Just one ping
Ah... I've been a long time fan of 'Submarine Sims' for a while now, they've always interested me and whilst they're often for the hardcore crowd, there's a light on the horizon, admittedly a bit obscured by a thick layer of fog at the moment. Silent Hunter 5, read on and you'll see why I have a love-hate relationship with this game.
The campaign part of the game spans a period from 1939 (the initial invasion of Poland) to 1943. It allows you to progress at your own pace and offers a little more inventiveness in terms of how you move the story on.
Silent Hunter IV broke a lot of new ground in terms of making the Sub-Sim accessible to the regular gamer, it was no longer the platform of the hardcore PC sub captain with their realistic sextant and German U-Boat officers cap, it gave a few tools here and there to the new gamer and let them play around on a slightly easier system to command the sub. This torqued a lot of the old-skool submariners and the game had bugs.
Silent Hunter 5 breaks even more new ground in terms of getting new players into it, it has a simple mode that lets you command your sub with a few mouse clicks and transforms the experience into a highly enjoyable one at that, one that new players should have no time getting to grips with. Of course there's the option to go as realistic as you want, even though there's a glaring omission in the controls - yes, I'd rather like a way to find the correct depth below my sub thanks, without having to install a mod.
There are single player missions, which are quite fun and the complete campaign that is where the game truly shines (when a bug doesn't come out from nowhere and blindside you like an angry sub-hunter plane). For every cool addition to the dynamic player driven story campaign mission, there's an objective that fails to complete or an NPC who refuses to give you a new mission, until you reload the game in frustration. There are times where a whole city vanished on us and we couldn't complete the game mission until we'd reloaded and were able to dock again. There were times where officers became stuck on the conning tower even though we'd submerged and things just vanished.
It's a flawed masterpiece that we seriously hope gets a patch ASAP, because despite those flaws (and more we haven't mentioned) - there's a good game lurking beneath the steel hull of the U-Boat. It's far less static than other Silent Hunter games, there's interactivity everywhere, from being able to walk your U-Boat in first person and command from various stations, listen to your men and get an idea of what life might be like, you can also do the same for your chosen sub-dock and wander around that, watching men at work and having fun eavesdropping on the workers conversations and so forth.
The game has numerous helpful features, a target line that works very well for new players, allowing you to lead shots to sink ships to your heart's content, new management screens that offer a nice way to command the ship via the omnipresent HUD system. All in all, the gameplay (when it works) is great and it really brings the sub-sim genre into the hands of a new breed of players, ones that could enjoy the game far more than they would normally have to, plotting complex trajectories and having to figure out the right firing solution. Whilst this might be a fun time for the sub-heads out there, a lot of gamers will simply give up at that point, not so with Silent Hunter 5.
There are a few issues here and there with the graphics thanks to bugs, but when they're running smoothly and everything is cranked up, Silent Hunter 5 is an extremely atmospheric game, perhaps not the most accurate in its representation of ships and submarines but when you have pretty eyecandy like this and massive explosions, you can forgive the odd lack of detail in the historical sense. There are a few omissions, such as crew still wandering the decks of a ship that's on fire, rather than running around screaming and diving into the water in sheer terror. All in all though, when you're submerged beneath the waves and diving away from exploding depth charges, you can watch the beauty of the game's graphic engine at work with water you really think is water, especially during a storm.
All in all, Silent Hunter 5 has some good animations. There are some misfires where animations seem to stall or repeat, where things don't quite gel correctly now and then but the overall feel of the animations is a solid enough one.
The game's replete with some hard crunchy impacts and some nice hull-tearing explosions, what more do you want?
The ominous pressure-creaks that make the submarine genre so atmospheric are here in their dozens, the game oozes atmosphere from every hull bolt to whirring engines of an electric sub motor. The crash of waves against the hull and the whoosh of a torpedo in the water, it's all there and replicated aurally quite well.
If there's one thing I cannot complain about, it's the score to Silent Hunter 5. Jason Graves is back and his music is better than ever, the soundtrack is replete with Wagnerian overtones and suitably epic themes, a gorgeous journey into the life of a U-Boat captain and his men, brought together with Graves' superlative sense of detail. He transforms the soundtrack into a purely fantastic experience that is a must-listen inside and outside of the game.
The voice work is good enough, the dialogue is decent enough and there's no real scripted story to speak of. What's there is well done enough that it's not really jarring, though there are a couple of performances that could have been a bit better.
Yeah, there's multiplayer and you can form a Wolfpack to sink ships just like in Silent Hunter 5. We'd have liked to do more with it, but due to reasons that will become apparent we didn't get much in the way of multiplayer gaming on Silent Hunter 5.
DRM or not to DRM
I understand that piracy is a big issue at the moment, but I really wish BIG companies would take a leaf out of THQ and Valve's book with Dawn of War II or Chaos Rising... because Silent Hunter's obsessive need to be connected to the internet at all times whilst playing feels like an untrustworthy slap in the face, one that I would expect from EA or Activision, not Ubisoft. Didn't the head-honchos learn anything from the Starforce incident in Silent Hunter IV?
They could have used Steam for this one, married to Games for Windows Live (Ala Chaos Rising) and things would have been near-flawless in terms of multiplayer fun. As it was we were lucky that the game rig we reviewed this on actually remained connected to the net, firstly it had network card issues and that needed to be sorted, then our ISP decided to play up for several days on the trot so we were unable to really get much time with the game beyond the glaring gameplay-chewing bugs that showed up now and then to torpedo our fun.
So yeah, please stop treating legit customers like pirates, since all you'll do is drive people towards consoles and off the PC in that respect. It comes to something when I do more console play than I do PC gaming these days. Since I am a PC gamer and started out with personal computers well before anything else. I'd like to enjoy Silent Hunter 5 without the restrictive non-DRM/DRM...but at least the game keeps your save, unlike Command and Conquer 4 - which we'll be reviewing soon.