Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare

By Scott Parrino 11 Aug 2007 0

One game commands the world of modern naval simulation: Harpoon. For decades this robust line of hyper-accurate naval simulations has fulfilled the wargaming needs of real-world and armchair admirals alike. Harpoon has been used officially or unofficially by USAF Staff and Command School, US Naval War College, Brazilian War College, and in the Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, UK, Korea, and Australia. Harpoon has appeared in several versions of the famed miniatures game—from which the computer simulation is founded—and for the computer as Harpoon, Harpoon II, Harpoon3, and finally, Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare. While the earliest versions of Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare were riddled with bugs, the recent release of version 3.8 has eliminated many of those problems and elevated Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare to stature as the world’s foremost unclassified naval simulator.…heck, even the pros use it.

Experience on the High Seas

Advanced Gaming Systems Inc. (AGSI) decided to compensate for Ubisoft’s December, 2003 cancellation of Harpoon 4 by updating the old Harpoon 3 with advanced features and updated content. The result? Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare. Essentially, Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare represents the combination of Harpoon Pro and Harpoon 3. The original version for Harpoon 3 was v.3.6, indicating it was an upgrade from Harpoon 2, yet based upon the same model. Harpoon 3 debuted as a Mac-only product, while Advanced Naval Warfare became a Windows-only simulation. The Advanced Naval Warfare designation was given when the upgrade to v.3.7 was achieved, which consisted of taking Harpoon 3, modifying it for Windows and adding the multiplayer functions. Harpoon Professional edition is essentially Advanced Naval Warfare with the added features of satellite imagery, editable game playbacks, increased data logs, and a couple of training tools for players and umpires. Unfortunately, Harpoon Professional is only available to select government clients.

However, the common link between the entire series remains the reliance on Larry Bond’s original miniatures rules, the basis and driving force behind the whole line of computer sims. The minis game has a whole following of its own, and has rightfully reserved a place in the history of board wargames. I’d argue, however, the computer Harpoon is quickly reserving a similar place. The pace, however, may be slower with the universal blossoming of computer and board wargames. It’s harder to stick out with the new gamut of games available on the shelves these days.

Technical Details

Loading Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare v.3.8 proved quick and easy. Download options come in two formats: digital and CD. Personally, I like having a CD around for my game library, so for my original v.3.7 I have the CD, but for v.3.8 I chose the digital download. The download process requires the CD key, printed on the CD label (or given digitally), and requires only a few minutes. I encountered no problems loading either my original v.3.7 CD or the digital update for v.3.8. When downloading, one of the major things a new player will notice is the relatively small size of the install, around 180 MB. Compared to many other contemporary wargames—such as Medieval II: Total War, boasting over 11 gigs of file size—this game is minuscule. Do not let that be misleading. Once properly learned, Advanced Naval Warfare will prove to be a monster in terms of data accuracy and realistic gameplay.

How to be an Admiral

Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare v.3.8 supplies two primary manuals, both of which constitute integral parts to the management of the complex gameplay in Advanced Naval Warfare. While seemingly weird to provide two primary manuals, I found it quite useful and suspect that others will as well. The regular Advanced Naval Warfare manual comes in the electronic PDF format, measures 104 pages deep, and encompasses just about everything the novice or intermediate player of Advanced Naval Warfare would want to know. Reading stylistically close to a naval operations guide, the manual covers all topics such as game hotkeys, game mechanics, missions, formations, weapons, ordinance, logistics, and scenario design. In other words, pick any Advanced Naval Warfare topic and the regular manual likely covers it. The exceptions to this rule are some of the very advanced features, but Matrix and AGSI have already anticipated that potential problem with the issuance of the advanced manual (covered below). Some of the most useful of the 30 different sections include the tutorial guide and the coverage of mission and formation editors – the latter two play a critical role in realistic simulation.

The Advanced Manual?very technical but a great resource.

The second manual included with Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare v.3.8 is the Advanced Manual. Also in electronic PDF format, the manual covers the advanced features of Advanced Naval Warfare, starting with the database editor (covered in another section). Other topics include the platform assistant, multiplayer, VCR function, specific combat sequence, and more data on the US AEGIS system. The Advanced Manual measures an additional 22 sections long and 164 pages deep, and proves to be a useful addition for those more “professional” (read “advanced”) Advanced Naval Warfare players. Since I am still attempting to find my personal balance between electronic files and paper files, I cannot judge whether or not the electronic file proves to be the best medium. However, I can speculate that there is no way Matrix or AGSI could afford or logistically support shipping 268 pages of manual with the game, and since I find the manuals to be accurate, useful, and not reducible, the electronic format is the only format available. I am debating, however, whether or not just to print the whole thing out…

The reason I indicated there were two primary manuals with Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare v.3.8 is because a third, supplementary manual ships with the game. The third manual is dedicated solely to the database editor. Because the database editor represents one of the key components to Advanced Naval Warfare’s massively flexible architecture, I believe it was prudent for AGSI and Matrix to do this. This manual measures much smaller compared to the two primary manuals, but this is because it is dedicated to a very small, albeit significant, topic. While database editing is very important to the flexibility of the game, it proves to be a large topic requiring an entire article to itself (actually, a manual...). Therefore, I will not cover database editing in this article.

Aboard Ship

The launch menu with numerous support options.

One of many configuration menus from the launch menu. These are far easier than the in-game configuration methods.

The launch menu first greets the player when starting Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare v.3.8. Typical of other Matrix-distributed games, the menu constitutes a concise launch-pad for various sources of Advanced Naval Warfare info. Links from the game menu include the regular manual, the game, game configuration, Matrix Games, AGSI, The Wargamer, the Harpoon 3 info page on AGSI’s site, and several support sites within Matrix’s network, including the e-store, forums, services, and others. The menu boasts the front-page graphic from the DVD case and the manuals, providing continuity in presentation, and also contains the usual copyrights, disclaimers and organizational logos. No problems were found with any of the superficial functions of the game menu.

When the player first launches Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare v.3.8, the executable first verifies the Matrix issued serial number for validation, then loads the game. The first screen is one of various naval warfare quotes from various sources, but the fact that I cannot name either the quotes or their sources is a problem. Namely, the quote flashes by too fast for a player to either read it or to catch the source, and while I did not have this problem with Advanced Naval Warfare v.3.7, I do have this problem with v.3.8, and cannot determine how to fix it. I am confident, however, that with the large following Harpoon built over the years, there will be enough feedback and demands for upgrades that this will not remain a permanent issue.

After the “quick-quote,” the player enters the actual game and has the option of choosing the scenario he wishes to play. The scenarios loaded depend completely on the database chosen under the “H3 Configuration” option from the main menu. My personal advice to all players of Advanced Naval Warfare would be to place the scenarios inside the database. Advanced players will think this to be elementary information, but I think it is critical enough to mention since it will undoubtedly avoid errors messages stemming from the mismatch of scenario and database, and will avoid the player having to navigate the Harpoon program folder while inside the game – a less-than-friendly task.

The scenario load screen. Harpoon Advanced Naval Warfare ships with numerous scenarios covering a wide array of missions.

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