Command: Northern Inferno – PC Game Review
Command: Northern Inferno. PC Game Review. Publisher: Matrix Games, Inc. Developer: Warfare Sims, LTD. Digital Download: $17.99. Boxed Edition plus download: $27.99.
Passed Inspection: High levels of realism, very high replay value, excellent customer support.
Failed Basic: Steep learning curve, Graphics and sound are basic, some bugs.
Command: Northern Inferno (Inferno) is a Downloadable Content (DLC) module of Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations (CMANO) and is also a standalone game that plays on the award-winning CMANO game-engine. Please see the Armchair General review of Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations at http://www.armchairgeneral.com/command-modern-air-naval-operations-pc-game-review.htm.
Since that original review of CMANO version 1.01 was published, the good folks at Warfare Sims have made a number of improvements to the simulation. They are, in fact, on version 1.09. Besides expanding the already vast database of weapons, ships and planes, and have added human-factors modeling. Now every manned weapons platform’s crew has a training rating from novice to ace. The better trained the crew, the fewer mistakes they make and the faster they react within the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) decision loop. What this means is that when equal weapons platforms meet in battle, the better trained crew generally wins.
Inferno has a set of 7 very well-done tutorials to help the player learn the gaming system. Newcomers should invest the time in playing these tutorials, and it would not hurt old hands at the game to brush up with them as well.
The graphics and sound are still spartan, but this is all to the good, as an Inferno player is likely more interested in the realistic and intense game play than lots of explosions and fireworks on the screen.
Red Storm Rising Redux
Inferno, is a set of 15 link scenarios (I won’t go as far as to call it a campaign) and was written by Paul A. Bridge, an active duty British Royal Navy officer and a Falklands’ War veteran. The new battles simulate a hypnotical naval war in 1975 between NATO and the Warsaw Pact fought in the North Atlantic. The game is not a true campaign in that unit loses and ammo expenditures are not carried over from one battle to the next. Although, when playing in “campaign” mode the player must earn a certain “passing score” to advance to the next battle and all the scenarios do come from the common background. However, the player can also just play the battles in standalone mode if they wish. Unfortunately, the scenarios may only be played from the NATO side.
Mr. Bridge has obviously read Tom Clancy’s 1986 techno-thriller Red Storm Rising. Many of the battles in Inferno were clearly inspired by scenes from that book.
Looking at the individual scenarios there is something for everyone from massive air, land and sea battles, to straight-up ship against ship gun-fights, to small scenarios of missile-armed patrols boats slugging it out in the Artic.
The first scenario, “Opening Moves” is Soviet submarines versus NATO surface groups and airplanes.
Next is “Goblin on the Doorstep” where the British ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), HMS Revenge, escorted by surface and air units, attempts to reach deep water before the Soviets can locate and destroy her.
In “The Fast and the Furious” a strong Soviet amphibious landing force, protected by squadrons of Osa fast-attack boats armed with the deadly Styx missile, is on its way to Norway. Norway has only a few of its own missile and torpedo boats and attack aircraft to blunt this attack. (This is one of my favorite Inferno’s battles.)
In “Barents Sea Boomers” NATO goes on the offense by trying to find and sink the USSRs ballistic missile submarines being protected by attack submarines and surface groups.
Next is “Beware of the Badger” after a Soviet invasion of Norway, NATO rushes substantial amphibious forces to reinforce the Norwegians. Soviet Naval Aviation’s missile-armed bombers are assigned to stop the NATO forces.
“The Grey Ghost from the East Coast” is a straight up “gun-fight” battle with the America’s last heavy gun cruiser, the USS Newport News and escorts taking on two Russian Sverdlov-class heavy cruisers.
“The Mighty O” features the carrier USS Oriskany attempting to take out Keflavik’s and Reykjavík’s runways on Iceland before the Soviets can begin to base long-range bombers from them.
In “Damn the Torpedoes” The USSR deploys a massive submarine force to stop a large and vital NATO convoy from reaching France.
In “Fox Two” The Royal Air Force (RAF) has to defend the British homeland from a Soviet air assault.
“An Eye for an Eye” is a nuclear scenario where the Royal Navy uses the carrier HMS Ark Royal and its Buccaneer strike-aircraft to retaliate against the Soviets after a nuclear strike on Britain.
“Fire and Brimstone” is a massive scenario were two American carriers, the USS Saratoga and USS John F. Kennedy must fight against nuclear-armed Soviet bombers off the coast of Norway.
“Hunter or Hunted” is a smaller battle where three NATO nuclear attack subs hunt the USSR’s only carrier, the Kiev.
“Deliverance” is another very large scenario where multiple NATO surface and carrier groups attempt to retake Iceland from the occupying Russians.
“Needle in a Hay Stack” has American anti-submarine forces battling Soviet SSBNs right on the United States’ East Coast.
“Fail Safe” brings the NATO alliance and the Warsaw Pack to the brink of a global thermo-nuclear war.
The Good and the Not-So-Good
The game has very high replay value as the player works through different sets of tactics and actions in each scenario. Any single scenario can play out many different ways depending on the players’ decision, as well as the various uncontrollable factors, like weapons’ malfunctions.
The enemy and friend AIs are both competent. I could not detect any outrageous errors being committed by either one. But sadly the game has a fairly large number of minor bugs. For example when playing “Beware of the Badger” the NATO forces detected a Soviet spy-ship, but nothing I did could get any of my forces to destroy it. There are other slightly annoying bugs in the game. However, the developers are very active in fixing any reported bugs and getting the fix out to the gamers quickly.
The Bottom Line
Command: Northern Inferno is a great addition to the CMANO world, as well as a fairly low-cost way for those not familiar with CMANO to get their feet wet in the game without investing a large amount of their game-buying budget.
Armchair General Score: 93%
Patrick Baker is a former US Army officer, currently a Department of Defense employee. He has degrees in History, European History and Political Science. He cut his war-gaming teeth on Squad Leader and Victory Games’ Fleet Series. He bought his first PC in 1990, a Wang PC-240, specifically to play SSI’s The Battles of Napoleon (much to the displeasure of his wife). He continues to use all his education to play more games and annoy his family.