The Thrill of Combat—The Power of Command
The original Close Combat game was an unusual and innovative Real Time Tactics game. The player commanded individual American or German troops and vehicles in Normandy during Operation Overlord. It eschewed traditional gameplay in favor of realism: fog of war is replaced by actual line-of-sight concealment, troops receive realistic wounds, and will panic under heavy fire.
A year after the original game, Atomic released a sequel, set during Operation Market Garden. It introduced multi-story buildings and major graphical improvements. Close Combat III was much broader in scope, covering all of the Eastern front. It introduced air-strikes, mine-fields, and off-board artillery, but was criticized for its emphasis on armored warfare. Close Combat IV consisted of the Battle of the Bulge, and introduced strategic movement, but was criticized for Crippling Overspecialization in the make-up of its battle groups. Close Combat: Invasion Normandy abandoned the numbering schemenote and returned the setting to Operation Overlord. It has generally been received as a polished, balanced game.
Atomic also developed a modern version (Close Combat: Marines) which was sold as a training tool to the US Department of Defense. Two civilian versions were marketed: The Road to Baghdad and Close Combat: Modern Tactics. The former suffered from a rushed development, but the latter was well received. There was also apparently an airfield defense version sold to the RAF. Close Combat II to Invasion Normandy were remade by Matrix Games with enhanced AI and game mechanics.
The names of the remakes are as follows:
- Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem is the remake of Close Combat II
- Close Combat: Cross of Iron is the remake of Close Combat III
Following the remakes, an entirely new game was released: Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog, focused on the German counter-attack at Mortain, their last attempt to stave off defeat in Normandy, and the overstretched American defenders attempting to prevent Patton's spearhead from being cut-off and surrounded.
The next game in the series was Close Combat: Gateway to Caen, focusing on the Battle of Caen shortly after the Normandy Landings, specifically the various battles and operations of the British VIII Corps along the Odon River.
This game provides examples of:
- Alternate History: Possible in some of the campaigns. Many of the games also feature fictional "What-If?" scenarios, based around the idea of history going a different way, such as "What if the Guards Armoured Division managed to reach Arnhem on time during Operation Market Garden?"
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Less jarring than in many games, because troops are requisitioned at the start, and the limit is rarely reached.
- Attack Its Weak Point: Most German tanks are all but invulnerable from the front, even to medium AT weapons such as the 57mm AT gun and bazooka. The sides, rear, and roof, however, are all quite weak.
- Same goes for the Soviet KV series tanks in Close Combat III; in 1941, the Germans have only weapon that can penetrate its front armour: the rare, expensive and immobile 88mm FLAK cannon. Thus the Germans need to outflank it and hit its weaker side/rear armour.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Most heavy armored vehicles, as well as some units, such as flamethrowers. Even so, they are very occasionally useful.
- The German rocket halftrack. It can cause some extreme damage, but has very limited ammo, rather poor accuracy and literally takes half an hour to reload.
- The JadgTiger: There's only one, and it is very, very hard to kill as well as a terror on enemy armor, but it'll rarely be effective enough against the British airborne it's going to spend most of its time fighting to justify the expense.
- The Churchill AVRE; every German infantry unit they face will have Panzerfausts that can pop them in a single hit and which outrange their own weapons, but if they manage to get off a round, they can clear buildings of enemy troops with a single shot.
- The Berserker: Although rare, troops can go berserk and charge into melee screaming. When they don't die instantly, they can do amazing things.
- If an infantry trooper can get into a gun team manning a weapon in ABTF, especially a large one like a FlaK, the results can be ludicrous as he kills multiple enemies in melee combat while they try to keep manning the gun.
- Breakable Weapons: Guns can jam. It doesn't happen very often, though, and the soldier operating it will stop and unjam, if possible.
- Vehicles can take hits that knock out their weapons.
- Close-Range Combatant: Submachinegun (SMG) squads have a much shorter range than rifle squads, but are much more effective at close ranges due to their superior rate of fire. Flamethrower teams and vehicles are very powerful but have a very short range.
- Copy-and-Paste Environments: Used in the case of buildings, of which there are a few score per game. Averted in most other ways, though: the maps are beautiful.
- Crippling Overspecialization: Justified, as it features historical weapons.
- However, this is also averted in a number of cases. Many crewed weapons will have a few crew members armed with rifles and submachine guns to help defend against infantry.
- Easy Logistics: One of the few RTS titles to utterly avert this.
- Units involved in multiple combats per day will tend to run short of ammo. This can lead to the situation of requisitioning new soldiers just to get their full loads of ammo when you're desperately short in your fourth or fifth battle for Arnhem Bridge that day.
- Most armor units have a relatively small amount of HE ammo, and their AP isn't very useful against infantry.
- Emergency Weapon: Some soldiers carry a pistol (with very few bullets), and all can use melee attacks.
- Fog of War: A notable variant. Instead, enemy units are visible only if they can be seen by friendly troops. Some units, notably tanks, have a very restricted field of view, meaning they have a difficult time surviving without infantry support.
- Friendly Fireproof: Apparently averted, however, troops won't willingly fire into areas with friendly troops, so it isn't very noticeable. They will occasionally kill themselves while charging and throwing grenades at the same time, though.
- Glass Cannon: Flamethrower teams and vehicles are very effective but quite vulnerable and prone to exploding spectacularly when hit.
- Gratuitous German: The German dialogue, at least in the earlier games, while understandable, is sometimes very awkward, such as:
- "Incoming!" is translated as Ein fliegendes Geschoss - literally "A flying projectile" (isn't a projectile flying by default?) and intoned comically wrong (like the soldier has just seen something extraordinary).
- Körper runter (translation of "Keep your heads down!") literally means something like "(Get your) body down!". It's as awkward in German as it is in English.
- Gratuitous Russian: Much like the German, the Russian is also occasionally mangled. Most notably, the phrase Konets sviazi is said when troops exit the battlefield, while it is actually the Russian equivalent of "Roger and out". Another notable mistake is that Vzvod ("platoon") is erroneously used instead of otdelenie or gruppa ("section" or "squad").
- Kill It with Fire: Flamethrowers, flamethrower halftracks, and flamethrower tanks are all available.
- In addition, some infantry carry Molotov cocktails.
- Flamethrowers have excellent AT ratings, meaning that one of the few reliable ways to kill heavy German or Soviet armor is often to somehow sneak a flamethrower into the building next to them.
- Luck-Based Mission: Most of the games to some extent, but ESPECIALLY ABTF and ESPECIALLY for the Western Allies. You know what reinforcements you will get and a vague idea of when they'll arrive and where, but that is by no means a reliable timetable. And then we get to talking about the bridges themselves: more than one campaign has been decided on whether a particular bridge's explosive charges triggered or fizzled out.
- Missions can be extremely dependent on unit placement at start, where if they can't move to an objective or redeploy without crossing in front of something that can kill them, or accidentally got deployed in front of an HMG team, there's really nothing to be done but retreat and try again later.
- In the case of armor, the shots taken in the first thirty seconds can easily decide the mission. In open maps where tanks can usually see each other at the start, if someone misses their first round or fires a little slower than other guy then it's entirely possible the tank that explodes just cost their team the mission as the enemy vehicle proceeds to pick off the infantry from range with HE and machineguns.
- Mook Chivalry: Used or Inverted in the Island operation in Close Combat II, depending on which side you choose. The allied tanks must advance down a narrow raised road, and almost inevitably take heavy losses.
- There's another example in Close Combat III, where the Soviets must cross a bridge during the last operation in Berlin. While the Germans are vastly outnumbered at this point, just one or two AT guns and a few snipers have excellent vantage points, and can cause horrendous casualties to the advancing Soviets.
- Nintendo Hard: These games (particularly on the campaigns) chew up and spit out unprepared or green gamers for breakfast. And even when you know what you're doing, a LOT depends on being able to predict what the enemy will do or is doing and how to counter that. This is especially evident in the highly-randomized ABTF.
- Nonindicative Name: As a realistic game, this RTS lets tanks fire at each other from halfway across the map, hundreds of meters away. Meanwhile, the artillery in contemporary RTS games not named "Close Combat" had a maximum range smaller than that, while tanks and rifles can only be fires when they See the Whites of Their Eyes.
- Numbered Sequels: Used through Close Combat IV, and ignored afterwards. Some fans refer to Invasion Normandy as Close Combat V, though. Also, Invasion Normandy's executable file is named "CC5.exe", and GOG.com labels it as Close Combat 5: Invasion Normandy.
- Rare Vehicles: The Jagdtiger and King Tiger tanks definitely both count.
- Selective Historical Armoury: In Close Combat II, Universal Carriers and Jeeps are conspicuously absent.
- Coding in the game files show that at one point they were in the game but were removed later. Last Stand Arnhem added them back in.
- Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: In many operations, heavy armor will take days to arrive. This is particularly true in Close Combat II, where the British Paratroopers at Arnhem can expect to wait six to eight days for armored reinforcements.
- Timed Mission: In Close Combat II, many battles centered around key bridges take this form. However, there is always an alternate crossing, or at least the possibility of erecting a "Bailey Bridge."
- Units Not to Scale: Infantry are scaled up slightly—- as they wear camouflage, they would be difficult to see otherwise.
- Urban Warfare: Ranging from small villages and towns all the way up to major cities, almost every game has at least one map (usually more) that is mostly covered in buildings. This terrain is where infantry, especially entrenched infantry, rules, where tanks are taken out in one hit by hidden AT troops, entrenched machine guns mow down entire squads while mortars use up most of their rounds trying to dig them out, and sometimes the only way to deal with an enemy is to have a squad kick down their door and hope for the best.
- Videogame Caring Potential: Your troops are persistent from battle to battle and operation to operation, and their kills, medals, and other achievements/failures are kept track of individually for each soldier. As a result, it's quite easy to get attached to them, which just makes it worse when they inevitably die.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: A MUST to successfully play this game, particularly since "pausing" is awkward and (unlike most games) cuts you off from giving orders. You learn to think on your feet VERY quickly or you die even faster.