The RMS Titanic, the largest passenger steamship in the world set off on her maiden voyage to New York from Southampton on 10th April 1912. As we all know, four days into the crossing she received the unwanted attentions of an iceberg and went down, resulting in the loss of over 1,500 souls.
Dive to the Titanic from Excalibur Publishing is a simulator that allows to you view the ill fated Queen of the Sea, as she rests in her four thousand meter grave. You play as the pilot of a mini-sub, a kind of marine archaeologist, or water-based grave robber, depending on your point of view. You are tasked to complete five dives on the Titanic, each being an individual mission of the game. Each mission requires you to either take photos of various parts of the ship, or retrieve a variety of items from inside the rusting hulk.
The game starts with a cut scene of your sub, stuck to the hull of the Titanic by a piece of the guard rail. A panicked voice tells you that your air is running low and you have minimal battery power left. Very tense. Then you start the actual game, five days earlier and piloting your equally, seemingly doomed mini-sub.
Looking out of the view screen of the mini-sub shows the bottom of the ocean, 3,800 meters below sea level. Lumps of detritus dance and flow at the mercy of the underwater currents as your external lights illuminate a mere ten feet in front of you. Then slowly, from out of the gloom appears a monstrous bulk, a rusted behemoth from a time long since passed. The oppressive sense of claustrophobia surrounds you from all sides, as the thought of the immense pressures outside the flimsy skin of your mini-sub begin to sink in. There is a queer sense of monastic tranquillity about the Titanic’s final resting place as you glide effortlessly over the hull. Unfortunately, the game takes a pun-related dive to oblivion from this point onwards.
The first mission has you getting used to the controls and navigation of the mini-sub. Once acquainted with the nuances of piloting, you have to drop some makers at various points, by following a way-point system which places a square on the screen together with the distance left to travel. You also have the help of your surface ‘buddy’, a pleasant chap who sits on-board the support ship and tells you, via a comm link, where to go, informs you of any mission updates and has the annoying tendency to tell you get a move on or to watch out for obstacles. After the first mission, you are ready to strangle the surface support and send him to a watery grave.
The next few missions have you piloting not only your mini-sub, but also a mini camera unit. Small enough to squeeze itself into the broken innards of the Titanic, this delicate camera sub is capable of taking only six hi-res images, all of which can be sold on an online auction, providing they are any good, of course. Piloting the camera sub is easy enough, easier than the mini-sub, but be careful not to wander too far from the mini-sub as the camera unit only has a certain range. The further you travel away from the mini-sub, the camera screen turns black and white, then finally dies and you lose a very piece of equipment, much to the annoyance of the support crew. Exploring the interior of the Titanic is good fun at first, however, it’s not long before the same old broken pots, deteriorated dressers and cabin doors begin to bore you. This, coupled with the continual voice over from your support buddy as he directs you with unhelpful comments such as, ‘down a bit, you have to go left, a bit further…’ and you’ll soon be throwing Dive to the Titanic off a bridge and confining it to the briny deep.
After each mission, you re-surface and are painfully made to watch the online auction. Four coloured pegs represent the ‘buyers’ for your images as they up the bidding over a period of about ten seconds. You have nothing to do at this point, so sit back and watch the mind numbing monotony of the process. The money you accumulate is then banked and you are taken to a ‘shop’. From here you can purchase upgrades for your mini-sub and camera unit, be they better battery life, more air, better range from mini-sub to camera unit or ‘The Claw’.
The Claw is vital for the remaining missions, and as you begin dive two you have a brief tutorial on how to use it. The Claw, as you can most likely guess, is there to grab anything useful and profitable. Grabbing a plate, a watch, a jug is very easy and, graphically, awful. The clipping is dreadful, as the Claw can disappear through the hull of the ship and retrieve a plate, and you occasionally have to angle and pilot your camera unit to some ridiculous position just to get the Claw lined up correctly with the object. All of this has to be done within the air and battery time frame, including locating the item and remembering where the heck you parked the mini-sub.
The other items available from the shop are pretty useless and don’t really do anything wonderful to the mini-sub or camera unit. The game becomes more of a frantic ‘where the devil am I going?’ as opposed to a decent simulation, as the support voice can either lead you in the wrong direction, or issues you with a vague, ‘the watch is somewhere on Deck C’. The graphics are good, from a distance, when you come up close, as with the Claw, they begin to fall apart and, as I said previously, the same old interior décor over and over again makes you want to quit and play something else.
To be fair, the first few minutes of playing Dive to the Titanic are very good. It looks nice and it ‘feels’ easy enough to control. The atmosphere is particularly good and the information your support guy feeds to you is quite interesting. But once you start the missions proper you are left feeling bored, annoyed and spend the time you have below visiting points of the ship from the film. If locking yourself in a pressurised Coke can and dropping into the crushing abyss really interests you, or you have a morbid fascination with the fate of the Titanic, then Dive to the Titanic will most likely keep you entertained for a few hours. However, don’t expect to hover majestically over the pointy end of the ship (is that the bow?) in true Kate or Leonardo fashion, or to travel its opulent interior accompanied by the ceaseless warblings of Celine in the background. You’re better off watching the film again whilst trying to find the soap in the bath-tub.
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