A classic in the genre. The missions may be canned - with no random variation aside from units reacting to you - but the sim gameplay itself is great. When it came out, it pretty much blew the competition out of the water, just like the ships in the game itself.
The graphics and presentation are still good and realistic for a 1997 game; although obviously dated it has a certain charm. Just wait until it's on sale so you actually get decent value, and yes, it does go on sale. Kudos to Valve and Sonalysts for having it on Steam.
Gameplay consists of navigating your vessel, an improved Los-Angeles class submarine, and achieving objectives with it such as sinking enemy ships and laying mines.
To get a general idea of what it's like, this is a boat that sails under the water. Your primary means of figuring out where the hell you are involves bouncing sound waves off everything - which is called sonar as it sounds cool - because you sure as scheiße don't have any windows. You may feel that this isn't as easy as driving a regular boat (well, regular boat simulator anyway) and you'd be right.
And that's just basic sailing. When you're facing enemy vessels, it can get pretty tense. Overall, it can make for a decent challenge. You can also upgrade your sub and your crew between missions with earned points, and change your weapons loadout while in port.
I have not played far enough into the campaign missions to really judge the plot or tone of the game. Suffice to say, 688(i) Hunter-Killer is a hardcore military simulation. You don't play this just for the story. From what I've gathered so far, it's strait-laced enough that you'll probably feel like an actual Navy officer - any moral objections you may encounter will have to come from your own self. There is the option of ending your mission at any point, which if you haven't completed many objectives will get you chewed out. You cannot, however, talk back or go AWOL.
The submarine controls themselves are sensibly laid out and pretty easy to use once you know how. Of course, this game made the Guinness Book of World Records 1999-2000 as 'Most Intellectually Challenging PC Game', and while I probably wouldn't call it the hardest game in existence anymore, the difficulty still certainly holds up. Having the assistants enabled helps.
You unfortunately cannot access any proper tutorials in-game. There are tutorial missions available to play, short tutorial videos in the game directory accessible from the splash screen and a comprehensive PDF manual included, though. The manual is good and the game is great once you've learned some and start getting the hang of it.
That said, it is a 1997 game. It may not run that well on modern systems, even if it runs well on mine. The naval combat packs it comes in are rather pricey, too; you should wait for a sale.
The Steam version of 688(i) is the latest patched version, 1.08, initially a re-release of the game in 2006. Random fun fact: this game used to be published by EA.
This game's music is of special mention. It's around 8 or so MIDI tracks, and it's the sort of techno-suspense stuff you might hear from a more subdued Tom Clancy film. You can download it here
and get some of the songs from the game remixes in MP3 format from here
. They're very good and very appropriate.
You can also watch the special promo/press kit/B roll video they release here
. Pretty fascinating glimpse into development, plus some gameplay on a period computer that's laughably slow compared to today.