GHPC is a new single player & co-op sim-lite game demo that allows you to play out Cold War tank warfare… 

Preface: Apologies for the absence over the past months. Unfortunately I suffered from a mild stroke just before Christmas and have been recovering since then. I’m doing lots better now and feeling more like my old self.

I’m a bit of a grumpy old gamer when it comes to PC and console games. Despite many thinking that the age of the single and co-op player games is over and 'so yesterday' and with multi-player online games being the 'big thing' now, I still reticently prefer the days when it was me against an AI!

Back in the late 1980s and early 90s, when I had an ATARI STe (1990), the games developer MICROPROSE ruled with blockbuster single player titles like M1 Tank Platoon,  F-15 Strike Eagle, Gunship, etc. This was the heyday of single player military sims and I had many a late night game session playing these games.

Above: Microprose 1990? No, in fact this is a screen shot of the newly released 2022
'Tiny Combat Arena' which harkens back to the old sckool single player sim!

However, of late there has been something of a small resurgence in interest in this genre which I think is partly nostalgia driven but also because - perhaps - of the recent high profile failures of much hyped triple-A titles.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

Massive on-line multiplayer games - such as the Battlefield franchise - have always promised player more ‘realistic’ challenges as you are up against real people, therefore the enemy should be more flexible and cunning (allegedly). And sure enough I certainly used to find a certain excitement in knowing I was up against a human adversary who was - sometimes - less predictable and imaginative than an AI coded enemy. That was ‘the Good’.

Over time, however, I eventually found that mainstream PvP gaming titles - like CoD, Battlefield, World of Tanks, War Thunder, etc -  tended to sacrifice realistic historical stratagems and team tactic in favour of the immediacy of gladiatorial competition. Despite many of these games implying that they were ‘team’ games the fact was that - at least on public servers - there was very little team cooperation going on. As a player you just didn't feel like you were in an army, as you could not depend on anyone and there was no masterplan.

Above: Briefing map from Microprose's 'M1 Tank Platoon' from 1989. With coded AI
the game could set-up militarily authentic battle plans, something that is impossible
with modern multiplayer online warfare games where it's every real human
combatant for themselves. 

There are more ‘hardcore’ games - like ArmA, Squad and Post Scriptum - that placed a real emphasis  in the individual player having to take on a proper role within the team, but these games were often the realms of the niche player and were not as accessible in their play as the ‘sim-lite battlefield’ games are and thus generally less popular. The idea of having to learn to play a quite complicated game properly, be constrained by ‘rules’ and perhaps even have to join a clan or community puts many more casual players off.

But this is not the only ‘Bad’ thing about current online multiplayer warfare games. While many of them profess to simulate a degree of historic or modern warfare in the weapons, settings and effects the majority fail to provide realistic strategic or tactical context or historical scenarios for the player to become involve in. As I said earlier, most multiplayer military games are little more than gladiatorial arenas, pitting one team of individuals against another with little more strategic goals than a ‘capture a flag’ variation which does little to encourage team cooperation.

Above: A screenshot from a World of Tanks session which highlights the disjointed
historical context of a typical match. Despite taking place on the lovely 'Overlord'
D-Day map we have the usual mish-mash of inappropriate tanks of many nations!
In fact, I was one of the few tanks which might have been appropriate to the
battle, being in a German Stug.

What ensues is an ‘Ugly’ scramble that is little more than an ‘every man for himself’ bear pit! Then rinse, wash and repeat. Yes, you are playing real people and they can be really challenging confrontations but where's the real application of strategy and relatable historical experiences?

Ranting about ‘modern games’ aside!

Anyhoo, my grumpy old gamer’s moans about ‘in my day computer games were better’ to one side, I actually don’t seem to be the only person who misses the set-piece strategic puzzles that old style single player/co-op games used to give. You see, the one big advantage of coding AI adversaries is that you can actually get them to work together in some sort of historically correct or text-book tactical operation which you then have to counter. 

Take my latest game ‘Gunner, HEAT, PC’, it's a good old tank fashioned single player warfare sim-light in the mould of Microprose’s ‘M1 Tank Platoon’ BUT with modernised graphics and realism.

I’ll be frank, I’d rather sacrifice the ‘cunning and unpredictable’ play of real people and suffer a slightly more predictable and less flexible AI enemy IF they conform to realistic military behaviour.

Above: Just because you can do something in a game doesn't mean you should!

I want to play a game where the enemy enacts strategies and tactics that their real world counterparts would and not simply run at you gung-ho utilising unrealistic game exploits that are part of modern battlefield arcade-sims (remember 'noob-tubing'? or 'nade-spamming in Battlefield and CoD or ramming or 'pay to win' elements of World of Tanks, or worse the hacking that seems to go on in most games?)

Real players have an annoying habit of spoiling immersion and not enhancing it!

...And I'm not even going to get into toxic player behaviour - including, racism and bullying - or cynical commercial game elements like 'pay to win', buying in-game currency or loot boxes, etc, etc, etc!

This is why I still think there is a place for PvE (player versus computer) games along side PvP games (player versus player).

Anyway, as I said...Rant over! 😆

About Gunner, HEAT, PC.... Finally!

Well, that was a major digression! But I think it's important to acknowledge just why PvE single player and co-op games still have a place, especially when you want to simulate real world and historically accurate activities.

Put simply, GHPC is sorta like World of Tanks or War Thunder but instead of being PVP it's PvE. You are pitted against an AI which is hard coded to undertake specific tactical operations and respond in roughly a realistic manner(-ish). You won't find yourself getting rammed off a cliff or pawned by premium ammunition in this game! Wink, wink!

The game is broadly based on historic Cold War operations which took place in the rolling countryside of Germany in the time period of the 1970s to early 1990s. In the demo version of this (take note) EARLY ACCESS and in development game you have elements of the East German (Warsaw Pact) army up against US Army (NATO) armour.

The public demo restricts you to playing a limited number of vehicles - principally the East German T-55A tank and the US M60A3 tank, plus some AFVs - but it's enough to get into some interesting tank hunting set-piece battles. (There is a Patreon Donor only Demo which rewards you with some additional playable vehicles and a Scenario Generator mode.)

You can download the public demo here ---> GUNNER, HEAT PC OFFICIAL WEB SITE

I am finding the demo very entertaining and re-playable, though there are limitations of some obvious 'work in progress' aspects to it (it's not a fully developed game remember, just a 'taster'). So let's break the game - thus far - down into the 'good' and the 'oh dear, my tank is stuck on a tree' elements! 😆

First off, the tanks are very nicely done - as you might expect as even World of Tanks and War Thunder has the tank models very nicely rendered - and are real historical versions of Cold War armour (not prototypes of 'paper [drawing board] tanks', I'm looking at you World of Tanks)!

Above: Interestingly, the Warsaw Pact protagonists in GHPC are the armour of the
East German army (GDR: German Democratic Republic) which still depended 
largely on T-55s - pictured - and T-72s.

The accompanying AVF units are likewise well modelled and there are ATM options included in the game - like TOW missiles - and your 'team' is AI controlled and undertake the the scenario parameters as they are designed to. I actually get a kick out of having to catch up with my AFV team as they speed off towards set objective lest they get ambushed by any enemy laying in wait!

The AI is obviously in it's early stage of development by but can still surprise you, as I found to embracement in one game where the US lured my T-72 into an ambush by throwing forward their M113 carriers to bait me into a kill zone! I honestly found this spookily realistic and very satisfying.

There is still lots of work to do, so don't expect AI pathing to work all the time or even, indeed, your pathing to always work as expected. I've found my tank hung up on some of the thick woodland areas on several occasions, unable to free myself from even medium sized trees which in other games I would have simply have flattened! Also, I have found my platoon members following my lead tank mindlessly like a lot of little ducklings rather than taking up some standard realistic formations. But that sort of detail is - I'm sure - to come (including a comprehensive commander ordering system).

The gunnery is nicely done, as is the sound environments, and there is a very satisfying 'BOOM' when you fire off a round. A lot of work has gone into accurately recreating the period targeting systems and optics and you get a real sense of achievement when you master the art and pull off a spectacular long range kill!

Above: My first long, long range kill! To be fair this was made in the games most
 advanced tank, the US Army M1 Abrams. This tank's advanced optics and
laser targeting gives you a fairly big advantage over the older and less adept
DDR T-72 tanks. 2980 meter kill shot is good going for me! 

Above:...And the reverse X-ray hit summery view. The penetration from my
M1's 105mm gun ammo racked this T-72 all the way form that distant hill top!

Conversely, YOU getting killed is just as spectacular which fountains of gushing flames shooting out of your turret if you get ammo racked and your tank 'cooks off'. (It's a bit horrifying really!)

As with game like War Thunder and even Sniper Elite there is a X-ray kill mode which shows you in detail - post match - just exactly what you hits achieved and where they penetrated your unfortunate targets. This is very helpful in learning about a vehicles vulnerabilities though I checked and GHPC's armour modelling and 'weak spots' seem to follow closely training tutorials on armour weaknesses done by other games, which can be useful (I found a handy video, for example, done on the M60 tank and it's vulnerabilities done for the World of Tanks game)... 

Conclusion and What Next?

Ok, so as you can probably tell I'm already a fan of GHPC, so much so in fact that I've joined their Patreon drive and am already using the special Patreon version of the game demo (which adds the T-72 as a drivable tank and adds the random mission generation mode).

I've already got a lot of entertaining gameplay sessions out of the demo, even in it's limited state and while there have been a few crashes - which seem due to my trying to record gameplay video - I've had some thrilling action moments.

Above: My T-55 platoon get's the better of the US Army's M60A3 tanks (circa 1978).

The GHPC developers - a very small team - are very active with their development updates and their communications with the already blossoming GHPC player community. They have ongoing discussions with their players and conduct continuous product marketing and feature/bug reporting surveys via their Twitch and Discord channels. They input they receive seems to be helping them fashion the game in a way that their player base wants it to go while keeping a close watch on aspects that aren't so well received and 'wish lists'.

I am very optimistic about the future of this game and as well as providing the sort of single player armour combat game I want there is also hints that it will incorporate a co-op feature at some point, which would be fantastic.

Above: GHPC's apex predators - the T-72 and the M1 Abrams. 

Above: Things don't always go my way! T-72 ammo racked and 'cook off'!

Above: Then again, sometimes I get my act together and pull off a good shot!
This shows how GHPC's X-ray after game summary can teach you about
your enemy's weak spots. I hit this M-60 was hit at the lower-right
ammo rack. Ka-boom!

Above: Losing your tank is bad enough, but you also have to remember that
GHPC is a platoon level game and you are also responsible for several
other vehicles in your team.... Oooops!

GHPC - T-72 Destruction

Above: View on the game's Firing Range, where you can try out various vehicles
and learn to use their weaponry.

Above: Looking over the vast game area representing West Germany, the
mission maps are really BIG! At the moment the game does not have
dynamic weather but there are night missions.

Above: A randomly generated mission briefing in the Patreon Demo
offers some interesting set-piece challenges!

I'll be following the development of Gunner HEAT, PC and hope to see incremental improvement and additions to the demo version, but the game has huge potential. That said, here's what I would like to see added in the future:

  • Dynamic weather patterns - fog, rain, snow, et

  • Comprehensive menu-driven platoon orders system and platoon formation choices

  • Better pathing particularly though woodland - this sounds obvious but the current inability to hide your tanks in woodland without the change of finding yourself stuck is annoying

  • British Tanks! I'd love to have a Chieftain.