Harpoon Ultimate Edition – PC Game Review
Harpoon Ultimate Edition. PC Game Preview. Publisher: Slitherine/Matrix Games. Developer: Advanced Gaming Systems. $59.99 Digital Download and $69.99 Physical Box.
Passed Inspection: Highly immersive with tense action. Complete look at modern naval warfare with no limits as to the scenarios. Over 20 previous editions of the game are also included!
Failed Basic: I had trouble finding the same scenario twice. Could not find tutorials in the Ultimate Edition folder. Outdated graphics. Could not find the multiplayer mode option.
Harpoon has been the Cadillac of modern naval warfare games for over 20 years but, sadly, this new edition of the game falls short of bringing the game up to 21st Century expectations.
Harpoon was the brainchild of designer Larry Bond and started life as a minature game in 1981. It rose to popular prominence when it was revealed that Tom Clancy had used the game for research for his books The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising. Clancy even wrote supplements for the minis game. In 1989, the game was released for the PC/MS Dos platform with Macintosh and Amiga versions following in 1990 and 1991. Both the minis game and the computer games were so advanced that they transcended the term “game” and are generally referred to as modern naval warfare simulations. Harpoon has been used by the US Navy to provide tactical naval warfare training since the 1980s.
Matrix Games and Slitherine have released what may be the most complete version of Harpoon on a PC platform. Packaged with the Harpoon Ultimate Edition are 20 older versions of the game making this new release the ultimate Harpoon lover’s feast. Any older scenario can now be imported in to an edition of Harpoon which works on modern computers. But it is this huge 3GB bundle of different editions of Harpoon which leads to confusion but more on this later. Let’s first look at how the game is played.
Harpoon is a real-time war game. As each second passes for your units, a second passes for you, the player. The player can accelerate time so that up to 30 minutes can pass per second. The player controls one or more ships, submarines, helicopters or airplanes as they fight for the control of the seas. The amazingly extensive database of units includes all major air and naval units that are either in use currently or have been used in the last 30 years. For each type of unit, Harpoon’s programmers have given us a full data file including pictures, weapon load outs, sensor abilities, range, etc.
The game accommodates one player and the A/I is very challenging. The Ultimate Edition of the venerable game actually includes all previous versions of the game and over 290 scenarios covering everything from the Cold War of the 1980s, the 1st Gulf War of 1991, alternate universe Soviets vs NATO, modern pirate interdiction actions, and more. Plus the game offers an extensive scenario builder. The idea behind the compilation is that various versions of the game treated aspects differently. For example, one version may treat torpedoes in a way that players like and other versions (both past and future) do not.
The basic game play screen includes two tactical display windows which show the disposition of the player’s naval and air assets plus little things like land masses. Once screen is used to plot attacks while the other screen provides information overviews. The player has the option of zooming in to a particular area or locking the chosen unit in to the middle of the view. Two other windows provide data on the speed, course, number of units, number of damaged units, and designation of the selected unit. The other window is used for intelligence updates on attacks, contacts, nuclear states, etc. These updates are delivered by a naval officer. When weapons launch or weapon systems impact, a window opens up to show the player overhead low resolution graphics of the attack.
The top of the screen offers buttons for easy control of the games turn speed in seconds and minutes, attack options, speed and depth settings, course settings, unit formations, air asset controls and sensor settings. A button is also offered to lock the selected unit in to the center of one of the tactical screens.
A “Help” function is included but does not work on Windows 7 operating systems.
The game features a PDF basic manual which runs around 153 pages. This manual gives the player what he needs to know playing Harpoon but seems to apply to an earlier edition of the game as the screen shots look different from this Ultimate Edition.
The main game menu also contains the option to create scenarios and access the 20 Years of Harpoon option which gives the player access to over 20 past editions of the game.
Harpoon is easy to play with the buttons on the main play screen controlling the action. A brief overview of the book and a couple play throughs should be enough to get the player started. Tutorial Scenarios are included but are difficult to find in the scenario menu unless the player boots up an older edition of the game.
This lack of one clear menu for scenarios is one of the negatives of this new edition of Harpoon. The player can access many of the scenarios from the menu of the Ultimate Edition but some specific scenarios (including one I played years ago on Harpoon for the Amiga 2000 HD computer) can only be found in the scenario menus of earlier editions of the game. The sheer number of scenarios, battle sets, etc. also makes it difficult to find a particular scenario that the player would like to replay. All the scenarios should have been organized and grouped in to one easy to use menu system.
While this edition of Harpoon may garner a whole new market share of fans, a secondary element which may stand in its way are its graphics, which don’t appear to have evolved from 8 bit technology. The game’s land masses are photorealistic but the combat animation and units look a little out of date. While the graphic style may be accurate as to what the Navy sees on its shipboard computer systems, an “amped up” graphics mode should have been included to take advantage of newer computers. While antiquated graphics are expected on the past editions of Harpoon included in the package, I expected somewhat more from this “Ultimate” edition.
Another difficulty is Harpoon’s multiplayer mode. The publisher claims that it has this mode available but I couldn’t find a way to access it. If I had, I am told that there is no player matching service. Games are connected the old school way – by inputting the IP address of your opponent.
These few flaws are only a couple of barnacles on the bulkhead of this fine and venerable modern naval simulator. For real fans of modern naval warfare, Harpoon Ultimate Edition can’t be topped and this edition should satiate the call of the ocean for many war gamers.
Armchair General Rating: 85 %
About the author:
A college film instructor and founder of Nouveau Cinema Group, Inc., an organization which rescues old movie theaters, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember wargames which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!