Has Ubisoft's 'Always Online' DRM Scheme Been Foiled?

Pirate sites claim sub-sim Silent Hunter 5 has been cracked, but the publisher says its anti-piracy measures are still intact

A cracked copy of the new World War II submarine simulation Silent Hunter 5 may have made its way onto file sharing sites, and some are claiming Ubisoft's 'always online' play requirement has been circumvented.

The European games publisher's response? Don't kid yourself.

Posted to a complaint thread on the game's official message boards by an Ubisoft forum manager, Ubisoft's official statement on the matter reads as follows:

"You have probably seen rumors on the web that Assassin's Creed II and Silent Hunter 5 have been cracked... Please know that this rumor is false and while a pirated version may seem to be complete at start up, any gamer who downloads and plays a cracked version will find that their version is not complete."

In a move that surprised and rankled the games community, Ubisoft recently decreed its future PC games would include a mandatory 'always connected' online requirement. Single-player or no, if you don't have internet access continuously, games like Silent Hunter 5 and the upcoming PC version of Assassin's Creed 2 will drop you (after attempting to save your game). No internet access, no play, no ifs, ands, or buts. Judging from message board reactions, the whole affair's gone over like a bag of lead-smothered bricks.

I joined the chorus of grumblers earlier this week.

Is the cracked copy of Silent Hunter 5 legitimate? No, and it's in fact highly illegal by definition. But if by "legitimate" your mean "functional," the user comments on release sites suggest that the copy is for real, that the initial online check has in fact been bypassed, but that checks or internal logic later in the game prevent it from functioning normally throughout.

So no, it seems Ubisoft's 'always online' requirement probably hasn't been foiled. Yet.

Hey Ubisoft, how about you foil your own DRM scheme and beat the bad guys? You can even claim firsties, and your legitimate paying customers can get back to caring about the games themselves, instead of your draconian anti-customer wrapper.

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Matt Peckham

PC World (US online)

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