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Video Game / Silent Hunter Series

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A series of Simulation Games published by Strategic Simulations, Inc. (original and II) and Ubisoft (II and later) which place the player in command of a WWII submarine. The series has 5 entries, with the latest having been released in March 2010. SH1 and 4 take place in the Pacific Theatre, while 2, 3, 4's expansion ("U-Boat Missions") and 5 place the player in the shoes of a Kriegsmarine U-boat Kaleun (short for Kapitänleutnant, "lieutenant", two steps above Ensign Newbie) during the second battle of the Atlantic.

The series is primarily noted for its dynamic campaign mode: rather than using specific missions the game engine simulates ship traffic according to historical shipping lanes, convoy routes and traffic patterns. The player is given an assigned grid to patrol, but is free to head elsewhere if they feel they can find better hunting grounds on their own.

  • A.I. Breaker: AI can't handle acoustic torpedoes at all. They show up in the late game, but AI can only perform evasive manouvers against things that follow a straight path. The torpedo taking a turn or simply adjusting own course to the target is something that AI not only can't, but won't even try to shake off.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: A single torpedo to the beam and grand majority of ships will either instantly explode or will be severely damaged, take water quickly and sink. Any other part of the vessel and you might end up needing up to six hits to bring it down.
  • Blood Knight: Isn't it grand to see Stuff Blowing Up?
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Sure, you can spend two or even three torpedos per cargo ship to put it down instantly... or you can have a single hit right below the water line and simply wait for the ship to sink. Even if it won't, it will slow down and start lagging behind the convoy, making it an easy prey
    • The humble, starting, standard-issue G7a torpedo. It leaves a very visible trail of bubbles behind itself, but other than that, it's the most versalite torpedo that can to pretty much any job, is always in quantity in stock and comes free of any charge.
    • Using the deck gun, especially in III, especially in manual mode. It's usually far, far more effective weapon than torpedoes, not to mention ammo efficiency.
    • Instead of chasing after random shipping somewhere on Atlantic, you can simply get to any given colonial port in Africa, to the point of getting inside of it and sinking all the ships there with single, perfectly aimed torpedo - or if you are particularly cocky, with the deck gun. Trying to pull it in English ports is near suicidal, since there are warships and air coverage, but places like Freetown are free game.
    • Targetting convoy routes around Murmansk and Canary Islands. It's a very small sector of the map, but shipping is plentiful. Planes? None.
      • Taken to exteme if based in La Spezia - you're locked in the Mediterranean, so not many places to go, but anything between Algiers and Sicily is yours to take with impunity - you might not make big tonnage, but you can easily survive until the end of the war.
  • The Captain: The player, irrespective of your in-game rank.
  • Cool Boat:
    • SH3 includes the Type XXI U-boat, the first true submarine and the ancestor of every submarine built post WWII. Using it is almost a completely different experience compared to the other subs in the series, especially when all six auto-loading torpedo tubes load faster than one manually-loaded tube on earlier U-boats.
    • The expansion to SH4 features the Type XVIII, a cancelled project that influenced the Type XXI. Again, players will have to give up the deck guns and stern torpedo tubes of the familiar Type IX, but in return they get the Walter hydrogen peroxide turbine, allowing submerged travel faster than either diesel or electric.
    • Subverted in that by the time they came around, you'll need all the advantages you can get. Historically, due to construction woes the Type XXI's were delayed to the point that only two are known to have made it to wartime patrol, neither of which had any sinkings. However, U-2511 in its only patrol reportedly evaded the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk's escort screen, got within half a kilometer and actually had a perfect shot lined up... only to dive under the Norfolk and leave undetected, having received notice of Germany's surrender a few hours before.
    • Plenty of mods give you cool boats, from Cold War-era missile subs, to battleships such as the USS Iowa and the German battleship Bismarck. One author who made mods of the latter two made them practically invincible and with either infinite ammo, or just a crapload of ordinance; with this in mind, it's possible to use the Iowa to directly attack Tokyo Bay, or decimate the US Fleet at Midway with the Bismarck, potentially changing the course of history (in the former, Japan would be defeated more quickly, while in the latter, an Axis victory in the Pacific could potentially occur unless the United States were to accelerate development of the atomic bomb).
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • Doing entire aiming and arming procedure manually. It's a lenghty, complex process (best seen here) that requires to do on a fly bunch of navigational math and then apply corrections to your calculations (preferably with some surface to draw on, beause the in-game tools aren't perfect), all while not getting detected and with a goal of hitting as many targets as possible with that single salvo. But its probably the most gratifying feeling in the whole series.
    • Plotting a course for an entire salvo of programmable torpedos. This means the aim solution isn't important, but proper timing and speed of enemy convoy has to be taken into account, or else the torpedoes will just spin around, hitting nothing. If done right, bunch of ships explode, while you are already completely out of range of the escort.
  • Early Game Hell: Despite the Allied ASW techniques and weapons being a joke in '1939, the game is actually tougher in early phase of the WW2: your crew is fresh from training, specialists are few and far between, there aren't many opportunities to sink significant tonnage and you will be hard-pressed to get into British shipping lines, as they are too far away to reach them easily. And your own equipment is a joke, too. Not to mention you'll have to ignore American and Norwegian shipping, as they count as neutral early on and thus incure a penalty for sinking them.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield:
    • In Silent Hunter 4 they go out of their way to make this come alive, with such things as news reports from home and a view of the fleets that constantly move around the map.
    • In SH3 at least if using the right mods, you can receive radio intercepts mentioning such things as the sinking of HMS Royal Oak, the declarations of war, reported enemy sightings... and hinted at-or-confirmed U-boat losses. (Some samples are mentioned in this playthrough log, with historical footnotes.)
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You:
    • And all you are doing is trying to kill people, innocent little you...
    • Generally averted. Nothing that doesn't belong to the enemy pays much attention to you, and unarmed enemy vessels will attempt to flee if they see you. Although it can certainly feel like this at times.
    • In III even the smallest merchant ship can open fire at you in close range... using small arms. If you are really unlucky, they can kill one of your crewmen on deck or break the periscope.
  • Fragile Speedster: Destroyers can move at up to 32 knots (you can't go faster than 18 and civilian ships rarely move faster than 10), are extremely mobile and can easily destroy you with variety of ways, from ramming to few different types of explosives and on-board guns. They also all go down after being hit by a single torpedo, regardless of where it hit and sinking almost instantly. Good luck pulling that off, especially when it's a convoy's escort - even if you sneak-attack one, you've revealed your position to the rest of the escorts.
  • Forced Level-Grinding: The medals you are given after mission aren't just for show, but are instead an RPG-like system of improving your crew members. Thus it's paramount to get as many sunk tonnage per single missing as only feasible, as that's the basis for the medals received.
  • Friend or Foe?:
    • It is possible to attack or be attacked by friendlies or neutrals. Best avoided though.
    • Can get quite frustrating in the early months of a SH3 campaign, as you'll be forced to let dozens of juicy targets loaded with what is obviously war material get away from you because they're wearing the Stars and Stripes.
    • Or worse yet, the damned Norwegian shipping.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: You can't save during a patrol in III. Doing so corrupts the save (it will load as if your U-boot sunk, which makes it moot), which then acts as if your entire career ended, making reload of previous saves impossible, as they will cause the same result.
  • Game Mod:
    • Subsim has a whole boatload of them for almost every game in the series, most of which are designed to provide an even more realistic play style. With full realism and improved ASW AI, Nintendo Hard doesn't begin to describe it.
    • At least one mod results in Silent Hunter 4's AI tactics/skill improving as the years go by, though fortunately you keep your technological upgrades.
    • Especially the "supermod" Grey Wolves Expansion, GWX for short, and its monster of a manual, which is affectionately referred to as "Das Buch".
    • Chinese U-47's Warship Mod. An awesome modification for SH3 that allows you to command freaking battleships (to a certain degree)! A similar mod exists for SH4 as well and there are far more ships available for 4, than 3.
  • Glass Cannon: Destroyers. They are the fastest vessels in the game, but they go down after a single torpedo hit and are some of the least resilient units when you're crazy enough to use a deck gun to engage. However, even the most primitive pre-war destroyer can effortlessly sink you in a variety of ways, often in a single attack, while its speed makes it very hard to hit in the first place, unless using acoustic torpedoes.
  • Guide Dang It!: While some things can be figured by trial and error, a grand majority of more complex game mechanics aren't explained anywhere within the game and trying to figure them out is pain in the ass. Most notably, good luck figuring on your own how manual aiming of torpedoes work (especially those programmable). Or even in automated mode what's the actual difference between yellow and green aiming marker, despite being at almost identical angles.
  • Home Base:
    • You have to pick your home port. Relocation to different flotilla (and thus different harbour) advances clock just like any other action taken in port.
    • Pearl Harbor or Australia in Silent Hunter 4, though you have a pick in the U-boat versions. An important event in the Atlantic Theatre installments is the fall of France, allowing the U-boats direct access to the Atlantic from the French ports.
    • The Scenery Porn here gives the impression of a Not-So-Safe Harbor. Sometimes literally so: collisions are always a worry, and U-boat skippers have to worry about air raids on the port.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted:
    • Normally, destroyers are The Dreaded, able to easily sink you with minimal effort (especially once 1943 rolls in and Allies make significant advances in their ASW)... but around the same time you gain access to acoustic torpedoes. They aren't perfect and they do cost a lot, but they are fantastic anti-destroyer weapon due to only requiring very broad solution for the torpedo and then correcting the course already in water. And once you sink the escorts, the entire convoy is defensless.
    • Comes 1943 and Allied air coverage alone is going to tear you a new one - there is just a small handful of places all across Atlantic where planes can't reach. But the general advances in ASW weapons and tactics means you are a sitting duck for anything better armed than a trawler. Surviving the final two years of the war without cheesing it up or straight-out avoiding combat is a feat all by itself.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: The AI-controlled vessels can't run out of fuels. Destroyers can't run out of ammunition nor depth charges. And only the player has to manage the crew or bother with keeping it alive.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • Remember in Das Boot, that caption at the beginning saying 75% of U-boat crewmen didn't survive? SH3 makes it abundantly clear why: late-war Allied ASW is obscenely good.
    • This is especially true at the highest reality settings, where you are restricted to what skippers of the time had, and so you need to be constantly doing calculations and approximations to put your torpedoes on target or evade escorts. Not counting the fact that you have to deal with limited fuel (for cruising on the surface), batteries (for moving underwater), air supply (CO2 content slowly rises over time) and compressed air (for fast diving or rising in the water), as well as long reload times and extreme vulnerability to depth charges.
    • On the other hand, historically submarine captains would be assisted by weapons officers, which (along with automatic/manual targeting) is an option in the games.
  • No Swastikas: For obvious reasons. The best example is the battleship Bismarck, where there're just two white circles in the deck with nothing inside.
  • Oddball in the Series: Both Silent Hunter 1 and 4 puts you in an American submarine, fighting on Pacific against Japanese shipping. Every other game in the series gives you a German U-boot to command and fight predominately over Atlantic against the Allies - and this is what average person asked about the series will tell you about it, too.
  • Pirates: Otherwise known as commerce raiders: what you are, without you taking the loot. While you can go after warships instead, the average tonnages pale in comparison to that found by hunting cargo and merchant ships.
  • Ramming Always Works:
    • Well, sometimes. In Silent Hunter 4, at the very least, you can simply ram your boat into small fishing ships like sampans, instantly sinking them with no damage to you and no waste of ammunition; however, you get no credit for ships sunk in this fashion, either.
    • And as one Let's Player discovered in that same game, be careful at what angle you shoot down airplanes...or their crashing, flaming wreck can slam directly into you, sinking you instantly.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The fate of a captain that does not satisfy his superiors.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Doing night raids inside certain ports and naval bases is the easiest way of scoring great tonnage at minimal amount of torpedoes used. The ships are simply standing still and rarely guarded by anything at all. Just remember to make sure the fuse is set on magnetic, rather than impact. For extra audacity, you can even surface and use the deck gun.
  • RPG Elements: Crew members will gain experience as they progress through more missions, and the captain can gain Renown, which he can spend on improved gear or better U-boats.
  • Scenery Porn: The latest installments (Silent Hunter 4 and 5) have very impressive graphics.
  • Shout-Out: To Das Boot. There's a single mission in Silent Hunter 3 that has you in command of the U-96 attempting to sneak through Gibraltar defenses to enter into the Mediterranean Sea.
    • The real U-96 also attempted that.
    • Other single missions have you in the middle of famous WWII naval battles, for example the sinking of the battleship Bismarck in Silent Hunter 3, or the Battle of Leyte Gulf in Silent Hunter 4.
  • Silent Running Mode: Either manually (low speed, deep dive, no noisy activities like reloading torpedoes) or through an actual "silent running" button, depending on the game.
  • Sink The Life Boats: It is actually possible to do this, if you are mean enough.
  • Spiteful A.I.: The AI will do everything in its might to fight back. Downed a plane, but it didn't explode mid-air? Expect kamikaze attempt. Any already sinking, but still afloat ship will try to ram you if they've spotted you.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Averted; you have a limited amount of ammunition, and you have to try and make every torpedo count. Hitting an ammunition carrier or warship magazine can have spectacular results though.
    • In the case of Silent Hunter III, you start with a Type IIB (called "IIA" in-game) with only five torpedoes.
    • On the other hand, besides the fact that it's a waste of ordinance there's nothing really stopping you from putting a 280kg warhead designed to break cargo ships in half into a PT boat or fishing canoe.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Your assignment is to deliberately go behind enemy lines.
  • Unwinnable: It's impossible to actually change the tide of the war, at least in Silent Hunter 3 — no matter how many ships are sunk by your U-boat, Germany still surrenders in May of 1945... if you even survive that long.
  • Unwinnable Joke Game: In missions where you command a German U-boat, no matter now many vessels you sink, Germany (fortunately) will always lose the war.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: In Silent Hunter I you get missions to rescue shot-down pilots during air raids. To do that, you often have to get dangerously close to the enemy base where the water is too shallow to hide ... all while under time pressure as the pilot will eventually drown.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: In Silent Hunter III and IV you have the option of sinking helpless fishermen. In III it's even counted as sunken tonnage.
  • War Is Glorious: When played on a computer it is.
  • War Is Hell: Both when you think about what you're doing (as the crew in Das Boot saw), and when the enemy bites back... oh, how they bite back...
  • Warrior Poet: The opening cinematic for Silent Hunter 4 includes a lengthy quote from Milton.

Not to be confused with Silent Hunter, a troper.

Alternative Title(s): Silent Hunter