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Close Combat: First to Fight

Score: 65%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Global Star Software
Developer: Destineer
Media: CD/3
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Squad-Based/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Close Combat: First to Fight follows in the recent mold of the Ghost Recon and Rainbow 6 titles. But unlike those, this game focuses more on realism and other tools of the military, such as calling in cobra gunships and other goodies. Interestingly enough, it is based on a training tool used by the United States Marine Corps, yet a large disclaimer at the bottom of the box says neither the Department of Defense or the Marines has endorsed, approved, or authorized this sucker... authentic, huh?

Despite that discrepancy, think of this as America’s Army meets SWAT 4. Also oddly enough, Destineer borrowed the Close Combat moniker, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite war-game series, and was one of my first titles I bought when I had my original PC: a 166mhz Windows 95 behemoth that came with a free copy of MechWarrior 2. The original Close Combat series combined some amazing top-down real-time strategy, sans annoying resource management (don’t get me started), and modeled morale, material density, cover, and a host of other really amazing features now standard in today’s games. We shall see how First to Fight holds up this lofty tradition.

Visually, nothing extremely high-powered here. The player models looked too “plastic” to me, especially with their somewhat funky movements. They do have lots of detail though, from gear to uniform insignia, but overall they have a strange lack of depth. The enemy models are worse though – very bland and increasingly monotonous. A host of clipping issues are also abound here, with their shadows crashing through walls or doors – not good. The weapon effects won’t wow you either, especially the lackluster explosions. The rifle fire in the darkened streets adds some interesting lighting effects to the battle.

Environment wise, there is some great stuff. Beirut is modeled well, and authentically broken-down roads are littered with junky cars while the atmosphere of war is ripe in the air.

Sound is a mixed bag in Close Combat: First to Fight. Helicopters chatter across the skies, machine-guns pop in the distance, and your own squad-mates add to the chaos with their own firepower. But the lackluster voice effects sound ultra-dubbed in, and don’t sound like you’re actually saying it in the environment. You don’t hear your voice reverberating off the walls or anything; it’s almost too clear and loud when you issue orders. Your team sounds a bit more realistic, but not by much. Even some of the weapon effects sound subdued. Your usual military musical score is present as well – great to march and drum up national pride, but not so great for a video game.


You begin your tour in Beirut, a city in the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon. Your marine unit is tasked with keeping the peace on a U.N.-sanctioned mission. Assuming command of your four-man fire team, you take your team through six levels, each divided into several checkpoints and sublevels, and all of which should take between 10-12 hours to complete. If you are like me and mess up a bunch, the annoying checkpoint feature may be the reason you seek an honorable discharge from this maddening game. Why don’t more developers realize we have better things to do than replay things over and over? Big deal if I can save anytime I want. It’s more about the experience nowadays than the challenge in my opinion. Like other military shooters, you have some “destroy this, secure that” style of mission objectives, although most seem redundant after awhile.

While you control your lance corporal persona, the true tactical prowess of the game comes in the form of a command menu, akin to the one used in SWAT 4 whereby a few simple mouse clicks brings up a radial menu. This super-imposed menu can deploy your men, breach and clear rooms, or even order in Cobra gunships for added carnage (or as the marine’s may put it: “fun.”) This system is pretty intuitive and user-friendly, although you may feel it is too simplified at times. I don’t just want my men to suppress. I want them to clear, bound, and throw smoke grenades for a frontal assault, while screaming obscenities and war cries! Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any options for that – maybe in an expansion pack if we are so lucky.

A.I. in this game is interesting indeed. With the Close Combat title, one would think this would have some ultra-realistic Artificial Intelligence, enemies and marines alike. Unfortunately, it’s hit and miss – much like my in-game shooting was. A lot of times you have to just do things yourself – from opening doors to taking out bad guys – and the frustration is wide reaching. Your squad even becomes momentarily petrified, like a deer in headlights, and doesn’t engage anything.

The various enemy troops also make a case for stricter enforcement of enlistment. Sometimes they bob, sometimes they weave, but most times they just stand there like cardboard cutouts as you riddle them with bullets. If you don’t start plinking away at them, they become very accurate, even in a pitch-dark area without night vision (yeah, right). You will need all your bullets too – last I checked, they don’t wear body armor and I’m not shooting rubber pellets. One of my greatest pet peeves is unrealistic damage ration in games. Get real, it doesn’t take half a clip to take down someone. Even in America’s Army I thought they allowed too much of this – and they claim complete authenticity. The best examples of realistic damage that I can recall are in Operation Flashpoint, Ghost Recon, and Rainbow Six.

If single-player doesn’t intrigue you, perhaps multiplayer will. With the deluge of FPS on the market though, and online focused ones like Unreal Tournament and Battlefield 1942, games that employ the “afterthought MP” really get trounced, and Close Combat: First to Fight is a prime example. You have your choice of Deathmatch and Co-op modes. The former is your standard elimination-style game, while the latter has some merits worth mentioning. One player assumes team leader command, and together you play through all of the single-player missions or campaign, a nice addition, but sadly, not enough to really save it. A mediocre multiplayer experience at best.


While there is a tutorial, it is NOT interactive; a big letdown since the industry standard is “try if first, then play.” Here we have “watch it first, then good luck!” It is fairly informative though, if you can sit through all the clips. While the enemy A.I. may surprise you at times with super-accurate shots and crafty movement, overall the few stellar baddies won’t hold you back from demolishing most missions. With health packs aplenty, your very own squad of bullet shields, and a host of Cobra gunships, sniper missions, and mortar strikes, you should come home just fine, Marine.

Game Mechanics:

Close Combat: First to Fight controls like most other FPSs on the market: lean buttons, crouch, prone, run/walk – it’s all here folks. The easy-to-use command interface is a nice touch, and you should grasp it quickly. Your HUD (Heads up display) is a bit cluttered, with stance states, ammo/weapon, your squad indicators, radar/compass, and your command options for support.

While not the most polished title around, Close Combat: First to Fight should give you wannabe-jarheads out there enough of a fight for a while, especially in the decent Co-op mode. Too bad the lackluster A.I., graphics, and sound ultimately hold this game back in the second-rate level of gaming. Do your country and yourself more honor by checking out those acclaimed games mentioned in this review.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows ME/2000/XP, Athlon or Pentium III 1.3Ghz, 256MB RAM, 32MB card with full T&L (Works with ATI Radeon 7500 and NVIDIA GeForce 2MX or higher. Does not work with some Intel integrated graphics), 16-bit DX9-comp. sound card, 2.8GB of free hard drive space, 8X CD-ROM drive

Test System:

Windows XP, 2500+ 1.83ghx AMD 512 MB of RAM, Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB

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