When I was a sailboat noob I got to see and feel North Atlantic greybeards up close and personal. All the photos I took of them failed to do them justice. But lash yourself into the conning tower of your type VIIa U-boat and DX9 does way a better job of recreating the North Atlantic in angry mode than my old photos ever did. Luckily the crew keep the hatch closed to keep the water out of the people-tank as waves come washing over the tower and you spend a good part of each watch scuba diving without a bottle! Sunrise at sea was always my favourite time. I get to revisit that thrill on calm mornings on the deck of U27 as the morning light sparkles on the wavelets, backlighting our lonely vessel as we scan the skies for aircraft, and the horizon for smoke. The graphics in this game are truly lovely, akin to "PT boats- Knights of the sea", "Rise of Flight" and "Wings of Prey". The ships that you torpedo and shell explode and burn impressively, then sink with the sounds of grinding metal and collapsing bulkheads as bubbles burst out and loose flotsam floats to the surface. You can follow your prey down as it sinks, with the remote camera, into a world of dead "Titanics".
The campaign game starts in tutorial mode as you take the role of first lieutenant, No.1, or exec officer to a crusty old sea captain who talks you through a basic encounter with unarmed merchantmen during the invasion of Poland in the summer of 1939. You'll cover basic how to move around the ship, sub operations, course setting, diving and surfacing, torpedo and deck-gun firing......And of course, sinking harmless merchies, which, was what being a U-boat was all about. Not everything is covered, but if you have an IQ greater than your shoe size you shouldn't have much trouble picking up the rest of the programme, and building upon what you have just learned. This is a pretty slick way to handle the old tutorial chore, and I was favourably impressed. Upon return to Kiel.....Look for the base with the little U-boat symbol...Your captain gets a new boat and you get flighted up to command U27. You get to pick a mission, then it's off into the maelstrom of the early part of WWII. Fortunately, at this early stage, The "Happy Time" as it was referred to by U-boat crews, the aircraft were not very good at sinking U boats, nor were surface vessels, targets were still travelling unescorted and the pickings are excellent! As time progresses this changes!
Much of the game will be very familiar to those who've played previous "Silent Hunters" the major improvements are in the graphics and the new "tourable" sub together with the crew "morale" model. You can walk through the entire boat speaking to crewmen, boosting their morale, and assigning command points earned from successful missions to improving their abilities. The forums imply that this system is not entirely functional at this stage, but I found it working pretty well, though the canned responses were repetitive and got tedious after a while. I'm sure this will be further refined with future patches. Improvement of the game through patching and the modding of the "community" seems to have become a hallmark of the "Silent Hunter" series just as it has with my other Ubisoft favourite "IL2 Sturmovik". I like the "tourable sub" and my crew of "individuals" despite their shortcomings and look forward to great improvements in these features. The inside of the sub is very atmospheric in a "DAS BOOT" kind of way....Red lighting at night, pressure hull creaking and groaning as water pressure changes.....and scraping and grinding as you glance off the bottom, harbour walls and other ships....Well, I am a nooby submariner. :-) Careful though....that grinding noise is accompanied by deterioration in "hull integrity" until the leaks start, and the end of your successful career as a U-boat captain looms!
Gripes? I have a few. As mentioned the crew could be rather less "pro forma" the morale system has alot of potential. And I'd really like to know my "Depth under the Keel" to avoid those nasty bumping along the bottom moments. The great DRM controversy rages in the forums around this game as well as several others. I became used to it with "Rise of flight" and "Wings of Prey" and am resigned to seeing it again in the long awaited sequel to "IL2" "Storm of War". That doesn't mean I have to like it! I'm not going to half my rating because of that though, the way SQUEE did in his "Assassin's Creed" review since, so far, I have not yet felt the gloom and despondency associated with loss of access to single-player games due to DRM spy servers being down, the way "Assassin's Creed" players have.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS are pretty steep as befits the graphically intensive nature of this game. Both Gamedebate system checker and the onboard one that came with the game told me my middle-of-the -road GAMING RIG would not make minimum requirements due to it's budget Nvidia GT220 card, the Achilles heel of my system. However I ran the game fine at 32fps (about half what I get in IL2) during 1:1 time where most of the action takes place. I got strange watch crew warping and choppy display when cranking time compression up for long-distance travel, but who cares to watch fast-forward movies anyway?
Should you buy it? Yes unreservedly. If you have a place in your heart for submarines, sims in general or the U-boat war......or even if you just fancy seeing the sunrises, sunsets and storms while sailing the North Atlantic in your very own U-boat, then yes, this is for you. It is going to stay on my hard drive for a long time to come. The patience and cunning it calls for to set-up and spring the sort of traps needed to make every torpedo and deck-gun shell count contrast nicely with the adrenaline-fueled button-mashing frenzy of "Mount and Blade-Warband" and the turn-and-burn dog-fighting of "IL2 1946" my other two regular relaxatives.