Naval Assault: The Killing Tides is a military sim that focuses solely on World War II era submarines, stealth missions, and sea-based combat. Although it has a lengthy campaign to play through, it ultimately sinks due to its sluggish controls, boring gameplay, and last-gen presentation.
I would never expect a submarine to feel like a crotch rocket, but playing Naval Assault is painfully slow and boring. Controlling your vessel is awkward thanks to a terrible button layout and confusing camera-lock system. Everything feels as slow and frustrating as you would expect underwater, regardless of which submarine you choose from. While you actually have some influence on the direction of the torpedoes that you fire in combat situations, trying to take down an escaping ship is a miserable experience. Slowly zig-zagging through underwater mine fields is also difficult due to poor collision detection and sluggish camera movement.
There are only three different depths to worry about, so you never need to be too concerned about where you’re at – still, there is only so much success to be had with any aggressive tactics throughout the game. You can surface your ship and take control of machine guns to swat down pesky planes and smaller ships, but this usually results in every nearby opponent swarming on your location to put an end to you within moments.
Since most missions require stealthy tactics to pass beneath your foes completely undetected, much of the time that isn’t spent being killed is instead devoted to inching forward in murky water for long periods of time. Sometimes you even have to stop completely so you can avoid the enemy’s sonar. Unfortunately, the lack of detail often forces you to rely solely on your compass and sonar gear for any rough indication of where you are going, or where the enemies are located. Although this is somewhat realistic, considering the time period of the game, it is nonetheless tedious and frustrating to deal with.
The mission variety is also lacking – they all boil down to a combination of diving far below the surface, surviving pesky minefields, intercepting transmissions between enemy ships, destroying high-importance targets, and making it from Point A to Point B without being spotted and/or destroyed. The only sure-fire way to do this is by lurking deep underwater, taking long routes away from enemy patrols, or finding the perfect line through their blind spots.
Taking the time to play through each mission and unlock the maximum number of gold stars is the only way to unlock everything in the game, naturally. It never feels like a worthwhile effort, though – truthfully, Naval Assault is never particularly interesting because it is diluted with some of the worst visuals and voice acting that I’ve seen this entire generation. There are some decent explosions and nifty water effects when you rise to the surface, but I have never seen such a barren aquatic landscape in any video game. You would think that sea life or the remains of sunken warships would litter the ocean floor, but most of it is completely bare.
This would have been a shoddy effort as an Xbox Live Arcade title, but seeing it on a store shelf is less of a salute to the military’s naval forces, and more of a slap in their faces. If you truly feel deprived of your share of submarine sim titles, Naval Assault will still manage to disappoint you, bore you, and crush your dreams of being the commander of a powerful marine ship. To sum it up perfectly, Naval Assault is a better cure for insomnia than a legitimately entertaining video game.