Any WWII Navy submariner in the war-torn Pacific theater of the 1940’s would have been impressed by the realistic aspects of Silent Hunter: Wolves of the Pacific. But whether or not he’d have enjoyed reliving some of his more harrowing war-time experiences in computer game format remains to be seen. Fortunately for the rest of us, curious civilians don’t have to risk sweat-drenched flashbacks in order to have a little fun in the deep, blue yonder, sinking enemy ships.
What you may have to endure, unfortunately, are a few disappointments on your path to a good time. The most frustrating of these is the lack of a comprehensive manual. Admittedly, most gamers probably look forward to reading a chunky game manual like they anticipate having their eyebrows tweezed with a belt sander, but if any game screams out for a helpful manual, it’d be a meticulous submarine warfare simulation like this one.
A few rudimentary tutorials do little to help overcome your confusion, providing only a scant bit of radio traffic in an attempt to teach you important gameplay features. Eventually you’ll learn enough to muddle through, but it’s an unnecessary barrier to entry that could have been avoided.
Once you feel more competent, however, Wolves’ involved and exciting gameplay begins generating better vibes. She's a looker, too: the water effects are amazing and tiny details like the convincing splash of water on your periscope lens or the waves that slap against a detailed ship hull really add to the overall presentation. Torpedo explosions are also particularly awesome and they add oomph to every direct hit you score. The only dents in an otherwise sterling graphics presentation are the lack of anti-aliasing and some lag that crops up in larger battles.
Everything from the rumbling bass of an enemy destroyer passing overhead to the ominous creaking of your boat’s hull during a deep dive has been well-modeled via the game’s impressive sound engine. An appropriately epic score accompanies your efforts as well, though at times it can drown out your officers’ voices so you may end up just turning it off.
What Wolves of the Pacific lacks in explanation and polish it makes up for in tense, exciting ship-to-sub combat, tons of replayability, and loads of depth. Even if you grew weary of the game’s dynamic campaign mode, you’d still have 10 fast-playing Quick Missions and 5 longer War Patrols to battle through, not to mention the Co-op or Adversarial modes in 4 or 8-player Online or LAN action, respectively. Though it’s hardly a refined gem, Silent Hunter: Wolves of the Pacific is strangely similar to those hard-bit sailors of the US Pacific Fleet - rough, ready to scrap and well-trained for battle - you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better representative of the ‘silent service’ to date.