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Silent Hunter 5: Battle For the Atlantic

By Neil Schneider

Introduction


Ever since I was a kid (a younger kid!), I was always fascinated by submarines.  The idea of living underwater in a moving vehicle, armed to the teeth with torpedoes that can take out the biggest ships without a moment's notice - it's intriguing!

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

Would you believe the first submarine simulator I ever played was on a Commodore Vic-20?  The next level up for me was "Sub Battle Simulator" by Epyx in the late 80's, to be followed by "688 Attack Sub" by Electronic Arts.  I don't know why, but I haven't played any submarine simulators since then.

Among other things, Ubisoft has earned a great name for itself with the Silent Hunter series, and today we are going to review their latest title in stereoscopic 3D!


General Game Review

Silent Hunter 5 plays through as a historical campaign that starts when Germany invades Poland in 1939 and moves on from there.  You have just been promoted to Captain of a German U-Boat, and are assigned several missions around the world. 

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

As you progress, missions can include sinking ships, reconnaissance or photography, and more.  While the missions may sound a bit simplistic, Silent Hunter 5 is everything but!

Let's begin by describing the submarine itself.  You have a torpedo room, a command room, an engine room, and crew cabins.  On deck, depending on how your sub is configured, you have one or more flak and deck guns for surface combat.

Your crew is varied as well.  You have an engineer that keep things running well, a watchmen to manage the deck, a radio room officer to manage the sonar and listen for incoming radio transmissions, and several specialized characters that do everything from cooking the meals to ensuring the crew morale remains high. 

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

What works for Silent Hunter 5 is its superior visual graphics and immersive experience.  As Captain you have full reign of the ship.  You can walk first person from bow to stern, climb a ladder onto the deck, and even fire all the guns and torpedoes personally.  This is an innovation because most submarine simulators don't offer this first-person perspective the same way.

An added bonus is while you are on your missions, you can converse with the crew to pump up their morale and take advantage of special features.  For example, your torpedo officer can preheat the torpedoes to make them do more damage and run faster, your engineer can overcharge the batteries so you can stay underwater longer - you can even ask the cook to make a special morale boosting meal for the crew! 

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

To take advantage of these features, you need to spend crew morale points which you earn from accomplishing missions and doing productive things.  When you return to port, you also get promotion points that you can use to enhance your crew.  Clearly, your submarine is capable of being much more than the sum of its parts when in the hands of the right Captain!

While the game is run in DirectX 9, it is visually interesting throughout.  You can even activate an external camera and get a breathtaking view of the ocean and ships around you.  Everything is finely detailed. 

iZ3D 1.11B2 Drivers

It is especially cool when your submarine takes damage because water seeps onto the floor and countless valves spray all over the place.  You even hear the sound of shorting circuits.  It's really something!

The audio is also very immersive, especially in surround sound, because you can hear the creaking of the submarine's hull all around you, and your heart will skip a beat when the surface warships are pinging the ocean deep to find you. 

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

Unfortunately, it's with good reason that it took this long to get this review written for our members:  Silent Hunter 5 is the most frustratingly difficult game I have ever played.  The manual isn't a manual, it's a pamphlet!  My pamphlet wasn't even readable because I got the online version.

It took way too much research to figure out how to launch a torpedo, and weeks to get through my first missions.  It shouldn't really take this long, but running a submarine is way more complex than the manual prepares you for.  What is really frustrating is it's not the complex operations that set things back.  I've sunk several ships with torpedoes and deck guns - no problem!  The real issue is finding the ships that need to be sunk.

For example, I had completed almost an entire mission, and all I had to do was find and sink an aircraft carrier.  Who wouldn't want the thrill of sinking an aircraft carrier?  Imagine how frustrating it was to explore the Atlantic and not find this behemoth?!?  Even looking through forums, etc. you really aren't given the tools to play the game enjoyably.  One mission you have to sink a Battleship.  Is a battleship the same as a warship?  How do you differentiate a capital ship from a battleship? 

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

There are so many knobs and buttons on the sub, and absolutely no explanation of how to use them or what they are for.  It took forever to figure out how to steer the sub in the direction I wanted, and even then I think there is a less cumbersome way that I haven't figured out yet.  Simple enough, but needless hours of trial and error.  Very frustrating.

Irony of all ironies is that you can play Silent Hunter 5 in a more true-to-life simulator mode complete with high school trigonometry - but that's way beyond me!
 

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

As a service to our readers, here is a very helpful instructional video on how to set down a firing pattern for your torpedoes (and this is the easy mode!):


Something our members will appreciate is that one of the characters in the game is teased for only having one eye (who can serve on a submarine without 3D vision?!?).  Can Silent Hunter 5 handle its own sense of humour?  Time to find out!



Nvidia Stereoscopic 3D Findings


Maingear X-Cube
Intel Core I7 Processor 2.66GHZ
6GB RAM
2 X GTX 275 (SLI)
Windows 7 64 Bit
NVIDIA 258.96 Stereo Driver
NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision / Samsung 2233RZ Monitor

I'm sorry to report that Nvidia's GeForce 3D Vision was a complete failure with Ubisoft's Silent Hunter 5: Battle For the Atlantic.  After several weeks of notice, we received no word of a profile in development for this title.  There is no way to experience this game without the user interface splitting uncontrollably, and attempting to play this game in 3D is a useless exercise.

If or when Nvidia informs us of an update via patch or driver release, we will be happy to get this game retested.


iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Findings

AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
EVGA GTX285
Windows 7 64 Bit
Zalmon Trimon 24" Monitor
iZ3D drivers 1.11B2

iZ3D shared a profile update to get Silent Hunter 5 to work with their 1.11B2 drivers.  Add this text to the "UserProfile.xml" file in the iZ3D application data directory:

(Profile Name="Silent Hunter 5")
(File Name="sh5.exe" /)
(SeparationScale Value="0.1"/)
(MonoFixedPipelineCheckingMethodIndex Value="2"/)
(/Profile)

Replace the () parentheses with less than and great than brackets.  Make sure to turn off the "Environmental Effects" in the advanced display features OFF.   It's important for Silent Hunter 5 players to change the mapped iZ3D driver keys because they directly conflict with those attached to the game.

iZ3D 1.11B2

While the visual problems are numerous, many will find them tolerable.  First, the water foam in front of the sub and the ships is shown to the side, not dead centre.  The second problem which is more annoying is that the smoke and fire effects are rendered at screen depth.  Finally, there is a black wall that appears between the submarine sections on the port doors.  It's as though a scene separator is appearing on the screen when it shouldn't.

iZ3D 1.11B2

While these are all non-critical errors, fixing them would go a long way to making Silent Hunter 5 a stronger 3D gaming experience for iZ3D users.


DDD Stereoscopic 3D Findings


AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
EVGA GTX285
Windows 7 64 Bit
Zalmon Trimon 24" Monitor
Tridef Ignition 2.7.5 

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

DDD did the best job of the three, but they don't know it yet!  The profile included with their drivers is flawed, and I can't recommend it as is.  To get the best results, follow these steps:

1. Turn off "environmental effects" in the game's advanced display settings.
2. In DDD's driver menu, select "options", then "3D Object Detection", and choose mode one.
3. Make sure auto-convergence is turned off.  Why DDD insists on making this default to on when it clearly isn't necessary, I will never know.

The only remaining anomalies in DDD's case are shadows that occasionally render at the wrong depth, the black wall which separates the submarine sections, and when ships in the distance turn their bright spotlights on, the spotlights are rendered at screen depth.  Just about everything else is rendered properly, and you can achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience.


Conclusion

I have mixed feelings about Silent Hunter 5: Battle For the Atlantic.  If you are a patient gamer who can concentrate on one title for hours and days at a time, and you are willing to put up with a lot of extra researching to figure things out, I think you will enjoy this title a great deal. 

DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.4

Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision users are definitely out of luck with this game until a proper profile is written.  While DDD & iZ3D scored equally well with MTBS' 3D Game Analyzer, I think DDD had a better visual result because iZ3D's smoke, lighting, and ocean foam errors were much more numerous.  However, iZ3D did a better job with their shadow rendering inside the submarine.

Silent Hunter 5 is uniquely qualified to be a stereoscopic 3D game, and all three driver developers should spend a little time to get this title better optimized.  I invested way too many hours into this game because the curiosity got the better of me, so I see a lot of potential with this with the right optimizations and better user support.

I hope Ubisoft continues this franchise, and their follow-up versions include a much thicker, much more detailed manual.  At a minimum, a website complete with step by step instructions would have made this title a million times more enjoyable.  Otherwise, the gamers who would play this are a rare (and committed!) breed.

Please comment on the review below, and check out our Silent Hunt 5 3D image gallery.

Game Play
7/10

Sound
9/10

Presentation

6/10

Immersive Nature
9.5/10

How Memorable is This Game
9.5/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness Nvidia
0/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness iZ3D
7.5/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness DDD
7.5/10

Nvidia Overall Rating
NA

iZ3D Overall Rating
8.08/10

DDD Overall Rating
8.08/10
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