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Unsilent Hunter: UbiDRM Not Sunk After All?

It is the year 2138. Since the terrible conclusion of the great war between Simon Cowell’s X-tremes and Charlie Brooker’s Tweetonauts, humanity has been at peace. And, for the first time in 131 years, the PC gaming website Rock, Paper, Shotgun passes an entire week without mentioning DRM.

That’s then, but this is now – and UbiGate continues apace. Yesterday, seemingly cracked versions of Silent Hunter 5 and Assassin’s Creed 2 appeared. Ubisoft have since responded to say these DRMless versions are not complete, backed up to some extent by various forum comments observing that the SH5 scene release can’t make it past the first mission. Other comments claim otherwise. What’s a poor website to believe?

Here’s Ubisoft’s statement:

“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.”

Which reads a bit too broad to be convincing enough by itself – we’ve requested further official comment, but in the meantime, here’s a selection of comments from a variety of popular filesharing sites which I’m not fool enough to link directly to here:

This is not fully cracked. The game needs a permanent online connection to net with a valid serial and DOWNLOADS the missions as you play through the campaign. This is not currently downloading the missions. I imagine this will still work fine when some we get all the mission files?

Hmm…it seems to be working just fine for me…I d/l the game and then the 1.1 patch…..I mounted it, then installed it without a hitch and then applied the 1.1 patch and crack..I then started the game directly from the crack and am currently on the 2nd mission of the campaign…seems to be saving just fine…I exited the game and then started it again and it was right where I left off and showed my next mission objectives….seems fine so far and gonna continue later tomorrow and see how things go…

Game NOT fully CRACKED!
U can play it, but NO missions, not even if u use the dafoult profile name.
Still, patrols is a go, but that gets kinda boring after a few runs.
Darn online missiongiving :(

Using the profile name gets you past the tutorial, and lets you start the first mission (even that doesn’t work for everyone). That’s as far as you get though. The missions for the most part are stored on Ubisoft’s servers. I guess someone is going to have to buy a legit copy and play through the game before a fully functional crack can be created. Hopefully these are the only tricks Ubisoft has up it’s sleeve. This crack is incomplete and probably should be nuked.

There’s still an awful lot of contradiction, in other words. Of course, it’s possible that any or all of the more strident comments on Torrent sites are telling porkie-pies on behalf one side or another, but I’ll leave it to crazy IP hunters to work out if there’s anything odd going on there.

Meanwhile, we’re told this is what people trying the Assassin’s Creed 2 crack are experiencing:

Largely speaking, it looks like Ubisoft might currently be right on this one, even if they’ve not provided supporting evidence of their own. Interesting to hear the repeated user assertions that the game downloads mission files as it requires them, which if true is presumably the key to how the DRM system works. It may be that a 100% successful crack turns up once someone’s played one of these games to completion and has the complete set of files, or it could be that important pieces are auto-deleted once used. Either way, this looks like a canny way to deal with 0-day piracy, even if its long-term effectiveness is less sure. It’s a bit rich, frankly, that a game you buy on a disc has to go and download a ton of stuff as soon as you run it, but then that’s scarcely uncommon practice – as anyone who’s bought a boxed Valve game or MMO in the last few years will know.

This hideously uncomfortable journey clearly isn’t over, despite yesterday’s apparent resolution. What fresh horror awaits us?

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Alec Meer

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