by Jim "Twitch" Tittle
Article Type: Preview
Article Date: September 10, 2001
Game Title: Silent Hunter II
Category: Naval Combat
Publisher: SSI / Ubi Soft
Release Date: Released
Files / Links: Click Here
What You GetThe arsenals for both Silent Hunter 2 (SH2) and Destroyer Command (DC) lay out with the same ships and planes in each for compatibility. In SH2 you can command sixteen different models of U-boats from the II to the XXIII. There are many sub-model variants with similar specifications in each class, of course. Not counting the Japanese vessels and planes seen in Destroyer Command, you will meet combatants from Great Britain, U.S.A., France, Netherlands, and Italy.
From Germany and these nations, including Japan, will be an array of, patrol vessels (7), destroyers (42), destroyer escorts (19), light cruisers (22), cruisers (17), battle cruisers (2), battleships (12), minesweepers (6), carriers (7), escort carriers (4), submarines (34), fighters (7), bombers (7), torpedo planes (4), scout planes (3) and dive bombers (4). In addition there will be a visually generic class of ships that will basically cover most cargo class vessels. You’ll see a passenger liner (1), a troop transport (1), tankers (2), faster cargo ships (3) and small, slow cargo ships (2).
Certainly some American vessels are Pacific Ocean only and will not appear in the North Atlantic, but will in DC. It would be possible to piddle around and change file names of vessels if you want to see Japanese ships in European waters I suppose. American carriers did appear.
Set UpThe preview installation took a while to lay down the 700 MB of program files. Of course everything is not totally complete so it may be a bit larger in the release version. Once running I had no complaint with graphic quality at 800 X 600 with 32 bit color. That was maximum on the preview but looked adequate. The water appeared good but not as impossibly great as the lead-in .MOV files. Those files contain excellent, short interviews with one of the best U-boat commanders, Erich Topp.
The missions load lightning fast in ten seconds and nothing is super intensive in the graphics so as to make a slower system stutter. 16MB video is the minimum requirement for 32-bit rendering. 128 MB RAM is suggested over the minimum 64 MB. And a 600 MHz CPU is recommended above the 266 MHz minimum. This one should not tax the average system.
I have a request for Ubisoft: use some real photos in the primary menu screens. I’m tired of the trend to make everything look cartoon-ish. The lead in .MOV, and title graphic illustration are great but the other main menu screens’ art is just bad.
|Good Looking Career Menu |
The manila folder sub-menu on single and campaign missions look fine. In campaign you see some good looking intro screens and before and after missions you have a very cool looking office with clickable objects that'll bring up more info. Of course there is a medal case there if you do well.
At SeaOn the bridge the boat produced a nice wake and detail viewed of the boat from the bridge was good. A distant, outside view is possible and all types of boats looked cool when remotely viewed surfaced or submerged. This vista changes to underwater when submerged and the refracted light through the virtual ocean looks warm and luxurious. Each type of boat’s bridge view is accurate but, of course, basic interior control station and instrument views are the same for each boat. Damage control blueprint layout is true to the boat type. If you have an old Type II the torpedo control panel is the same as the Type XXI except there are more torpedo firing buttons in the XXI.
|Bridge Optics View Of Juicy Convoy |
The map is a bit hard to master but it is zoomable to a high degree and gives plenty of information. You can navigate with it. More importantly, you can use it to assist attacks.
|A Type XXI In The Vehicle View Section |
The types of boats and their weaponry are accurate to the performance of the real boats. An old Type IIC has a shallower dive floor than a VIIC or XXI. The XXI’s torpedoes are quite better than the old IIC’s. Speed correctly varies too.
The thing of absolute necessity is the time compression feature that gives you 2,048 times normal speed in order to cover the vast stretches of water. Of course there may be some die-hards who will savor the real time adventure of a six-week patrol at 1X speed! If you are cruising a long distance with time compression full on you get a surreal H.G. Wells Time Machine movie vista of the sun rising and setting. When closer it is limited to 32X and if you are, say, 200 yards off a crippled freighter it runs real time only.
One problem I encountered was the nighttime action. The screen is simply too dark. From the bridge you can’t even always see the bow to tell where you’re headed. Intercepts are best left for daylight. I couldn’t quickly spot an enemy ship at night even though the 2-D map showed them close and my crew was calling them out. You must be very close to see them. Your optics will pick them up by marking them with a red triangle but they are hard to see in silhouette. This needs to be fixed for better play. Dusk and dawn views are just right though. Night action had better be run in a very dark room. Some scenarios are just impossible to work with.
You had better get familiar with bearings and compass headings to intercept enemy ships. It is not at all like flight sims in this respect. There are no snap views from bridge or periscope either. You must traverse degree by degree. There should be snap views at least from the bridge while not using optics. This can be assisted by time compression but if you are moving while scanning around visually, you will be speeding on the heading the bow is taking so care must be taken there. Hit the button to view the direction of the ship’s travel. It’s the only way to keep your bearings. 4X is maximum magnification on the viewing opticals surfaced or submerged. But if your are on 4X traversing with the optics it is very slow. This seems ok once you get close. At 1,300 yards a ship fills the viewing reticule completely.
|Periscope View At 4X |
There are buttons to padlock the target viewed and allow you to steer that direction but I noticed the lock jumping to the next target. It may need some work but steering to view angle is pretty good. If you look 45-degres port and hit the “H” button your bow steers to that heading you viewed. It seems faster than moving the rudder in its 5-degree increments.
|Fish Ready To Shoot |
Torpedo run time seems forever when you’ve launched a fish at an enemy tub. But if you hit one the gratification of seeing water blow and flame erupt is worth it. Once hit, ships may take a very long, probably realistic, time to sink. But I wanted those babies to head for Davy Jones’ Locker faster. I had to keep reminding myself that this type of combat is not quickly decisive like aerial warfare simulations.
MissionsThere are several shakedown missions that allow the virtual captain to get the feel of his boat and shoot torpedoes at enemy ships. The deck armament was not yet “installed” in the preview and I would have loved to finish off freighters with the guns. The weather was not working yet either so I’ll be interested to see how good it looks in the release version.
You get a brief description of the scenario and what your objectives are. With all the code still unfinished I was a bit perplexed on a mission that Reinhard Hardegen was on off the east coast of the U.S. Enemy transports were breaking up and sinking of their own accord. I was busy attempting to close in flipping back and forth from the map using different magnifications to avoid land and the periscope to see the ships. Next time I ran it, it worked fine and I racked up several ships. It gives you a “hands full” time of things as you speed and slow the time compression and change screens to navigate. I either never saw (or they were not yet in the sim) patrol aircraft when the bridge crew spotted them. Hopefully this is all just preview version stuff.
|Cool Office Begins Career Missions |
You have single missions and, of course, a campaign. That’s not done yet so we’ll have to see how good it ends up. This needs to be well done to create the immersion! Single missions all reflect historical happenings for the scenario primer. Custom missions set up is a screen in which most all the variables from boat type to weather and time of day can be changed. Nine categories can then be changed with several selections within each for infinite set up variation. It works well. There was no visual difference in North Atlantic water from the Mediterranean or Indian Ocean water yet though.
ALARM!Diving the boats seem an obscure feature at this point. You can select periscope depth and the boat will submerge to that depth. But in a crash dive your selected boat will go to a predetermined depth only. When you want to go deep fast it may level off at 44-meters then you must crash dive again to the next level down. Crash dive means go as deep as possible as fast as possible to me. But the less than effective AI will allow you to hit bottom often. Real planesmen and crew would be calling out distance to bottom to avoid that. I think a “take her deep” command would be a good addition that puts the boat near the bottom as quickly as possible.
Surfacing is better modulated with gradual decreases in depth. You can blow ballast and rise quicker. At periscope depth the scope can be lowered to the point where waves regularly lap over it allowing very little protrusion on the surface. Nice and skulky! Hehehe!
Sonar announces contacts but that’s about all. It is relatively useless in my opinion. Damage control is good with a detailed blueprint showing the health of the boat. Damage is highlighted in yellow and you have a percent readout of your and the enemy’s amount of damage. The torpedo room screen gives you a readout of how many fish you have left and how long it will take to reload tubes. I set the reload time to the unrealistic setting to move things along. You can set all realism aspects of weaponry and damage to 100 percent or less.
|Brush Up On Your German |
During play vital pop-up screens like the torpedo room controls and commands can be conjured up to adjust things while you are on the bridge. It’s handy. Be warned that everything is in German though, passing the mouse pointer over a gauge will give its description in English. The manual gives all the info you need plus a large glossary of U-boat terms.
I got real sick of the repeating voices every time I changed course quickly in battle, really. But there is no alternative since the AI doesn’t know that you’ve altered course six times in the last minute. The Captain’s voice is great with a German accent but the rest, I hope, will be improved. Some are English with no attempt to mimic an accent and were recorded at varying levels in different acoustic settings for the preview. One crewman has a bad German accent and almost taunts you in a nyah, nyah, nyah, sing-song, smart aleck voice that made me want to leave him stranded on Gilligan’s Island! I think sub-titles might be a good on-off feature for voice-overs only while the other sounds stays on.
MultiplayerWell, there’s not a lot to be said about that yet. We tried to hook up with one player as U-boat captain and another as a destroyer captain but, try as we might, we could not get the online host going.
[The folks at SSI were in the midst of moving offices during the testing of MP between SH2 and DC and we were unable to reach them for a solution to our problem. We'll give you a full MP preview as soon as the SSI team gets settled into their new offices and can answer our questions—ed.]
Interop, Team and Melee are the multiplayer game type options. Interop is one player in DC vs one in SH2. Team Play allows up to sixteen players on sides to fight and Melee is a free-for-all orgy of mayhem and destruction for the last-man-standing as the winner. Until we can get together online and report the good, the bad or the ugly of the combination of sims, we must leave the MP void unresolved for now.
ConclusionOverall I like Silent Hunter II. There is not much to see, really, so while graphics could be better, I doubt if they’d do much. Most of your time in the sub is filled with views of…water. It could be better and should vary in color as to locale. Let’s hope seas become rough and appear different when weather is functioning. I hope that changes. Most attack time is spent looking at instruments and it’s not vital to have microscopic detail on a panel or periscope.
|A Freighter From 50 Meters |
Surfaced, enemy freighters’ detail at distance is adequate. At close quarters—I was literally alongside many times—I was not wowed. The ships are adequate but not super-detailed. I’m not looking for knotholes in deck planks but you will see no humans on any ship either, even when you should. Unfortunately they appear somewhat like so many ghost ships. Again much of the real U-boat action will not be daytime surfaced. And the nighttime, as mentioned, is too dark in many cases. Dockyards were all the same no matter what port you were in. Detail was all right. How much time will we spend pouring over the pier for details when there’s a war on?! Land, so far, has no distinguishing features. It’s just green blobs. Unless that changes, I get a bleak feel to the whole SH2 “world.”
|View Of Dock Area Detail |
I can’t say how good clouds are since they’re part of the weather scene. The settings on the menus are pretty varied and it seems there will be diverse skies to view. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see the white cliffs of Dover where they should be or the New York skyline during an east coast raid. I doubt they’ll be there in the release version, though such elements would make it a finer sim.
But I did get the feel of it all. The sounds, beside the lame chatter, of diesels running, sonar pinging and water lapping the sides of a boat at all stop assisted things. Torpedo launches, depth charges, and distant, enemy naval rifle fire all lend to make the feel good. This not a boom box sim so do not expect immense sound effects.
The thrill of the hunt and take down was present. You do begin to imagine the jubilation of successful patrols and those LONG Atlantic crossings for home too, as you eye the fuel bunkers’ status. There’s even a captain’s cabin view, but you won’t spend much time there. A lot remains to be seen. So for now I’m cautiously optimistic that Silent Hunter II will have the missing pieces installed on the release version.
- ASUS A7V133 mother board with 256MB PC –133 RAM
Athlon T-Bird 1.3GhZ CPU
SoundBlaster PCI 128 w/Yamaha YST-M7 speakers
nVidia GeForce 2 Ultra
Direct X 8.0
17” monitor 800 X 600 resolution
Samsung 52X CD drive
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