So Far, Microsoft Haven't Had A spectacularly successful foray into the world of computer games, but they're rumoured to have put a lot of money and effort into Close Combat. The game was originally going to be based on CSquad Leader', Avalon Hill's best-selling board wargame but you would never guess that from the finished product because Close Combat is nothing like CSquad Leader'. In its own way, though, it's just as original and just as addictive. A kind of realistic, overhead Command 8 Conquer - or Steel Panthers the way it should have been...
In essence, Close Combat is a real-time tactical combat simulation game based around the experiences of the US 29th Infantry Division in Normandy when they were up against the veteran 352nd Germany Infantry regiment. The game provides six different maps that you have to fight across in up to 39 different scenarios. The way the scenarios progress depends on how well (or how badly) you do and the number of casualties you sustain.
Because the game is played in realtime, you can't spend hours puzzling out problems and working out neat little counter-attacks, but you can alter the speed and the difficulty level. However, you don't have to order every unit to do something all the time because each soldier has his own personality and team leaders can and will act on their own in the absence of other orders. Sometimes they'll do exactly as they're told, sometimes they'll run away and sometimes they'll just sit tight and fire off all their ammo. The likelihood of individual squads, vehicles, weapon crews and soldiers following orders is directly related to how sensible those orders arc, so in that sense this is a pretty fair old simulation of real life blood and guts combat.
The missions and maps arc all different with new challenges each time and while there is a preponderance of bocage - the thick Normandy hedgerows - the terrain varies from flat fields to the town of St Lo, all buildings and ruins. Each side has historically accurate equipment ranging from tanks to assault guns, anti-tank guns, mortars, machine guns and so on. Small arms are equally diverse, with tommy guns, carbines, grenades, bazookas and pistols. To add to the realism, you get treated to authentic battle sounds -shots, machine gun bursts, explosions, screams, as well as occasional yells and orders from squad leaders.
On the downside, you can't choose your forces at all, which is a shame, nor can you edit the scenarios or maps. Although head-to-head play is possible over a network or serial/modem connection, you've got to stick to the prescribed scenarios. Scrolling is a little sluggish, but it can be countered by using the keyboard shortcuts and the jump window for moving more quickly around the map.
Close Combat is a big step forward for wargamers, the first in what must be a new generation of real-time super-realistic sims. If you're torn between the strategic bliss of miniatures and hexheavy wargames on the one hand, but you find Command & Conquer (and its ilk) irresistible, this one is a must.
Download Close Combat
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP