Silent Hunter: Wolves of the Pacific (PC)
Reviewed by: Wollf
Reviewed on: July 1, 2007
Price: $49.99 USD
Silent Hunter: Wolves of the Pacific, is the 4th title in a series of games where you get to take control of a submarine at the beginning of World War II. You start out in Pearl Harbor, fresh after the attack where almost everything is destroyed. Luckily, however, the Japanese somehow missed out on the subs, so it is up to you to start fighting for your country and pick up a career in the Navy! This excellent simulation allows you to take control of all aspects of your sub, including firing the main deck gun, or shooting down enemy aircraft trying to blow you back under the water. There are some choices to make for your realism settings and if you haven't played a game like this before, you might want to set them a little on the lower end until you can get the hang of it.
Jumping into the game like I often do, I installed it and put the manual to the side (it is a nice thick one, so I figured I would probably need it soon). I jumped right into a mission and promptly got destroyed. Okay, maybe I jumped in a little too quick. This time around I decided to try out the training missions; everyone could use a little help, right? So I went through the five training sessions:
- Navigation Training ... Follow a course to a destination; fairly simple once you master your compass settings.
- Gunnery Training ... Use your AA gun and shoot down a plane...not tough and very nice explosions
- Torpedo Training ... A fairly simple shot with your torpedo, taking out an enemy cruiser that doesn't fight back very well.
- Sonar and Radar Training ... Pretty self-explanatory; use the sonar and radar and you're done
- Convoy Attack Training ... The most fun of the training missions; use all that you have learned to sneak up on a convoy, take out their defenses, and then take your time blowing very large holes through the nice slow moving targets, watching them slowly meet Davey Jones.
After running yourself through the training sessions and getting a small taste of how to control your sub and some of the more detailed workings of the ship, you can either jump into a nice career or pick up one of the quicker "Quick Missions."
Closer Look (continued):
I decided to start out my career as a ship commander. Looking around my office I see the usual items, as well as a steaming cup of coffee on the desk. There are books for saved games, a Captain's log book to keep track of victories, and a nice wooden box to hold future medals. By clicking on the large map on the wall, you get your first assignment, spy duty. You might think spy duty sounds a little dull, but in Silent Hunter, they don't care how many boats you sink on your way in, or even on your way out. My first thought was to take out everything on the way in and snap a few pictures end of mission. However, they don't end the mission until you are home; something I didn't count on, as I was sneaking around search party after search party that were looking for me on my way out.
The graphic realism in Silent Hunter is some of the best I have seen to date. Surfacing your sub in a storm cause waves to pour (yes, pour) over the deck. The water glistens in the sun and shimmers in the moonlight. Put up the periscope when you're a little deeper than periscope depth, and you can actually watch the waves flow over your lense, then they slowly pour down as it clears again. Take out a fishing boat with your deck gun and watch as flames spread and engulf the whole ship. People on the decks of enemy boats will duck as you fire on them or fall over dead with the explosions rattling their boat. Blow a hole in their bow big enough to drive your sub through and, as the boat starts to sink Titanic-style, you can watch the commanders scramble for a life raft. Score a direct hit and you may be graced with a gigantic explosion that fills your screen from the destroyer you just took out. Shoot the tail off a bomber flying overhead and watch the plane spin out of control with all the glorious flaming wreckage. If you're like me, you'll look for new ways to take out every single enemy, just so you can see what new graphical animation occurs.
Once back in your base for a refit after you have completed a mission, you have a few options:
- Upgrade weapons and/or move them around if you have enough points from sinking ships.
- Replace or move crewmen, if you sadly had a few lives lost. Your crew gets faster and more efficient the longer they are under your command, so avoid this if you can.
- Refill torpedo bays (this is not automatic, as I found out the hard way, heading out on my next mission with no torpedos).
Closer Look (Quick Missions):
Quick Missions are exactly that; quick. Hop in, find your target(s), and start the action. This is a much more ideal option for the person who just wants to get in there and do some damage, without all the hassle of travel times or reloading at docking stations. For the casual player, I recommend this option whole heartedly; it's a great way to get that little destruction fix we all need now and again.
Once you're ready and refit your boat, you're off on the next leg of your mission, whatever it may be. So let's take a look at some of the things that didn't seem to work.
First and foremost, was the time compression. Without it, you would be in for a very long trip. To get from Pearl Harbor to Japan in a sub would take days, at least, and there is no fun in that. To alleviate those long trips, you can hit the compression button. Sounds great, right? Yes and no. To take advantage of the fastest compression (8142x), you have to expand your map out (really far out) and that is like looking at a world map. Not a big deal, except that this is a very realistic game, and as such, that means there are small islands everywhere that you can't see when you are that far out. So you're flying along heading to Japan and all off a sudden your crew starts screaming; hull breached, tubes damaged, batteries destroyed. Then, you sink; no warnings. So you brush it off and figure you have to pay a little closer attention next time. So you try to zoom in a little bit, and you either can't keep up on the map due to the speed of your ship with the time compression, or you actually zoom too close and the compression wont let you go past 32x, at which point it will take hours to get anywhere. It is very hard to find a happy medium. I learned to find a clear course and not change it unless I was planning to slow right down to close to normal time.
Second thing that bothered me was the large map. When you are traveling the long road home or to your destination, you see a map of the Pacific and a small dot representing your sub. It's not very interesting or graphically intense, yes this was the laggiest part of the game. I quickly learned to not move my mouse off the directional compass and use the keyboard's + and - keys for the time compression, otherwise I wouldn't be able to react fast enough when needed. Ubisoft seems to have tried to fix the problems of smashing into enemy ships or missing something important you might want to sink with an automatic knockdown to 1x speed every time there is a ship, plane, or tanker near by. Heck, sometimes I wondered if even the birds were slowing me down. Try to get out of an enemy port using time compression and you will be hitting + for a long time to speed yourself up again and again. It becomes mildly frustrating very often, leading to a need to use every last bullet to try and take out the search planes, even when you know you don't have enough, just to stop them from slowing down your compression. Some kind of filtering system would be very handy in this area to help speed up your travels.
Last, but not least, is the load times. This is downright agonizing. Sometimes it takes as long as a minute as you sit there staring at the the load bar crawl along the screen. When it finally reaches the end, you think yourself "Yay!" only to see the next screen that says, "Please wait." Do we really need two load screens? Unfortunately, get used to those load screens, because I recommend saving often, especially before you think you might be making a mistake, like wondering if your deck gun can take out that gunship in the distance. Save, but pray you don't have to load it.
- Windows XP / Vista only
- Processor: 2 GHz Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon
- RAM: 1024 MB
- Video Card: 128MB, DirectX 9.0c compatible video card capable of rendering Pixel Shader 2.0
- Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
- DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0c included
- Multiplayer: Local area network (LAN) and/or 128kbit Cable/DSL
- Rated: ESRB: Teen Mild Violence
My System Specs:
- AMD Athlon 64 Processor 3500+
- 2GB Ram
- 120GB Hard Drive
- nVidia GeForce 6800
- 350 Watt PSU
- LG DVD-RW
- WinXP Pro Service Pack 2
Silent Hunter 4 is an excellent game that looks like it got rushed to release just a little too fast. It has fluid gameplay when you can get to the dirty stuff, and the graphics are very well done, even though you cant get higher than 1024 x 768. The first day I installed it, I found myself in front of my monitor sinking enemy ships for hours at a time, watching them slowly sink away, still trying to shoot at you, even though their guns were pointing to the sky. Or I'd sit there watching them blowing up and sinking in pieces so fast, it was sometimes hard to even get a screenshot. Often I would even watch so long, I would forget to look behind me and get sunk myself by a remaining enemy ship. All in all, I would rate this game high on the to-buy list. Patch it first before playing and hope they have another patch soon to take care of the loose ends.
- Amazing environment and effects
- Realistic movements and controls
- Multiplayer options
- Simple method to control realism
- Stuff blows up! What else can you ask for?
- Time compression is too buggy
- Framerates and lag at high compression get old
- No control to filter some content
- Load times are very long, and there are 2 screens!