Silent Hunter 5 Review (PC)

Patience is a virtue, apparently. While commanding a submarine may be all about patience in real life, the video game equivalent demands something much more immediate, tense and action-packed.

Silent Hunter 5 marks the latest entry in a very long line of well-respected WWII submarine sims on the PC known for its realism, attention to detail and tense action. Again the game puts you in charge of a German U-Boat destined to prowl the Atlantic Ocean, striking fear into the Allied navies and condemning their supplies to a watery grave next to the Titanic.

Watch your head.
Follow the smoke.

Of course, in between the tense and frenetic battles with the US and Royal Navies, there is a lot of waiting around as you travel between shipping lines and home port to re-supply and refit. These moments have now been filled with a whole host of new features that allow you to interact with the crew and wander round the submarine to break the monotony of a long sea journey.

This is controlled from a first-person perspective and you can switch between the point and click interface and mouse-look by holding down the right mouse button. During these points you can chat with the crew and even play games with them, wander up and down the boat from bow to stern and take in the beautiful ocean sunsets from the conning tower. All of these are nifty little features and they do serve to eat up the time spent not in combat.

The combat is a different story, however. Most of the action is controlled from the periscope room and you can plot your courses, pick your targets and control all aspects of the U-Boatís movement from here. The controls are all fairly simple and once youíve read them over it doesnít take too long to get to grips with commanding the submarine.

The problem comes with the game engine itself. Firstly, it is intensely demanding of system power and the auto-detect settings will have more modest gaming systems grinding to a halt as they struggle to cope with Silent Hunterís inexplicable thirst for power.

The visuals are fairly good but there seems to be no good reason why they seem to cause the slowdown even on the main menu. The other problem this causes is that the game cannot keep up with the time distortion feature. You can speed the game up to make long journeys pass quicker by up to 4096 times the normal passage of time. This however causes the game to play catch up and you may find yourself ending a campaign by pulling into port and sinking all of a sudden in a hail of warning messages that have been lost in a buffer somewhere, arriving just in time to accompany the Ďyou have just sunkí screen.

There are also some odd graphical glitches sometimes causing ships to jump clear out of the water and explode in mid air when hit by torpedoes. The final nail in the coffin for Silent Hunter 5 is the, now notorious, Ubisoft always-on DRM. The first install was followed by a lengthy download of a patch meaning that the game actually took several hours to set up.

When loading the game the Ubisoft launcher has to load first and connect to the server in order to validate your play session and synchronise your save game data. Should your internet connection dip for any reason, the launcher will disconnect you and catapult you out of the game. When you load it back up you will be returned to the last time that the game was saved before the internet connection crashed.

The Nazis continue their war on US SPAM shipments to the UK.
We get it. Itís a game about sinking ships.

To be fair, with Silent Hunter, this didnít happen any more regularly than it has been reported to be happening with Settlers 7 or Assassinís Creed II but the fact that it happened at all was enough to make loading the game feel like a significant chore.

Silent Hunter 5: Battle for the Atlantic would have been a fitting and enjoyable experience had it not been so inexplicable demanding on hardware, buggy and generally frustrating. Poor coding and Ubisoftís paranoid DRM successfully manages to torpedo any enjoyment to be had from playing this game. Sadly, Silent Hunter 5 helps the submarine sim genre to sink down to new depths.

Top Game Moment:
Relief when your login to Ubisoftís servers is successful.