Graphics & Sound
Graphics are of utmost importance in games, especially modern games. We're a little unused to seeing extraordinary detail in limited-appeal titles, like sims, but what do you know - two of the most beautiful games we've played this year have been Pacific Fighters and Silent Hunter III.
Silent Hunter III doesn't just dazzle the player with scenic views from the North Sea, Atlantic, Caribbean or Mediterranean. The water is impressive enough certainly, as is the sky and clouds and weather effects (though, for all the storms, rain and snow are quite rare). Most of the focus is on the various ships in the game, which have a very impressive level of detail though their texturing isn't always top-notch. There's a certain flatness to some textures, and others are clearly low-resolution, like the conn tower on the Type XXI U-boat. The game engine also doesn't expend much pixel shader or bump mapping effort on the ships, saving it for the weather effects and occasional iceberg.
The single strongest point, graphically, of Silent Hunter III is in its particle system. Explosions are wild and impressive, particularly that of a torpedo exploding against or under the hull of a target. The smoke afterwards is especially intense, though it can bring even the most powerful systems to its knees.
A lot of effort clearly went into detailing submarine interiors - each type of sub is different and the character models and sub model itself are interactive and very attractive. The menu permits the player to simply jump to positions, though for maximum immerion we'd suggest moving via the hatchways and doors - at least once - since this shows off many details that can be lost with the menu system.
Oddly enough, the graphics resolution is limited to 1024x768 and cannot be changed, even by fiddling around with the configuration files.
Fittingly enough for a submarine game, sound effects are top-notch. Since so much of the player's time can be spent listening for targets and escorts, or worse, depth charges, the developers have gone to a lot of effort to ensure the proper experience. There is a very clear difference in the sound a ship makes when the player listens from above the water, in the water, and the hydrophone. In a nod to realism and immersion, the game permits the player to man the hydrophone himself - with experience it's even possible to tell apart the sound effects of a warship or merchant, though we're not sure if there is a difference between specific types of merchants and warships.
The voice acting is very good, available in the native German of the U-boat crews, or a more user-friendly English. There isn't much variety in what the crews will say, but at least it's done properly.