The Game Engine (GE)
This installment of Harpoon Classic was my first ever Harpoon experience. This is important, because for people who have been playing HC since its birth, there isn’t a whole lot of new stuff when it comes to scenarios. Probably the biggest change when it comes to scenarios is the EC2000 to EC2003 conversion. The development team has been hard at work perfecting the EC2000 battleset and make it the basis for the Platform Editor, which will be discussed later. EC2003 therefore, provides the Official Database for Harpoon Classic 2002 Gold, with up-to-date platforms, weapons and sensors. This means that most people designing scenarios will want to do it using these battlesets, not any of the older ones. This also means that, while there aren’t actually any new scenarios in the battlesets, they do play differently, as do all scenarios in this version of Harpoon Classic, because of the changes made to the engine.
And this is very important, for why else would people who are vets of the Harpoon saga want to play these scenarios in the first place?
I was part of the Open Beta for this game, and I have to say that the amount of changes to the way the game plays throughout the process has been astounding. The sonar model has been revamped considerably, and I have to say I really enjoy the submarine part of the game. The development team has also been fiddling with SAM firing rates and effectiveness of certain SAM systems against sea skimmers, having a further effect on the subsurface vs. surface and surface vs. surface combat in the game.
The way the AI handles air attacks and counter-air operations has also been significantly changed for the better, to the point where the AI is now a force to reckon with in the air, they will not make some of the silly mistakes I discovered and exploited in the early days of the beta. It’s not perfect, but very enjoyable indeed.
With all these improvements, I’m afraid to say that this doesn’t change one problem I have with EC2003, and that is the scenarios themselves. As much as I love the platforms, weapons, sensors, installations, and whatnot, the battleset scenarios are not the most playable of the game, for me at least. You see, with my visual impairment, these scenarios become a whole lot tougher. The reason for this is quite simply the design of the scenarios, and the fault does not lie with the development team. Back when the EC2000 scenarios were created, those who did it made a choice to make the “player-only” side start without preset speeds and courses, nor any air patrols for that matter. This problem pops up in just about every scenario. Now, I cannot set my own air patrols because of the way one has to do it (having to click on the map, a map I can’t see, I should note), same goes for laying in a course for surface forces. Unfortunately I can’t set destinations for my surface fleet because I don’t have the ability to see the map, let alone click it.
This means that, if I want to have a crack at the scenarios, I have to play with the opposite side, and the scenario wasn’t supposed to be played that way. This makes most scenarios very easy, since the other side has no idea where to go, has no air patrols to speak of, and is generally not aware of what his objectives are, so I just get to pummel the enemy bases and squash any surface forces I come across.
This trend doesn’t repeat itself in the user scenarios that have been released for EC2003 so far, thank God. This is also why I hope that at some stage the older EC2000 battlesets will become available, since that would allow me to convert more scenarios straight to EC2003. This would make this battleset far more enjoyable for me. As it is, I have had quite a bit of fun with it nonetheless, especially when it comes to air battles. I think the team really deserves a thumbs-up for working hard on the database, making it what it is today. The air battles are, by and large, realistic, thanks in large part to the tweaking of missile accuracy and aircraft performance, as well as sensors. Aircraft with stealth abilities are also in the game, namely the F/A-22 and F-117A. They’re modeled quite accurately from what I can tell, and they’re not invincible either (especially if you start taking risks).
As for the older battlesets, they’re the ones I play most of the time. They’ve got their faults, but if you don’t mind the inaccuracies that have crept in, then you’ll quite enjoy them. I personally think the scenarios provided in these battlesets, especially the Harpoon Designer Sets, are of a higher standard then those coming with the EC2003 battleset, but I’m a bit biased in that regard, so you don’t have to take my word for it.
Overall, the Game Engine part of HC2002 Gold is solid, spawns very few crashes, and is a blast to play. Loads of user scenarios for different battlesets will keep you playing for a long while, and there’s always the prospect of more user scenarios to come, and who knows what else.