Though the previous two titles before Silent Hunter IV: Wolves of the Pacific were significantly enjoyable, there was something that felt a little bit wrong about playing on the German side, sinking innocent merchant ships and making the National Socialists proud. Thankfully, for those whose moral compasses couldn't handle the previous titles' side-switching, Silent Hunter IV's naval warfare gameplay returns in all of its stealthy glory, only this time you can sleep easy knowing that you're an American hunting down the enemies of America at the time: the Japanese.
In contrast to the Atlantic theatre of Silent Hunter III, the setting here is the Pacific Ocean and the target as you occupy various stations on your three-dimension submarine is the Japanese. Specifically, you're entering into unrestricted submarine warfare against an island nation dependent on importing much of their goods. Obviously this game isn't about to try and drum home the moral specifics of the Americo-Japanese naval conflict through its gameplay, but it pays to remember the context here, and that millions of tons of Japanese resources were sunk, as well as many American lives lost during this conflict.
Thanks to the developing talent of Ubisoft Romania, gameplay itself is thankfully much more quick to get going than any naval simulation titles out there. There are various modes of play, but all of them involve playing as the skipper of your boat as you take control of a 3D submarine whose crew follows your different commands and whose various stations such as the periscope, guns, and navigation chart (when up on the surface) can be manned personally by you.
Most tasks can also be completed by assigning members of your crew to them. It can be particularly sensible, for example, to assign the less vital members of your crew to damage control when you're in a combat situation. However, assigning tasks does have its drawbacks, which manifest in the feeling that you're sometimes micro-managing a little too much.
You shouldn't find yourself getting too bogged down in managing your crew however, since the main crux of the gameplay involves navigating the submarine around the Pacific ocean, taking part in battles and being as stealthy as you can, attacking only when the moment is right. It feels good to be able to chart a certain route through the Pacific from one point of interest to another, speeding up the passing of time as you do so, just so the navigation aspect doesn't take too long
Depending on the difficulty you're playing at, you can either experience naval combat on an arcade-style basis or choose to play with a more simulation-like sense of realism. Easier difficulties make combat as easy as locking your target in view and firing torpedoes. Harder difficulties require that you manage various pieces of data as well as properly utilise your periscope whilst on the surface. In this sense, the difficulty of the combat in Silent Hunter IV is scalable and will appeal to all levels of experience.
Silent Hunter IV lets you enjoy the submarine-based tactical naval warfare in a number of different ways. Career mode is by far the most lengthy and allows you to start from any year of the war you wish, embarking on a number of war patrols much like would happen in wartime. Then you've got the more instantly enjoyable and accessible ways of enjoying the gameplay such as entering individual missions in order to enjoy a number of battles on an individual basis. You can also go on individual war patrols where you'll encounter hostiles relatively randomly.
You also have a nice choice of submarines from the World War II period to choose from, all with impressive hardware such as anti-aircraft guns. Between the modes of play to the vessels available, you're not going to be short of missions to accomplish or submarines to experience including the S-Class, Porpoise Class, the Salmon Class, and the Gato Class (see the USS Gato).
Silent Hunter IV's gameplay is nicely detailed, and much more so than that of rival games of the likes of Victory at Sea. Commanding your own submarine is a thrilling experience; giving orders, navigating, and entering into combat are each skills to learn in of themselves, making the game nicely challenging. Even the graphics are extremely good to look at, with visible improvement compared to its predecessors. There's also multiplayer that allows you to either team up with other players or act as an escort vessel, but isn't of the quality of Silent Hunter Online however.
If you can manage to ignore some of the negative aspects of the game such as the fairly frequent bugs (enemies appearing out of nowhere and in the wrong place for the context) and a fairly unpredictable AI, you're going to very much enjoy this game.