Harpoon has had a difficult birth. I've followed its development from the initial game proposed by Larry Bond, to the decision to scrap the lot and start again, to the final release - was it worth it?
Harpoon (produced by Three-Sixty Software in the States) is a tactical wargame based upon Larry Bond's board game of the same name. The game includes two disks, a large format 77-page manual which still has to be squeezed into the ill-fitting box (a legacy of the initial PC version) and two mini-booklets. One from Larry Bond on hints and tips and the other from Tom Glancy, friend and co-author who appears in print to add a bit of glamour and attract a few more dollars.
I haven't got a hope of covering the game in full so here are the salient points. Adopting a modern-day time period, you take the position of Fleet Commander in what is the most detailed Amiga naval simulation I've ever seen. Missions range from the command of a squadron of missile boats to a full strike fleet in defence of the UK. Harpoon is also the master program for a range of forthcoming scenario disks, including the North Atlantic, Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, each of which should contain 15 missions.
On-screen information is extensive with a large database of hips, subs and aircraft accessed via menu. This option gives a tremendous amount of info: sensors, weapons, area of operation, and so on. After choosing the scenario, the side you wish to fight, a possible nuclear exchange, snorkeling subs, realistic weather, maintenance failure and ordnance you can begin play! During play a staff assistant will provide advice and reports.
The graphics are composed of three main screens - strategic, group and unit - although most of the play will be involved in the unit mode. After all, you play the game to simulate a fleet commander, not a single vessel.
You can play with three simultaneous levels of zoom and issue a host of orders (course directions, manoeuvere aircraft, change ship formation, etc). Graphics are excellent, with two icon sets available: Stylistic (a ship/aircraft icon) or CDS (Combat/Designation System). While the former is more 'user-friendly', the latter represents the actual NATO-type symbols used during official wargames, etc. Neat graphical effects include a mini-window showing ships firing and receiving hits. Sinking ships triggers a full-screen, dramatic scene plus relevant music.
I did become a little frustrated at the slow response to commands and, in addition, I am a little concerned with the solidity of the programming because the game crashed a couple of times (a weakness of the initial PC version, too). However, having said that, I still have to say that Harpoon is an extremely professional product which has obviously been produced by a very knowledgeable and accomplished research team.