by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
First person view
Silent Hunter is ready for its fifth installment. Four versions down the road, there is room for improvement, partially thanks to ever progressing gaming technology. Harnessing the power of modern day PCs, the developers are aiming to truly capture the feel of living in a submarine and this brings the first big change to the series in years. In the previous games, you would switch stations in a similar fashion to switching TV channels: flick the switch, and you are suddenly a gunner, flick it again and you are the machinist.
In Silent Hunter 5, you can roam freely across the submarine in the newly introduced first person view. Fortunately, you are the captain of a submarine and not a flight-deck ship so it shouldn’t take too long to get where you need to be. Each section has its own crew. It would be a tedious undertaking if you would have to talk to every person on the ship, so you will only have to deal with one representative of each section. The section lieutenants will update you with the latest information and distribute your orders to the rest of the crew.
Patience is a virtue
Besides the first person view, Silent Hunter 5 also sees the introduction of RPG elements. You will gain experience during each battle that can be invested in your lieutenants by awarding them new special skills. You can also tweaking certain aspects of your submarine. You could, for example, order engineering to make modifications that make your submarine glide through the water faster. While this sounds like something any submarine commander would want to do, it does come with a downside: a faster tub will consume more fuel. As all supplies are finite, beefing up the engines may not be worth the risk of running out of fuel in the midst of battle.
For that same reason, a successful submarine commander is anything but trigger happy. Every single torpedo that you launch should count. Damaging a target enough so that it starts to make water and sink is usually enough to make the torpedo count, so don’t waste ammo on an already doomed vessel. Fans of hardcore simulations will know that when it comes to winning a battle, patience is – more often than not – a virtue.
There is time before each mission to scout the battlefield to get an idea of the shorelines, objectives and possible escorts of your targets. Often, the escorts do not need to be sunk to successfully complete the mission. It is up to you whether you want to only sink the target, or pick off some other ships as well.
Submarines are deadly because of their stealth. In Silent Hunter 5, the depth at which you cruise through the water has an impact on how stealthy your submarine is. It is easier to avoid detection at great depths than it is near the surface, but it has a downside as well. Great depths severely diminish the actuality of your information about the whereabouts of enemy ships.
If you were disappointed that you could only play on the Allied side in Silent Hunter 4, you will be happy to learn that this is remedied in Silent Hunter 5. Regardless of the side you play for, the game is easy to get into. Ubisoft is making the game playable for both beginners and genre veterans by implementing two different modes. In expert mode, the game is the hardcore simulation that Silent Hunter fans expect it to be. Yet the controls can be dumped down to the extent that a wider audience can play and enjoy the game too, without making any concessions to their rendition of what life in a submarine at war is all about.
In the campaign mode, players will be able to choose from a number of vessels to command. Their submarines will take them to historic battles that occurred in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. It will be up to you to see if you could have done any better than the submarine commanders of that time.