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The sea is full of stories of tragedy! Human error, catastrophic failure, and bad luck all play a part in these sad tales. The Kursk disaster is one incident where an unfortunate accident took the life of 118 naval personnel. The 12th of August 2000 marks the date where fear and panic washed over the crew of this ill-fated vessel. Kursk the video game aims to replicate the emotion that was experienced and takes you on a virtual tour of a submarine that was destined for failure.
Developed by Storm Trident and published by Forever Entertainment S.A. It’s a simulation spy title that takes you on a journey across the last days of the lost crew. With highly detailed surroundings and atmospheric audio, it transports you to this underwater tomb, while aiming to highlight the known faults that caused the disaster.
Kursk’s setting is factual, but its story is pure fiction.
I was worried when I received my code for Kursk. It concerned me that the developers would fail to be tasteful when its game’s subject was so tragic! Fortunately, Storm Trident overcame any concerns by penning a fictional spy story that allows us to explore the events that lead up to the catastrophic situation.
You assume the role of an American spy who has been sent to infiltrate the K-141 KURSK submarine. Your task is to befriend the crew, retrieve top-secret information hidden on board, and find the revolutionary Shkval supercavitating torpedoes. As your mission unfolds, you will witness the dramatic end to the well-reported tale and will experience the blend of fiction and non-fiction as the game concludes.
The story starts with the protagonist locked in his room. An explosion rips through the vessel, and sirens wail. The ship falls into darkness, and a red emergency light helps you to see. With the help of a fellow sailor, you soon break free, and then the game flashes back to before the incident. A hotel room, an unknown female Russian colleague taking a shower, and a top-secret mission briefing. This truly is a James Bond-style opening. Armed with little information, a PDA, many random attachments, and a sense of pride for your country, you begin your mission.
Sneak around, take pictures, complete tasks, and don’t get caught!
For all the emotional connections, Kursk is technically a walking spy simulator. Playing out linearly, your main aim is to follow the orders of the officer in command. He will send you on many, and I mean many quests that involve fetching documents, speaking to individuals, and ensuring that parts of the vessel work. Each of these components links back to the cause of the disaster and have relevance to the theme of the game. The tasks themselves aren’t entirely interesting and offer little to no challenge. Accepting each quest takes you on a trip around each deck of the sub, you “interact” with the crew, and find distractions en route.
I say “interact”, because most of the people either ignore you or are devoid of interesting conversation. It was a shame, as I would have liked to be more connected with the crew knowing their inevitable fate. The distractions gave me a good insight into how time was spent under the water. Lounging around smoking in the messroom, playing arcade games, sleeping, or challenging to see who was the fittest. Each element brought the environment to life and took focus away from the claustrophobic corridors that you had to traipse through.
The crew on the Kursk never suspected a thing!
Life as a spy should excite and be challenging. Your brain is full of vital information, and you cannot get caught. Luckily, no matter how bad you are at this top-secret malarkey, you rarely mess up. You keep prying into the revolutionary torpedoes hidden onboard, but no one cares. You ask a bunch of dodgy questions, and not one eyebrow is raised. It was strange indeed. In fact, the only time you were caught was when you were using your PDA for “spy” business.
Fortunately, you see the world through the eyes of the spy, and you never find out where he hides his PDA and additional tools. Wherever they were stashed, they never raised an alarm. I could only conclude that this man either has one big cavity or a large satchel. Either way, it’s used to pick locks, take photos, hack computers, and track your objectives. Once you get to grips with each process, it lacks any depth, and I was left wanting much more of a challenge. There was a sense of tension as you went about your business, as crew members completing their rounds could catch you in the act, and that signalled game over.
Nicely detailed, but clunky animation.
I loved the styling of the submarine and the noughties vibe. The instruments, room layout, uniform, and landscape were all well designed. Walking through the ship was eerie, as you know it’s fate, but it was equally fascinating. It’s not the highest quality game with its finish, but it looks great nonetheless. Where it lets itself down is in every animation that was implemented. Robotic movement, drifting and slow panning as you climb ladders. The airlocks took an age to pass through, and more. It was equally frustrating that the game hung as you transitioned from one section to another. It broke up the gameplay and severely hampered the immersive nature.
The graphics were a mixed bag, but the audio was almost perfect. This had to be the best element of the game by a country mile. The creaking of the sub under pressure. Metallic footsteps ringing out, the shuffle of feet on the ladders and steps, and so forth. When the game comes full circle back to the explosion, the sounds and feeling of panic are torturous. You will lose your composure and you’ll run around trying to escape the flames and the devastation.
Simple controls, but lacking some key options.
It’s hard not to praise a game when its control system is simple to pick up. But Kursk has some basic options that are sadly lacking. The sub is a confusing, claustrophobic maze that’s tough to navigate. Yet, there is no map to assist you. The man has a PDA that can hack computers and pick locks, but it can’t draw a simple map for you. This flows into my second issue. If you are given an image of a place to visit or an item to gather, there is no way to look at it again. You must remember each detail or start again! Both problems were infuriating, and a big oversight from the developers.
You are given the freedom of the whole vessel to explore. Within its many decks, you will find collectables, letters, and other objects. All these items can be ignored, but completionists will have to search for them all if they are to get their 100% status. This alongside the many side quests adds a considerable amount of replay value. The story won’t draw you back in once you have finished it, but the other elements increase its longevity.
Kursk is tasteful, but lacking in some departments.
For all its shortcomings, Kursk is a tasteful depiction of the events that lead up to the submarine tragedy. Its unrelated fictional story allows you full access to the ship while piecing together the mystery that shrouds this accident. Graphically it should have done better, and its lack of a map and item recall was a big oversight. Fortunately, it’s saved from sinking with its wonderful audio, and stunningly detailed depiction of the K-141 KURSK. On the whole, I enjoyed it and recommend you buy it here! Experience a tragic moment in Soviet history and remember the 118 personnel who sadly lost their lives.