Review: Tom Clancy’s SSN
Written by: Elijah Moon Blackwell
When you hear that famous name, your mind probably immediately rushes to the series that made Ubisoft a power house in the industry. Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, and Rainbow Six are usually the first games that come to mind.
The books written by Tom Clancy are military, espionage, and other types of thrillers.
Tom Clancy is deceased but Ubisoft continues to use his name. This is because Tom Clancy sold his name and the titles of his books to Ubisoft back in 2008 for an undisclosed amount. Previously, Ubisoft paid for his name when it came to particular titles (such as Rainbow Six). With the 2008 deal, Ubisoft can slap his name on anything.
The really strange part is the movie-book-game tie ins. For example The Sum of All Fears, with Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman, is a movie based off the book of the same name. The game that was made used the cover of the movie, making it a game based off the movie which is based on a book. Yeah, it gets wild.
However, it wasn’t until I formed CD-ROM Fossil that I discovered the hidden library of Tom Clancy games. The one I’m talking about in this article is Tom Clancy’s SSN.
I knew Tom Clancy as stealth and shooting games. Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X was an arcade jet fighter game, but that was the only game I knew of that diverted from the usual formula.
Lastly, I knew Tom Clancy as Ubisoft. For me they were one entity.
Tom Clancy’s SSN not only diverts from the formula I was used to, but it also doesn’t have Ubisoft’s name on it.
This submarine simulator was developed by Clancy Interactive Entertainment and Virtus Corporation. I had no idea there was a Clancy Interactive Entertainment development studio. I did a lot of googling, and it seems that SSN was their only game.
SSN released in 1996. This isn’t the only game without Ubisoft’s brand. The Hunt for the Red October got several treatments in the video game world, but that was due to the success of the movie.
SSN came and went quietly. Its Wikipedia page is tiny and there is not much of a community behind it. I found it at a flea market. I looked at it with a giant question mark above my head. I shrugged and bought it out of curiosity.
The flea market vendor sold it to me for a buck. I got home and found a variety of prices. Depending on the box, jewel case, and many other variables, it can be sold from $4.99 to $29.99 USD. I have a pristine jewel case but because we don’t resale, I’m not going to give it a value.
So what is it?
It is a simulation of submarine warfare. In the world of the game, the US went to war with China (stereotypical Tom Clancy storyline) over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. This could honestly happen as those islands are continually changing hands between South East Asian countries.
The game tells the story by showing full motion videos of staged news reels and briefings. It definitely has that 1990’s feel to it. Using real actors for the cut scenes is something I wish was still done today. While the acting can be corny and often times ultra-dramatic, it’s a novelty I welcome. Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker as the masses know him, is famous for being in Wing Commander III with Malcom McDowell. That game was an example of full motion video done right. However, the acting in SSN is in a something-I-could’ve-made-in-college style. Still neat considering it is a rare sight these days.
Aside from the full motion video scenes, the game is very “meh.” Submarine warfare isn’t the most exciting thing on the planet. You can only rotate your camera horizontally. There are two weapons available, not leaving a whole lot of options open for attacking your targets. The campaign only includes fifteen missions. The tasks range from patrolling to search and destroy. The graphics are nice for ’96 but beyond that I can’t be bothered due to clunky, restrictive gameplay.
Definitely an interesting case, but the gameplay isn’t rewarding for the find. I much prefer Silent Hunter III in terms of naval combat, as it included a long career mode as well as a custom mission maker. It also houses an endless mode. Ironically, Silent Hunter III was developed by Ubisoft. The world has come full circle.
Check it out if you’re a fan of Tom Clancy or submarine warfare, but be wary of its age and it’s generic gameplay.
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