A matured genre - how you felt playing 'Silent Service II' as a kid, Sh4 manages to deliver to the adult version of you.
- My biggest pet peeve reading on the forums was the lack of FSAA. But, hey, the devs said they intend to fix that, so...what's next?
I went into the local EBGames to pick up a copy of 'IL2: 1946' for one of my coworkers, saw the Sh4 game box on the shelf (a real box, not the empty display ones they put out) and held it. Seriously - if any of you are on the edge, go out and pick up a retail copy of this. Literally pick it up. The ****er is HEAVY. And I'm not kidding! I've held BOOKS of this size that weighed less! This tells out when opening it - in all seriousness, the amount of stuff they packed in there...I mean, I vaguely can remember a time when this was the norm, but...only vaguely. I certainly couldn't name a game that I remember with this much in it. Maybe the original Falcon 4.0 release? Bigger manual, but...
No, really - pick one up and hold it. That 100+ page manual has some heft to it, the ship recognition guide (while fold-out) is no slouch, the full map of the Pacific, game DVD with 'bonus' DVD and movie, etc. It's just....it's the kind of packaging from "the gold old days" of sims.
The memory most washing over me opening up my copy and reading through it during the install was "Silent Service II" - the first PC game I ever bought all those years back, still sitting on the shelf in front of me.
- So, okay, the packaging is great, what else? Alright, it's silly, but the Milton poem 'On Time' read over the intro movie is really QUITE stirring! A noticeable improvement on the bland-ish Sh3 video. (If you've not seen it, it's posted as the "Official Trailer 4" on Gamespot's page for the game (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/sim/silenthunter4/media.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=tabs&tag=tabs;videos). Worth downloading in HD if you have an account and haven't picked up Sh4 yet.) And yes, it's in-game footage in "high res", so you can see all the plusses and minuses of the trade-offs between post-processing and FSAA. Let's just say...I'm looking forward to the AA patch, but if it comes at the expense of the post-processing effects...well...I just hope we can toggle back and forth like with the "bloom" in Sh3.
- The graphics...in motion...I mean...I'm just drooling. There are some shots in the 'official screenshot thread' that give you a TASTE of it. The desktop-worthy image in this post (http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showpost.php?p=453739&postcount=279) and this post (http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showpost.php?p=454538&postcount=293), and the series of images in this post (http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showpost.php?p=455204&postcount=326) and finally this post (http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showpost.php?p=457842&postcount=371), for example. But those are all STATIC. In motion, it's just...it's WAY better. Unspeakably so.
- The AI seem more...tenacious. I just tried a single mission of intercepting a Saipan convoy near Japan late-war. The Japanese DDs did a MUCH better job of keeping me down than any UK DDs did during Sh3. (To be fair, the UK DDs either seemed to sink me pretty much immediately, or I was able to get away. The IJN DDs just kept...harassing me. They stayed with me and kept peppering me with depth charges for HOURS. Never killing me, but...never letting up, either. It was really starting to get nerve-wracking, which is just something I never felt in Sh3. Again, in that game I either felt like I was getting away...and did. Or died. Rapidly. Not so, here!)
- The graphics. Did I mention the graphics? They are awesome! Oh, fine, to make this a seperate point - using a Soundblaster X-Fi XtremeGamer card, I can also use all the special sound effects (when set to 'game mode') with no issue. Sounds pretty good, although, to be fair, I really can't wait for the first user-created voice pack for it. The point in Sh4's favor is that the audio engine seems like it can do some cool things the engine in Sh3 just couldn't do. Pair that with the same improved treatment Sh3 got (and we KNOW Sh4 will get), and we have a winner!
- Performance is fantastic. I have what is a pretty mid-to-low-end system anymore:
AMD dual-core Opteron 165 @ 2.0ghz
2gb OCZ Platinum @ DDR500
ATI Radeon X1950 Pro 512mb
Western Digital 250gb SATA HDD w/ 7200rpm and 16mb cache
Creative Labs Soundblaster X-Fi XtremeGamer
...and Sh4 plays VERY well with all settings MAXED on this box. Slowdowns in intense action sequences, but these are minor slowdowns and happen rarely.
- I know I mentioned 'Silent Service II' earlier in the post, but...I can't help but go back to it. It was the very first PC game I bought when I was very young, and it was EXTREMELY compelling to me - aided in no small part by the easy 'suspension of disbelief' achievable in youth. I'm surprised to see Sh4 hit the same note. I'm obviously decades older, now, and orders of magnitude more cynical...but Sh4 really hits that note right. If this comment is relevant (may not be to many, but for my age group...) - the feeling you had playing 'Silent Service II' as a kid, Sh4 manages to deliver to the adult version of you. Is it perfect? Hell no, of course not. Indeed, there are some bugs that are RIDICULOUS and should have been caught. But it's pretty darn amazing all the same. It's one of those games where - a testament to the game designers - it really IS immersive enough you can forgive the glitches. As in SSII, where you could sink 6 Yamatos during the course of the war, but you didn't really care (for the time), or every ship always took the EXACT same number of torpedoes to sink, or the entire enemy fleet consisted of 8 different ship 'models', and you had a 'godlike' overhead view of the battle - sure, in Sh4 it'd be nice if the rocks on the ocean floor actually obstructed you, crewmen were more interactive, and FSAA worked (what FSAA in 1990? LOLz!), etc...but...overall...the effect is made.
So, I guess, in short (or long - this took more space than I expected) - this is my way of saying...hey, I was wrong. The game has bugs, sure. Irritating ones. But trust me on this - only the most curmudgeony skinflint could really fault what we've been delivered. It is already so close to ideal. And will only get better!