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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

Silent Hunter

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by S.S.I.
The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor damaged or destroyed nineteen capital ships of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet. This left the aged and outgunned forces of the Asiatic Fleet as the first line of defense against the oncoming might of the Japanese Navy. One force that emerged from the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Cavite, virtually unscathed and ready the carry the war to the enemy, were the submariners of the Fleet Scouting Force. The 51 submarines of the Asiatic and Pacific fleets were ordered to “...Execute unrestricted air and submarine warfare against Japan. You will sink and destroy enemy shipping wherever encountered.

Authorized to sink any vessel bearing the “Rising Sun” of Japan, you and the men of the Pacific submarine forces become the hunters of the largest prey around.

The Review:
Silent Hunter is a realistic submarine simulator in the style of games like Aces of the Pacific. In World War II, submarine technology was not as advanced as you might think it was. Most submarine commanders relied on guts, luck and the seat of their pants to sink enemy ships without visiting Davy Jones’ Locker themselves (the USS Tang was sunk in the Formosa Straits in 1944 when hit by her own malfunctioning torpedo!). Silent Hunter includes all of the problems and trials of commanding a World War II submarine. There is even a tour of the sub narrated by a World War II submarine Vet. Because of the realism, you get a real feel for the strategy submarine commanders employed in World War II. Because your submarine is diesel with battery backup, you have to run on the surface whenever you are not engaged. Underwater, your submarine is much slower than most ships so you have to run at them on the surface and dive before they can bring their deck guns to bear. Your torpedoes are not guided in W.W.II so you need to get close to the enemy for a shot if you honestly hope to hit. Angle in and cut the distance by anticipating their heading. Be sure to kill their destroyers before they find you with sonar and start dropping their depth charges. If you need to submerge deep and escape you had better hope those destroyers do not follow because you have a very limited range on your batteries and if you are forced to surface before you get free ... a watery grave is all you have to look forward too.

I have to admit, my first impression of Silent Hunter was not that good. At first I just played the single missions and it seemed to get repetitive and boring fairly quickly. However, after I stared a career, the game started to grow on me. As you move through a career you get better torpedoes, new and improved submarines and better radar. You also earn medals and letters of commendation for acts of valor. So once you get into the theme of it all, it started to get addictive. The graphics are good and the realism is very good. Everything from the sound of the engines of enemy ships to torpedo reload times is in accordance with actual WW II submarines (although you have a realism panel to modify reality and make things easier).

Although I became rather fond of Silent Hunter, there are a few things that S.S.I. could have done better with it. The biggest thing I noticed was that when you leave port and are out “hunting” around, it moves pretty slowly. They give you a map of the region you are to patrol and let you have at it. So you set up a search pattern, or head towards an enemy port or chase a reported sighting. But in that time, it can get boring. Although there is a time compression up to 256X, I think they should have made it even faster for those in between times. Also, you can play and play the game, but advancement through the war goes pretty slowly. I played for several weeks and only passed about a year in game time of the war (1941-1942). So I still had three years to go!

--Brent Hegarty