Old Gamers Never Die: To Play or Not to Play a ‘Cold Waters’ Campaign…That is the Question

The main menu for Cold Waters. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Hi there, Dear Reader. It is late afternoon in Lithia, Florida, on Sunday, June 26, 2022. It is a sizzling – and not in a good way – hot summer day here in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, the temperature is 88°F (31°C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 67% and the wind blowing from the east-northeast at 17 MPH (27 KM/H), the heat index is 96°F (36°C). Today’s forecast calls for thunderstorms to pass through the area (spoiler alert: it has not happened yet) and the high will be 92°F (33°C). Tonight, scattered rain showers are expected to affect Hillsborough County. The low will be 74°F (23°C).

Ka-BOOM! A Soviet Dubna-class oiler explodes in a night battle on the South China Sea. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Today I thought about replaying one of the two campaigns in Cold Waters that I know I can play through: North Atlantic 1984 and South China Sea 2000. It’s been a while since I completed both, and even though my favorite – because it’s the only one I own, anyway – nuclear submarine simulation features a third campaign (North Atlantic 1968), I don’t think I’ll attempt that one[1]. Thus, I’ll stick to the campaigns I know I can play.   

If you have not read any of my posts about Cold Waters, and specifically the ones I wrote on the topic of playing North Atlantic 1984 and South China Sea 2000, campaigns are the equivalent of a “war career” in Silent Service II; you command a fast attack sub throughout an entire war in an alternate history where the U.S. went to war against the Soviet Union (North Atlantic 1984) or a Chinese-Soviet “alliance” in South China Sea 2000. You start the war at one of your bases (Holy Loch, Scotland in the North Atlantic scenario, or Guam in the Western Pacific/South China Sea one) and carry out mission assignments from your superiors higher up in the chain of command until you either help win the war, lose your boat too close to enemy territory and get captured, or are KIA during an engagement with the enemy.

Red Storm Rising, the 1988 sub-sim that Cold Waters is a spiritual successor to, also had a Campaign, although it was fixed to the Norwegian Sea and other areas depicted in the chapters devoted to USS Chicago (SSN-721) in Tom Clancy’s eponymous 1986 novel. As in Cold Waters, the Red Storm Rising campaign sent you and your boat – you could choose from several different classes of U.S. subs – on a series of missions that you had to complete to keep open the Atlantic lines of communication between the U.S. and Western Europe and prevent the Warsaw Pact from defeating NATO on the continent.

The main menu in Red Storm Rising. Note that the Campaign is highlighted. (C) 1988 MicroProse Software and Jack Ryan Enterprises, Ltd.

What I like about Cold Waters’ campaigns is that they, like MicroProse’s Red Storm Rising, show how your successes or failures affect the course of the war. If you carry out your assignments well enough, the game then shows you a news story based on the effect your victories have on the enemy’s war effort. If you end up going after the wrong enemy surface ship or submarine group – the situation map does not give labels to the enemy icons, and usually, there are several enemy task groups active at the same time – and fail to find the right one in time. The news stories (and the messages from your superiors) will let you know you screwed the pooch.

Red Storm Rising’s Strategic Transit Map. (C) 1988 MicroProse Software and Jack Ryan Enterprises, Ltd.
Part of the backstory to the South China Sea 2000 campaign
The Strategic Transit Map for South China Sea 2000 (C) 2017 Killerfish Games
And here’s the North Atlantic 1984 map. Note the resemblance to the Red Storm Rising Strategic Transit Map I showed you earlier in this post . (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

If you’re at all interested in gaming – particularly if the games are challenging or let you feel what it’s like to command a submarine without joining the naval service – Cold Waters is a game that I’d recommend. And since Campaigns are the only way to get any type of award or commendation, you owe it to yourself to try and play through at least one of them.

Anyway, as I said, I considered playing a campaign today, but it’s so hot outside that even though the air conditioner’s thermostat is set at 74°F (23°C), the heat is seeping through the walls and my room is uncomfortably hot. Not so steaming that I’m sweating buckets, but warm enough to be distracting. Cold Waters is not a sub sim that is so complicated that you need to be in the real Navy to play it, but it does require a modicum of concentration and situational awareness. I can’t focus on anything well when I’m not comfortable, so if I do start a campaign, it will be tonight or next weekend.

If I do play Cold Waters at all today, it’ll probably be a Single Mission, even though the game – to avoid accusations of copying Red Storm Rising in every aspect except the dodgy 1980s graphics – does not give players medals or commendations.

It is a cool game, though, and if you like video games with an interesting premise based on some of the coolest naval vessels ever deployed, I wholeheartedly recommend Cold Waters.


[1] In 1968, the Navy was developing the Mk-48 wire-guided torpedo and the Harpoon anti-ship missile, both of which entered service circa 1972. Naturally, even though North Atlantic 1968 is a fictional scenario of a Third World War that occurs after the Warsaw Pact’s real-life invasion of Czechoslovakia, the tech depicted therein is historically accurate, so the U.S. and Soviet hardware in the scenario is limited to what both nations had at the time. I’m a decent enough Cold Waters player, but I don’t fare too well when using unguided torpedoes against Soviet warships.  

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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