Fighting Steel
GNB 2-5
Silent Hunter III

Task Force 1942

Surface Naval Action in the South Pacific- the battles of Guadalcanal in 1942.  

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The naval simulation Task Force 1942 was released in 1993, the same year when Great Naval Battles in the North Atlantic got available. The game focuses on the naval battles at Guadalcanal in 1942 and 1943, with single scenarios of the famous battles, a simple mission generator and a campaign mode.

In a single mission, the player can command all ships on his side, which are divided into single divisions. Each ship can be directly commanded by the player, or given under computer control. When commanding the lead ship of a division, all other ships will try to follow the orders given to the ship under player command, but more about this feature later on.

Commanding a ship, there are several stations available to enter: The bridge view, where course and speed of the ship can be changed, and the view out of the ships command bridge is available. The map overview ships all ships in the battle and can display detailed information about friendly and enemy ships, in this view commands can be given to the different division. Besides a very basic damage control screen - which only displays damages and does not allow to command the repair groups, there are several weapons command stations which give an unique feature for a naval stimulation - the player can direct and fire the guns in a first person view.
controlling the gun director, the main and secondary guns of the ships are directed and fired, when leaving this station this is controlled by the computer. The torpedo station allows to control the different torpedo tubes, direct them to enemy ships and fire the torpedoes. some bridge mounted observer glasses and a 3D outside view complete the different stations that can be entered within the game.

For a game of 1993 the graphics was quite good, much better than in its contemporary counterpart GNBNA. The game plays in a real 3D environment, all ships are modeled as 3DModel and all of the Solomon Islands are included. The graphics is still in VGA (320 x 200) and only very few textures are used in the game, but the ship models are made so good that it is no problem to recognize the single ship classes.
As most of the battles around Guadalcanal were fought at night, the graphics engine includes several feature that make night battles look very good - even without the use of the graphic techniques that are available today. Fires, star shells, searchlights - all this can make ships be more visible to others. Shots can be followed by their tracers, all this makes the night battles very good looking, even for today's standards they aren't too bad.
Several of the 3D ship models were later re-use in the flight simulation "1942 - Pacific Air War" which seems to use an enhanced graphics engine of Task Force 1942.

The sounds of the game is not that impressive - the typical Soundblaster sound effects of the early 90s. All important sounds are there, but cannot compared to digitized stereo sounds that are typical for today's games.

While the graphics make the game fun to play, gameplay and computer AI are not so good. As mentioned above, ships of a division will try to follow the lead ships command, the important word here is "try". Although many reports of the battles at guadalcanal tell that the night battles ended up in an chaotic fight between ships that lost their formation, this feature seems to be modeled too good in the game. It is impossible to keep the own ships in a formation for more than a few minutes, after that the confusion on the computer controlled ships gets too big and they so not follow orders as they should. The computer AI seems to fight with the same problem, at least its ships end up in the same disordered way than the players ships do. Even if this behavior might be realistic, one would wish to have a better control about the own divisions.

With the simply mission generator, one can set up the location and ships included for a battle, but as this is no real scenario editor, there is no way to individually position the single ships or divisions.

The game also includes a campaign mode, but this one is definitely no challenge to play for either side. In the campaign, a map of the Solomon Islands is displayed, the goal is to drive the enemy off Guadalcanal. To do this, it is possible to send of bombardment, transport or patrol missions to Guadalcanal to reinforce the own troops or attack enemy task forced. Enemy ships, patrol planes or bomber squadrons (which are only controlled by the computer) are shown on the map and when two task forces meet, the player can select either to calculate the battle result or to play the battle which is similar to a single scenario game. Then enough troops are brought to Guadalcanal, they will start an attack on the enemy troops there and with some luck the battle is won and the campaign is over.

To sum it up, Task Force 1942 is a game that produced mixed feelings. The whole presentation is quite good, even toady, it is worth to take a look at. But the problems with controlling the ships and the computer AI are the reasons, why this game is disliked by many players of naval simulations.