When the United States went to war against Japan immediately after the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Navy wasn’t ready. Its submarines were commanded by peacetime skippers, many who did not have the stomach for combat; and with torpedoes that had serious bugs. The irony will not be lost on the hordes of subsim skippers clamoring for the newly-released Silent Hunter 4. Ubisoft retooled the critically-acclaimed U-boat sim Silent Hunter III, moving the area of operations from the convoy battles of the Atlantic to the island-studded waters of the Pacific, rebuilding the graphics engine and adding in a batch of new features, going from green light to release in less than a year. As a consequence of the abbreviated development cycle, Ubisoft’s flagship simulation is less polished than its predecessor and has a number of bugs and glitches that could turn away some subsim skippers (who don’t have a stomach for combat). However, in keeping with the naval analogy, just as the US Bureau of Ordinance corrected bugs with the torpedoes, the crack Romanian developers have released one patch and are working on a second patch that promises to knock out many of the top complaints as this review is being written.
Silent Hunter 4 comes packaged in a variety of ways; there is the US version with bonus materials (large Pacific theater map, perfect for framing), a ship recognition map (make room on the wall for this, too!), a keyboard foldout, historical DVD, and a slim manual (more on this later). There is also a European version and a UK Collector’s Edition, a fantastic ensemble of, as Drebbel put it, “goodies you don’t really need but they are nice to have”. This version is packed in a weathered intel folder with a patch (a cloth patch, let me assure you), pen, coin, journal, spiral-bound ship recognition booklet, and historical footage. Finally, there’s the Deluxe Collector’s Edition, which was limited to 3000 copies and came in a neat little tin box, raised rivets and all. It’s nice to see a simulation receive this kind of treatment.