuals are very good indeed. Sounds and visual effects are good – I’d have preferred bigger, brighter gun-flashes with blast effects on the water and certainly, bigger smoke clouds from firing would have been more realistic. Firing and hit sounds could perhaps have been a tad more dramatic. But they do the job – audio highlights are the sounds of ships sinking and of incoming rounds. Shell splashes – a very important thing for a WW2 naval sim to do well – are very good, as are explosions – realistic, not ‘fuel-filled Hollywood’ style. Smoke from smokescreens and fires is also well done.  Bow and stern waves, I would like a little more pronounced, at higher speeds.

I would have preferred continuous gameplay, to the rather anachronistic turn-based approach, but that said, playing, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did, watching gameplay videos. In fact the turns system actually works quite well, in terms of helping the player manage the gameplay - in effect, providing a fixed ‘pause while you have a think’ option.

There are several things it would be nice to have, like a functional stereoscopic or co-incidence rangefinder view and more importantly, the ability to designate targets, for an AI Gunnery Officer to do the rest. Apart from anything else, that would make handling multiple ships much easier – now, with more than a couple of ships, the micro-management can become more tedious than fun (with just the limited ‘fleet move;’ option to fall back upon, at the expense of sacrificing a firing turn phase). It would also be good, within reason, to allow the use of different weapons in the same firing turn – for example in the famous film of Bismarck taken from Prinz Eugen during the Battle of the Denmark Straits, the former is clearly engaging Prince of Wales with her primary and secondary batteries, with salvoes from each sometimes in rapid succession.

It’s said rather prosaically of football (soccer, to our US friends) ‘It’s a game of two halves’. It’s much the same for Atlantic Fleet, whose CombatAce review has now reached the half-time break. In the first half, we saw the basic features and the single battle capabilities, which I hope you have gathered I found pretty hugely impressive. In the second half, we’ll look at the campaign side – and there are two distinct variations on offer, when some sims don’t have one (or one good one). Truly, Atlantic Fleet  seems about as wide as the ocean it’s named for. But we’ll come back with that, after the break. So put on the kettle, break out the biccies (or tinnies, if in Oz) and I’ll see you shortly. I just need to pull myself away from playing those addictive single battles and settle down to trying to win a war!


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Coming in Part 2 - the campaigns and the verdict!

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Atlantic Fleet version 1.01 is now available as a beta. To test the beta, right-click on Atlantic Fleet in the Steam client and select Properties. From the Properties window, click the Betas tab.

- all sliders can now be used via key commands
- keys for 0.1 degree elevation change
- full keyboard support for tactical map
- ship telegraph now responds to each setting individually
- ship speed can also be set by keys 1-6
- mouse wheel zoom for tactical map and binoculars
- hide combat interface toggle for screenshots, F9 Key
- submarine depth now displayed
- keys for selecting carrier wings and load out

- fixed a bug that *might* involve AI movement hanging the turn
- holding mouse button on a slider when firing no longer hangs the turn
- improved graphics/shader compatibility
- distant smoke no longer blocks closer ships
- player hedgehogs no longer cause sonar disruption
- added missing AA guns to Courageous class
- improved pilot graphics on some aircraft
- decreased shell graphic size
- music in combat set to on by default


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Good news and thanks Stary. Steam is prompting for a beta acess code, though.

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no need, just check the AF's properties ->beta ->participation box and it shall immediately download the updated version, worked for me without any issues :ok:


wording might differ a bit in english Steam client as mine is in polish

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Thanks Stary, that seems to have worked!

The campaigns...and the verdict!



I’m not going to delve into Atlantic Fleet’s two campaign systems in the same detail as the historical and custom battles. In part that’s because in describing the latter, I’ve described a lot of what you also get, when on campaign. But also it’s because I’ve a limited interest in naval campaigns. I think campaigns the very heart of tanksims or air combat sims, as they provide an immersive context for the short missions involved. But my idea of a campaign for a warship or sea-battle simulator (and AF is mainly in the latter category) is not a campaign, but a patrol or cruise, or a series of these, for the same ship or sub – a career might be a better term.  It’s the sort of thing you get in Silent Hunter, your sub or ship setting out on a long-ish trip with a particular, nefarious aim in mind, typically the destruction or protection of enemy shipping, merchant or otherwise. Like Fighting Steel or more recently Victory at Sea, what we get instead with Atlantic Fleet is a campaign, with the player cast in the role as commander of his side’s forces in a given theatre or zone– and for Atlantic Fleet, the campaign we get is, of course, the Battle of the Atlantic. I should say ‘campaigns’, because there are in fact two distinct campaigns, which we will come to in a moment.

What I am going to do is offer an illustrated description of what you get, much or more of which you could also likely glean from the Atlantic Fleet manual. Single battles are my thing with a WW2 naval sim so I’ve so far spent no appreciable little time with either of Atlantic Fleet campaigns. But I am impressed that we get two different campaign systems, not just one, each playable as either Royal Navy or Kriegsmarine. You get more content with this game, from a small ‘indie’ dev team, than we’re sadly but often accustomed to getting, from many a more expensive product from a bigger games developer. And this is combined with production values and gameplay to match or beat the best of them. I feel perhaps that in the current climate ('Super Tuesday' being not far back) I should be waving a big card annotated ‘Killerfish for President!’, but I’ll settle for buying their game and telling you how good it is.

Ok, back on topic - the campaigns. One of these is a set of 50 missions or battles. The other one is a dynamic campaign. Both are set, as you should expect, in the Atlantic. Both allow the player to take either side. The 50-battle campaign casts the player in the role of an Admiral in charge of a Task Force. The battles are generated in different zones in the Atlantic and you win 'renown points' by sinking enemy ships. You win the campaign, by gaining at least a given level of these points, in the last mission. On the way there, you use the points you win to 'buy' new ships, to make up losses or add to your force. The battles increase in difficulty, as you go. Basically, my impression is that it's a sort of semi-random mission generator that tracks results.


The campaign starts with a list of battles like the single battles screen, except that details are hidden, apart from where the battle will be.




Launch the battle and you are given an enemy - this time, a lone merchantman, such as could proceed independently from a convoy, if they were fast enough. The war has just started and I have but a little 'renown' - which I need, to choose the ship or ships I will take into this battle. So I can forget about starting with 'Scharnhorst'! Instead, I select a single type VII U-Boat, which should be enough for this single enemy - I believe merchantmen are unarmed in Atlantic Fleet.




After that, I launch the battle and it's all familiar stuff, from the training missions and the single battles I have already played. This is very early in the war, before planes closed the 'mid-Atlantic gap' and harried surfaced U-Boats to destruction everywhere, so with the enemy heading away at a speed I can't match running underwater, I surface and begin shelling my quarry with the deck gun.




Anyway, that's enought to provide a flavour of the first type of campaign, which looks sufficiently interesting to tempt me away from playing purely single battles, much thought I love 'em. As for the alternative dynamic 'Battle of the Atlantic' campaign, this  cleverly simulates the 'tonnage war' of the real conflict - the battle of the convoys. Playing as Royal Navy, your aim is to make sure as much shipping as possible gets through to the UK. For the Kriegsmarine, your aim, again as it was in real life, is to stop as much as you can, from getting through. Sinking enemy warships (including subs) gets you some of those 'renown points' which you can use as before, to acquire more resources. The RN wins the Battle of the Atlantic' campaign if they destroy enough of the German warships or achieve a high enough level of success over a period, in preventing the Kreigsmarine from sinking Allied shipping. If, conversely, the Germans sink enough of their shipping, the British may sue for peace! A draw will eventually result in an Allied win, as enough supplies are adjudged to have got through, to launch the invasion of Normandy. I am most impressed with the (for want of a better word) historicity of this campaign, which nicely captures the real strategic position, and so creates the feeeling that you are being drawn back in time.


i'm going to need to spend a bit of time to get the hang of the dynamic campaign, as the interface is quite different, but what I have seen, looks most impressive. Below are some screens from September 1939, as the week-by-week campaign plays through from the German side. Again, this looks all very polished, most tempting even to this dyed-in-the-wool player of single naval battles.






Air power can feature in both types of campaign. You can re-start a played campaign from scratch when finished, though this over-writes your saved one - so it seems that you can have one of each type, for each side, on the go at one time, for a total of four. There's no named profiles for your game alter ego, so no campaign for each - not that it's needed.



The Verdict

I try in text and pictures to make my reviews primarily descriptive, so you can see and read enough about the game to form your own opinion as to whether you’ll like it or not. However, if I see something I like I’ll say so, and if you have read this far, you can’t have failed to notice how impressed I have been with Atlantic Fleet.




It’s not all plain sailing. I would have really liked the ability to designate targets, for the AI to do the shooting. Yes the gunnery is fun, indeed it’s presently the beating heart of the game. But it would be good to let you just role-play the captain or admiral when you wanted, and concentrate on choreographing the battle; or just spend more time watching, photographing or filming it. And when you are ‘gunning’, your firing solution often gives up because of smoke from a ship, even if it’s not yet obscuring your intended target. And I do believe that continuous but pause-able combat would be preferable to the discontinuous turn-based approach, which, though common in computer wargames, means the game mechanics are simulating a wargame, rather than war. The planes are decent but a bit low-polygon and in an ideal world we’d have a 4-stack, flush-decked US destroyer, a 'DE', another class or two of British cruisers, 3-d models which captured major differences between sister ships, and camouflage variations over time.

But these are not significant shortcomings, of what we’ve got now. Rather, they are things that could make Atlantic Fleet even better than it is. Which is really, REALLY good. So let’s get down to my verdict. You’ll make up your own mind, naturally, but we will finish up here with what’s in mine....after another nice screenshot, that is.


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You've seen most of this already if you have indeed read this far, but to sum up...


...things I really like about Atlantic Fleet include:


- the truly excellent coverage of the forces involved, complete with the ability to select individual, named/numbered ships or subs, everything from HMS Hood to U-47, plus a decent set of aircraft;


- the resulting convincing level of simulation you get, of action above, on and below the waves, master not of all trades no doubt but a very, very good jack of all of them;


- the rather exquisite quality of the ship models, both as regards 3-d models and their textures, with very few reservations;


- the beautiful water and other environmental and visual effects;


- the relative ease with which you can pick up on the different elements of the game mechanics (if not excell at all of it, without practice!)


- related to that, the highly accessible, interesting and challenging implementation of the elements of the naval gunnery function that they've covered, with clever provision of a complimentary suite of useful tools;


- the really excellent set of historical sea-fights included;


- the very well-done and really useful training missions;


- the custom battle generator;


- the well-executed mission and world maps;


- very well executed camera controls and view system;


- clever, effective but unobtrusive implementation of on-screen aids and controls;


- the very high production values, visible in the clean, effective design of screens and menus and in the super menu background artwork;


- the inclusion of two highly-featured campaigns, each playable from either side;


- the very low price;


- the good manual;


- the developer's continued commitment to the product;


- the excellent musical score;


- last but not least, the overall effect achieved by the bringing together of so very many well-executed elements, such that the Atlantic Fleet whole is indeed greater than the sum of its many and nicely-crafted parts.



Things I think could be better are:


- the facility to designate targets for an AI Gunnery Officer would relieve workload when handling bigger divisions and enable a player to better role-play ship/division commander;


- continuous rather than turn-based gameplay would be an improvement;


- smoke from a ship often seems to prevent a 'firing solution' being obtained, even if the ship is still clearly in line of sight;


- I think it would be more realistic to be able to engage with primary and secondary guns in the same firing turn;


- the ability to save custom battles would be good;


- significant variations between sister ships visible in the 3-d models would be good, as would variations, over time, in camouflage finishes;


- a USN flush-decked, four-stack destroyer; a Destroyer Escort of some class; and a few more classes of British cruisers, would nicely top out the really great set of ships we have now;


- I would like to see brighter, more 'violent-looking' gunflashes and bigger smoke from them - watch the Prinz Eugen film of Bismarck and you will see what I mean.


The excessive smoke screening effect may have been fixed in the current beta (and I'm glad it's also tackling some of the rather poor open cockpit pilot figures, not that they are a significant issue).



All in all, on this scale...


5 - Must Buy - Delivers a consistently outstanding experience with minimal flaws that do not detract from the gameplay in any significant way.  

4 - Highly Recommended - Delivers a fun and enjoyable experience well worth your time and money, despite some room for improvement.

3 - Recommended - Delivers a solid gameplay experience with a few irritations that occasionally disrupt enjoyment.
2 - Difficult to Recommend - Delivers some of the promised fun, but not without significant problems in the gameplay experience.

1- Not Recommended - Delivers a sub-par gameplay experience; doesn't fulfill its promises; offers more bugs than fun.

...this reviewer's final score can only be a most richly-deserved: 5 - Must buy.


This is one of those rare, genre-defining games that re-sets the standard for games development everywhere, a standard that the biggest and brightest of game studios could justly be proud of. From a small, independent developer it's a real tour de force and in my reckoning, everyone involved in Atlantic Fleet can stand up and take a very well-earned bow (followed by a decent shot of grog, should they so desire). Talent and the intelligent application thereof just shine through every screen and at every turn of Atlantic Fleet. This a must-have. Even if you absolutely loathe WW2 naval combat, or the mere sight of simulated shipping or water makes you sea-sick, the object lesson you will get from Atlantic Fleet in How To Deliver Gaming Excellence is alone worth the modest price of admission.


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Very well done, Killerfish! More of this, please! An update of Pacific Fleet to this standard, ported to PC, would be a great next step, and some DLC for Atlantic Fleet would also be very buy-able. Go, Killerfish, go! Thanks for a great game!

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PS another possible follow-on would be Mediterranean Fleet. The Atlantic Fleet map already covers the area.  Mediterranean Fleet could add French and Italian ships and for the RN, Ark Royal, a less-reconstructed Queen Elizabeth class model for Barham, and a couple of additional cruiser classes. There's plenty of scope for some great and really varied day and night historical single battles, like Mers-el-Kebir, Taranto, Matapan, Spartivento and Pedestal/the Malta convoys. A great campaign based on the tonnage war concept could be built around the RN and RAF trying to cut the German/Italian supply lines to North Africa, while the Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, Regia Aeronautica and Regia Marina try to do the same, to the supply lines to Malta. Some of WW2's most intense and memorable aero-naval battles were fought in a comparatively small theatre and this would be a great subject for an Atlantic Fleet follow-on. 

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In Custom Battle set up I recommend ability to  adjust initial range separation between forces. Existing 20% greater option does not help that much.

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Here's a little more info on the 'Battle of the Atlantic' campaign - the dynamic option. I had started one with the Kriegsmarine, which begins at the start of World War 2, which for Britain began on 3 September 1939. The campaign starts with several Germans units at sea, in various parts of the Atlantic, pre-deployed as they were in anticipation of hostilities. By clicking on each of the icons at bottom centre of the map screen, as seen below, you can call up in turn a display of the names of the sea areas ('Abc'), convoy sightings or lanes, a weather report, or the composition of any of your deployed units (the white ship and sub icons in the map). The blue circles on the map are 'zones', where I think contacts could occur.


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At first, I thought this was a purely map-based strategic campaign - it seems to advance sometimes without a battle occuring that you participate in, although enemy tonnage is reported lost as the days advance. However, a few days in, a battle did indeed come my way, as the 'pocket battleship' (really a heavy cruiser optimised for commerce raiding) Lutzow encountered a convoy in mid-Atlantic, with but a single destroyer - the big 'Tribal' class HMS Afridi - for escort!


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The AI in Atlantic Fleet I find rather convincing. The destrover first made smoke to cover the retreat of the convoy, which turned away. The valiant Afridi then turned towards us in a series of wide zig-zags, firing and gradually closing the range. This is classic WW2 destroyer stuff, taking the fight to a bigger foe, knowing he will be wary of the deadly fans of torpedoes the little warship can unleash. It was good to be able to use the newly-added ability to turn off the on-screen aids completely, the better to see the action, here at maximum zoom in the Gunnery Officer's view:


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Afridi wasn't an easy target and she managed to land a couple of hits, despite Lutzow taking avoiding action and not letting her get too close. But the end was inevitable...


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After that, the way was clear...apart from Armed Merchant Cruisers, merchantmen in Atlantic Fleet are unarmed, so it was now a case of running down the convoy and snapping up the helpless ships at my leisure, however distasteful the job would be.


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This is where it got interesting. I fired off a few ranging rounds at the left-hand ship, then simply sped after them, saving my ammunition until the range had wound down. I was very surprised to see my target turn hard to port and leave the convoy, while the others maintained formation. Now, that's what I call human-like AI! Much more convincing than entirely herd-like behaviour - somebody had decided that safety didn't lie in mumbers, but in making a run for it! Little good his initiative did him, sadly...


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After that, it really was more like shooting rats in the proverbial barrel, nothing more than some useful gunnery practice. The results were entirely satisfactory, but for anyone with a sense of what this is simulating, it was also sobering, and yes, somewhat distateful, even in a game. If I could have turned around and put out some boats to pick up virtual survivors, it would have made me feel a little less like a murderer.


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That was that. Convoy and escort wiped out. From a coldly military perspective, a fair few tons of supplies would not now be reaching Mr Churchill in his beleaguered island. If that brought a quicker end to all this nastiness, the loss of the lives of all those brave sailors, enemies or no, might not be in vain.


It's not difficult to get caught up in the spirit of those dark days, playing Atlantic Fleet!


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I did encounter two problems here, though. I could not work out how to quit and save the campaign - perhaps because I moved on a screen too far, and ended up with another generated battle, whose launch screen didn't seem to have any exit, other than to play the battle. This was an encounter between Admiral Scheer (sister ship of Lutzow and Admiral Graf Spee) and another British destroyer. Towards the end of this one-sided fight in poor weather, my screen suddenly went black as my video driver crashed. Not sure what the problem was.


Anyhow, the dynamic campaign looks really rather good, possibly even more so than the other, 'battle generator' campaign. I'm just amazed that Atlantic Fleet, for a very modest price, packs not just a great range of historical sea battles, and a custom mission generator, but two different, well-executed campaign systems. With the great range of ships, excellent visuals and the absorbing gameplay to experience all of this, I doubt we'll see a better example of the game developer's art this year. And to be any better value, they'd need to be paying you to play it. Atlantic Fleet is to 'serious' PC games what the 'pocket battleship' was to 1930s warship design, packing one hell of a punch into a long-legged, well-specified but compact platform - in short, revolutionary!


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Going back to your Mediterranean Fleet post and the tonnage war concept, 33Lima, also recall that Allied convoys to Algiers and Bizerte were attacked by Luftwaffe torpedo bombers.  Along with the standard Silent Hunter-type submarine simulation experience and routinely menacing these North Africa supply convoys by underwater attack, these occasional air attacks might provide an interesting twist for such a follow-on!     

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Yes I definitely think a Mediterranean version could have a great deal to offer and be very attractive to many of us. It was an important theatre, not least those who served, including the Italian seamen who ran terrific risks keeping the front in Noth Africa supplied, or trying to, an effort largely unsung, though remembered in the memorial in the harbour at Naples:



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