Sunday, July 27, 2008
Few jobs in history were more dangerous and harrowing than being a submarine crewman for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Three out of every four men who signed up for U-boat duty never survived the war, but their effect both psychologically and logistically on Allied shipping and the war effort in general was undeniable. Winston Churchill himself claimed that the only thing that truly frightened him during the entire conflict was, as he put it, "the U-boat peril." Many simulations have been created that let you command a sub in the Battle of the Atlantic, but Silent Hunter III sets a new standard both for this particular type of sim and for the genre as a whole. It hearkens back to the days of Aces of the Pacific, Red Storm Rising, and Red Baron II, where the focus was on simulating what it was like to be a pilot or nuclear sub captain instead of on meticulously re-creating every piece of hardware down to the last rivet at the expense of overall gameplay. That's not to say that Silent Hunter III skimps on the hardware modeling--the attention to detail is fantastic--but it lets you concentrate on the exciting parts of being a sub captain instead of saddling you with loads of tedious duties in the name of "realism."
Once you've accepted command of a sub, you can modify it based on how much renown you've accumulated in the training missions and also in previous patrols. You gain renown from sinking ships, and then you can spend it on sub upgrades like sonar, engine superchargers, and improved torpedoes. Available upgrades vary from sub to sub, and as newer U-boats become available you can cash in large amounts of renown to trade up. It's a simple system that adds a lot of flavor to the game and really helps you get attached to your sub.
Silent Hunter III shipped with some bugs, including severe graphics problems with certain Nvidia and ATI cards, which were almost immediately addressed in a patch that was used during the preparation of this review. There are still a few kinks to work out--we've loaded saved games where every ship in the ocean was frozen in place, forcing us to end a patrol early, for example. There also are a few annoyances like poor crew management tools and the fact that there is no easy way to change key bindings, which is a major problem since the default key for launching torpedoes is right next to the default key for centering the rudder. None of these issues change the fact that this is an outstanding WWII submarine simulation in every regard. It provides enough challenges and rewards to appeal to nearly any simulation fan, and it does an excellent job of balancing simulation detail with visceral, seat-of-your-pants gameplay. It lets you feel like you are a submarine captain in charge of a powerful but fragile U-boat, it provides a sobering history lesson, and the campaign makes you feel like you are a small but important part of a much larger conflict. Those are the hallmarks of a truly great simulation.
Minimum System Requirements:
System: 1.4 GHz CPU or equivalent
RAM: 512 MB
Video Memory: 64 MB
Hard Drive Space: 2000 MB
Recommended System Requirements
System: 2 GHz CPU or equivalent
RAM: 1024 MB
Video Memory: 128 MB
Hard Drive Space: 2000 MB
No CD Patch-
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