Announced just before GamesCom 2009 kicked off last week, submarine sim Silent Hunter 5 takes players back to the cruel, cold waters of World War II's Battle of the Atlantic. The game surfaced at GamesCom, and we checked it out at Ubisoft's booth.
Who's Making This Game: Ubisoft Romania, the same team behind Silent Hunter: Wolves of the Pacific, Tom Clancy's HAWX, and Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII.
What The Game Looks Like: The game has some impressive visual effects, such as massive explosions and fires on ships, as well as nice weather effects, such as raindrops smearing your periscope view. The draw distances are pretty impressive too, and we saw some picturesque alpine hills far off in the distance through our periscope.
What There Is To Do: You can explore your submarine from a first-person perspective, see the crew members working (or sleeping), and check out other parts of the ship, like the engine room. There's also an external camera that you can move around the map to see the current battle's full scale.
How The Game Is Played: Silent Hunter 5 features a new top-down map to plan your strategy. Enemy ships appear with a black arrow indicating heading, and they are encircled by a grey radius that represents the limit of their detection range. A second radius shows their hydrophone range (the range at which they can hear your sub). At full throttle you are easily detected, but if you slow to a near stop, then this radius will be reduced dramatically.
There's a trade-off between remaining undetected and gathering information on your enemies' whereabouts, and if you're spotted, you'll need to balance speed and stealth to get out of there alive. The best way to attack targets is to use stealth to flank enemy units and attack them from behind, and when you're ready to attack, use the periscope view. The tactical map now appears in periscope view, which gives you the benefit of being able to see the overall strategy while targeting enemies.
Ubisoft has tried to make things easier when aiming and firing. Launching a torpedo at a moving target means you need to aim ahead of the target, and unless you're at point-blank range, a hit can be difficult to achieve. In Silent Hunter 5 your tactical map will show the trajectories of your torpedo and the targeted ship, and each trajectory has several numbered reticles. Lining up your ship so that these numbers overlap will maximise the chance of a direct hit. After a successful hit, and depending on how cruel you're feeling, you can either destroy the ship completely or target strategic parts, such as the engine, and cause it to sink slowly into the murky depths below.
What They Say: "Silent Hunter 5 ventures into uncharted territory and takes players behind the periscope of a German U-boat to take on the Allied Forces in famous battles across the vast Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. For the first time in the history of the series, players can live the life of a submarine captain from a first-person view and lead a crew in a critical campaign."
What We Say: Silent Hunter 5 looks like it will combine some tense naval warfare with a solid graphics engine and some neat new improvements to the series, and we're looking forward to getting our hands behind the periscope at some stage. The game is heading exclusively to PCs in early 2010.