by Matthew Fletcher
previewed on PC
Are you a Submarine Simulator fan?
I know a lot of gamers and I bet if I were to ask any of them what their favourite genre of game was, odds are “Submarine Simulators” would not be mentioned. I myself am guilty of deliberately steering clear of simulators, as if they didn’t even exist. One simulator did however catch my eye recently, and that was Silent Hunter V: Battle of the Atlantic.
O, Captain my Captain
Assuming the role of the Captain, you take control of the German ‘Type VII’ U-boat during the Second World War. You take the fight to the Allied Forces by torpedoing and blasting your way through the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
As the Captain you can free-roam around your U-boat in first person, which has never been seen in a Silent Hunter game before. I think this is a wonderful addition. Now you can get a look at the cramped, serene habitat of a U-boat, explore the cabins, chat with your fellow seamen and peer through the periscope, just to name a few examples. Dim lights and monotone colours are used to show the dull, lonely life of a Submariner. In fact, it seems quite relaxing being 40,000 leagues under the sea, that is, unless you are at war. The enemy has multiple ways of turning your U-boat into a crumpled up sardine can. Depth charges designed to explode right outside your underwater home and Allied submarines firing silent but deadly torpedoes are just an example of the weapons used by the enemy as he attempts to send you to a watery grave.
Another new feature is the addition of an experience system, which should be familiar to all RPG fans. You can use earned experience to upgrade your Submarine or promote your Captain to make him more Sub-savvy. This may be the start of a new sub-genre (no pun intended), a ‘SimPG’ if you will. The introduction of an experience system, first person views and a customizable U-boat almost make it seem like a mash-up of ‘Oblivion-meets-Need for Speed-meets-Underwater World’. A mash-up gone horribly right!
Massive Singleplayer Online?
One thing did strike me as very odd whilst researching this game; this is an online single player game. Yep, you read correctly, you have to be connected to the internet, AND sign up for an account with Ubisoft to play Silent Hunter 5. What if you don’t have internet access? Too bad! What if, while playing the game, your internet crashes? Then the game will pause itself until it is reconnected, and if that doesn’t work, Ubisoft’s server will ‘remember’ your last save game and you can resume playing your SINGLE player campaign, right after you connect to the world wide web and sign into your account. In my opinion, this just sounds like a terrible idea. Yes, an internet connection is vital for multiplayer modes, and even then it is not required whilst playing on a LAN, but multiplayer is exactly where it should stay!
If there is one fault I can find so far with this latest submersible offering, this is it; no internet connection, no dice. Don’t get me wrong, the many pros outweigh the one con, and when you think about it; what game doesn’t have good points and bad points.
Submarine Simulators making a comeback
When I look back at how far Submarine Simulators, and all video games, have come, it simply is amazing to grow up during the blossom of video games, and watch them evolve in front of your bloodshot eyes. Take some of the old ‘Sub-Sims’ for instance, before the first Silent Hunter even appeared on the scene. Games like Mega Drives’ 688 Attack Sub, which appeared all the way back in 1989, or MSDOS’ Aces of the Deep. Just goes to show there has always been a market and a desire for Submarine simulations, whether they be designed purely for fun, or to near perfect historical accuracy.
With 14 years between the very first Silent Hunter and the latest, Silent Hunter V. It proves that the Simulation genre is here to stay. Are ‘Sub-Sims’ the new black? Who’s to say? With games on platforms from as early as the Atari XE, to the next gen consoles of today, and a lifespan closing in on 3 decades, Submarine Simulators may finally be rising up to take over the gaming world, with Silent Hunter V: Battle of the Atlantic leading the pack.