Sunday, April 21, 2013

Operation Hooper

After a few months playing anything but, I've returned to my fundamental interest: modern armored warfare simulations.  I've been alternating between Graviteam Tactics Operation Hooper and the old standby of Combat Mission Shock Force.

Operation Hooper is quite the departure from previous Graviteam games in the Operation Star series.  Set during the 1980's Angolan Civil War/South African Border War, actions are much more mechanized.  Terrain is very different than the frozen Russian steppe of Operation Star. Combat is decidedly deadlier, with longer weapon ranges and infantry with much more effective anti-tank capabilities.  Armor is no longer essentially invulnerable to an infantry squad, so you'd better not send your tank forward without their own infantry in support.

I've seen some gamers wondering why Graviteam would select this conflict (focused down to a single operation during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale) rather than other, better known modern conflicts.  I suspect that given Soviet involvement in the conflict, this war is better known to a Russian development studio with contacts in the Russian military than it is to the typical Westerner.  Graviteam has also visited this conflict before in Steel Armor: Blaze of War and no doubt already had maps and models complete, probably significantly shortening development time and decreasing development expense.  Regardless, I find the conflict interesting and have enjoyed learning about it rather than rehashing something I'm already very familiar with.  I think it would be very interesting to see this same engine applied to some of the Arab-Israeli wars, however.

The UI, for better or worse, is the same as the other APOS games (Operation Hooper is a DLC, not a standalone game and so uses the APOS engine).  All of the documentation and translation woes we've come to expect from Graviteam are still present, and maybe a bit worse this time around.  Still, this is an incredibly fun game to play if you've become familiar with how this system works.

To me, the strength of the APOS engine is that you can really function as the battalion or brigade commander.  The operational maps and elements of the game allow you to concentrate on developing a sound tactical plan and to provide direction to your subordinate units during combat, rather than worrying about the minutiae of making sure each squad is taking a covered route or other micro-management of your forces. Troops behave pretty intelligently, taking cover when appropriate and prioritizing targets.  Despite its warts, the APOS engine remains in my opinion possibly the best battalion/brigade-level simulation engine available today - and with Operation Hooper we now have a modern campaign to re-fight.

The SADF assault failed, by the way.  While I was able to overrun the outlying positions and the T-62s actually entered the area around Tumpo Tri, the dug-in AT guns were too much for the assault force.  My attack would have benefited from some indirect fire on the enemy positions.