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Silent Hunter 5: Battle of the Atlantic PC Review - -

Gameplay 4.1
Graphics 7.0
Sound 7.0
Value 4.0
Developer: UbiSoft
Review Date:
April 2010
Edwin Millheim
Classification: PG


Silent Hunter 5: Battle of the Atlantic

Game reviewed on an Alienware system

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Ubisoft for the fifth time takes a stab at the sub sim genre. Silent Hunter 5 Battle For the Atlantic is a game with mixed results. Filled with quarks and an oppressive DRM, the game may have been rushed out of port leaving many wondering why the publisher is treating it's gaming fan base as an enemy combatant.

The DRM (Digital Rights Management) for Silent Hunter 5 Battle Of The Atlantic requires (forces) players to not only authenticate the game on first launching it, but also must continue to stay online in order to play at all. So if players, for what ever reason do not have an internet connection and just want to pass the time and play the game, they cannot. If the Ubisoft servers go down, the game is also unplayable. The reception for such a DRM has understandably so, made many gamers feel like they are being held hostage. Leaving gamers to have to make the choice of weather or not it's worth the frustrations such an oppressive DRM brings.

The last game in the series had the player going up against the Japanese Navy. Now in SH5 Battle Of The Atlantic, the player once again plays as a German U-Boat Commander. Going up against the Allied forces all across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea between 1939 to 1943.

The graphics as always are top notch with ships , subs, and ocean looking spectacular. Damage to ships can be seen when they take deck gun shell fire, explosions bloom out in a flowering bloom of destruction. large blasts of orange blooming flame spitting out debris and sometimes having secondary explosions and deck fires. Thick black billowing smoke rises to the sky. The ocean looks alive with waves and the seas can be calm or have large swells that can swamp over you boat even while surfaced. Watching the foaming white wake from the boat as it slices over the waves is a real eye candy treat. Unfortunately some of the annoying bugs that past through throw a buzz kill on the graphics. Seeing ships at full speed rapping into things and not correcting themselves. Just perpetually going forward into docks and land masses. A few times in dry dock in the sub pens, I watched as my own sub would submerge and then rise back up.

One of the more interesting and unfortunately quarky things in the game is the first person view. The player has the ability to actually walk through the different compartments of the U-boat, all in first person view. Great idea, awesome concept, but strange things take place such as clipping through other characters. The interaction with crew members is not very polished, as they all seem very static, even in the middle of battle stations being called during battle. Characters never really seem to have much of a life of their own. Worse yet, the look-outs in the conning tower stay put even when the sub is diving, you never really see any of the crew moving about the sub, they just magically are already on deck and on watch.

It's a huge step in the right direction, offering players the run of a full seamless experience of moving about the submarine freely. It just feels hollow. With a bit more polish and tweaking the game would rise above it's crash dive to just a so so game to a truly spectacular game. Moving up the ladders on the boat and even having to open and close hatches on the boat to be able to dive is great, and really assists in some of the immersion of the game. Now if only the crew where more interactive than the fluff and sometimes outright short idiotic dialog responses, it would provide more of an emotional investment with this one dimensional crew.

Have the run of the whole sub is great it just does not really bring anything to game play. Don't get me wrong now, being able to open and close hatches on the sub and look around is great but there is not a lot of reason to be able to traverse the sub. There is nothing in the game play that really calls for it.

The new system for the crew of the U-boat is interesting to say the least. If on really long patrols the crew get tired of course and their morale declines. Now crew members have some special abilities, and they do use a morale pool to be able to perform them. Morale is gained when completing a goal or sinking a ship, and therefore replenishing the morale pool. Success on patrols gives the player promotion points to distribute to the crew, the points in turn raise the crews abilities.

Playing the game, there is a top down map view that you can zoom in and out of. The map is where you do most of your course plotting and strategy planning on how best to get into position once you have a contact to attack. The top down map gives a large amount of information to the player, enemy ships that can be heard by your submarine soundman are indicated by a line, follow the line and you may just hit the jackpot on enemy shipping.

As the shipping draws closer and can be seen in the top down map, there are circles around the ships which represent their detection range. Yet another circle shows a ships hydrophone range. This one is very important, this is the range that the enemy can detect your sub. Having the sub at full speed under water and the sound is greater and the range around the enemy ships detection radius is larger. Slow down to a crawl and the range detection circle is smaller and it's harder for them to detect your sub.

One of the cool things with the game is that there is a tactical map also and this map shows while you have the periscope view up. This is a good addition because, this map can also be used to alter course and jockey into position for a good torpedo spread on the enemy shipping. You soon find that firing a little head of a ship is desired to get a good hit on the target. Like other sims, SH5 tries to inject some historical accuracy while maintaining playability. It brings it across pretty well. When there is some action, it's pretty fun.

Firing the deck gun is just fun, at the easier levels there is a line that represents the flight of the shell you would be firing. Perfect for lining up those shots on an enemy ship. Further there is the ability to switch between High Explosive shells or Armor Piercing Shells. The AP rounds are great for hitting a ship just at or a little below the water line and causing it to flood.

Torpedoes also have some setting the player can adjust depending on what kind of ship they are firing at. Torpedoes can be adjusted to run at a bit deeper depth or just below the waves. They can also be set to run fast or slow depending on the distance to target.

Missions in the game range over several historical based single player missions, and just going out on patrol with out even picking a mission in particular. There are encounters with enemy ships both military and otherwise, enemy aircraft. The campaign does in fact feel pretty dynamic in it's possibilities and encounters. Moving along in the campaign , players can choose different parts of a branching campaign that they want to play through.

There is some re playability potential for Silent Hunter 5 Battle Of The Atlantic, but with the snarky DRM, and various bugs and halfhearted attempts at RPG elements makes it feel like a not fully realized game. This one may sink pretty fast unless Ubisoft get's the damage crews working pretty fast.

Have fun play games
Edwin Millheim



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