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U-33 goes to war in the epic U-boat sim - that's still being improved! Back in the day, I remember buying a bargain bin, jewel-cased CD release of the original Silent Hunter WW2 submarine simulation. Even then, its graphics were somewhat dated and it had no external view, however good it might otherwise have been. Besides, it was set in the Pacific, which is well and good but my main interest in subs is in what Churchill famously said was 'the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war' - what he called 'the U-boat peril'. Hence the next in the series, Silent Hunter II, was the one I jumped at - external view AND the ability to fight the Battle of the Atlantic in one of a range of different types of U-boats. A few years latter - in 2005 - along came Silent Hunter III, with a similar setting and an excellent, open-ended campaign system, lacking mainly AI subs and therefore the simulation of wolf-pack tactics, where several boats would on radio orders from Befehlshaber der U-Boote (BdU), form, abandon and reform patrol lines across suspected convoy routes, ganging up on any they came across. Despite being on your own, SH3 must surely rank as one of the most ambitious, most comprehensive and most immersive sims ever made, in any genre. I had a few years away from simming about that time so it was only earlier this year that I dusted off my original SH3 DVD - and then bought the on-sale Steam version instead, rather than having to fiddle to get my early, Starforce-DRM protected version running on a post-Vista O/S. Like later DVD editions, Steam SH3 comes pre-patched to the latest official version (1.4b) and doesn't have Starforce. So there was I, happily really playing SH3 as if for the first time, and thinking how great a sim it still is, as I sailed out of port in my chosen boat, here an early-war Type VIIB. Heck, I even managed to sink some ships in convoy... ...and even escape the inevitable retaliation, here directed at my larger Type IXC from an aircraft which caught me on the surface, leading to a rapid crash-dive. At first, I stayed away from mods, partly as I was delighted with the vanilla game, partly because I didn't want to break anything - having seen dark warnings of Steam SH3 needing a fix of some sort applied for some mods, to avoid subsequent issues. A widescreen mod was essential; though, and here I settled on ARB's one for 1080x1020. This needs a patch applied to enable the in-game map to display properly, but it all worked and worked well. My appetite for mods thus whetted, to my rescue came Fiedler's guide to installing SH3 on Windows 10 (I'm actually playing ATM on Win 7): How to run STEAM-SH3-V1.6b-GWX-WIDESCREEN on Win10 (donitzeliteflotilla.com) [link updated 6 May] Followed carefully, this led me to other indispensable tools like SH3 Commander... ... and the Doenitz Elite Flotilla's (DEF) SH3 front end, the former adding various goodies and the latter enabling me both to make a hassle-free second install of SH3 (to which I could apply my first choice of 'mega-mod' while not risking my near-vanilla one) and to apply at the click of a mouse the 'Steam fix' without which problems can ensue. Links to the stuff mentioned I'll post at the end of this thread. I was a bit wary of going for one of the several SH3 mega mods as I preferred to have a bit of choice in my set-up. But in the end, I went for what's possibly the most popular, the Grey Wolves Expansion 3 Gold edition, commonly known as GWX3. this comes as an easy-to-use multi-part installer and while you don't then enable it via the ubiquitous JSGME, this does create several optional sub-mods which you can enable at choice - such as a 'lite' version of GWX's excellent harbour traffic. GWX massively improved the already remarkable experience SH3 was giving me. The aforementioned harbour traffic (not the lite version) is probably my favourite addition; we'll see that in action soon. Other icing on my U-boat cake was provided by the Compulsory Head-dress mod (which makes the sloppy default crewmen wear a suitable cap) and the excellent TKSS18 German U-boat Compilation (GUC), which greatly improves the already-improved GWX boat models. On top of this there is a further GUC add-on which even further improves the early Type VIIs (but needs backed out if you survive till after about 1942, as it doesn't yet include the later conning towers for these boats). Finally, having happily used DEF's tools, I signed up with the online flotilla itself, which caters for single-player as well as multi-player action. This gave me dedicated storage on Mediafire to store my patrol screenshots, and the ability to role-play (before/during/after each patrol) interaction with a real human commander based on the real-life historical person, including making realistic simulated radio reports. This added a whole extra layer of immersion for me; I felt much more invested in my boat, my crew, and my mission. You can read and see the results here: http://www.donitzeliteflotilla.com/forum/index.php?topic=3368.0 As that career is still under way, with my second patrol in U-105 due to start very soon, I decided to run a second fully offline one in parallel. The main reason for doing this was to test the stability of the GUC mod, before relying on it in my next DEF patrol. I didn't want to take any chances - for one thing you can render career files un-loadable if you apply mods during a patrol. So I wanted to try out GUC before starting out again in U-105, using the GUC's Type IXB in place of the GWX version. Good - stock SH3 Type IXB: Better - GWX3 Type IXB: Better still - GUC Type IXB: My U-105 patrol started in mid-1941 and took my big-long-ranged boat down into the Central Atlantic off Freetown, where I ran into lots of aggressive and apparently radar-equipped escorts and aircraft. For this try-out career, I decided to go for the more common and smaller Type VII, choosing U-33 in March 1940, before the fall of France opened up the bases on the French Atlantic coast. U-33 was actually a Type VIIA (U-27 to U-36 inclusive) with a prominent external stern torpedo tube and the VIIB is the nearest available substitute in SH3. I'm based at Wilhelmshaven on the Baltic coast east of Denmark, so I won't have to sail through the Kiel Canal to get into my assigned patrol area. This is in Marine Quadrat AN21, which means I'll be operating just east of Scotland's Shetland Islands. Sadly I didn't get a screenie of the map so we'll start with the view aft from the bridge, looking towards the band which is playing us out of our berth, accompanied by well wishers who include the famous SH3 nurses chucking bouquets. SH3 fans will know all of this dockside activity is quite nicely animated. 'Kleine fahrt voraus!' I get the boat moving, so as to keep up with the minesweeper up ahead, which is evidently our escort out of port. The GWX map has many pull-down features, which include mini-maps showing 'friendly' nets and minefields protecting our ports. I don't know if these are really simulated obstacles, but I don't plan on finding out the hard way. The detail on the GUC bridge is vastly better than stock SH3. For one thing, the UZO surface sight (Uberwasser Ziel Optik) isn't permanently fitted to its pedestal (the blackened peg left of centre), only when you order it brought up to the bridge. To the right is the slot for the direction finding loop antenna, which is also raised on command. Apart from the tensioners and insulators on the jump wires (which were used as radio aerials) being much better rendered, another nice feature is that you have a beautifully-animated Kriegsmarine war flag, which a key command enables you to take down after leaving port. In Silent Hunter 5, your bridge watch is scanning with binoculars even before you've left U-boat pen or quayside, but in SH3, they are relaxed until several hundred meters out - much better. The first excitement of the patrol comes unexpectedly early. My watch officer turns around and warns of approaching aircraft! Are we to be bombed before we're even clear of the port? I hastily grab my own binos. Relief - that's a Heinkel III, unless I'm very much mistaken. The five or six Heinkels roar across the port. Happily, the flak people have also identified them correctly. And the fly-boys manage to miss the barrage balloons. After that, it's more uneventful. There's plenty to see, though, including the new battleship Tirpitz, which is laid up awaiting fitting of her armament... ...and a Hipper class heavy cruiser, led by a destroyer, which passes U-33 and our own, smaller escort to starboard, as we near open waters. There's also smaller traffic like fishing boats and a solitary coal barge. Clear of the defensive nets and minefields and anxious to be on our way across the North Sea, I plot a course to the north-west and we leave our escort behind. Down in the depths of the boat, courtesy I believe of the GUC's added detail, the cook stands by his tiny stove... ...the off-duty ratings - the 'Pairs' - relax as best they can in their accommodation in the bow torpedo room... ...while other crew members attend to the engines... ...and to our five torpedo tubes. What will the Tommies have in store for us? We'll find out, soon enough! ...to be continued!