Combat was one of the Atari 2600's launch titles, and it came with the console from 1977 to 1982. It was a series of 27 Top-Down View or Side View, Player Versus Player, Shoot Em Ups. It was based on two arcade games from the mid-1970s: Tank and Jet Fighter.
Each game lasts 2 minutes and 16 seconds, and the object is to hit your opponent more than he hits you.
- Games 1-5: Tank. Drive your tank around, avoid walls or use them as cover, and shoot the other tank. Some of the variations have unguided shells, some have guided missiles.
- Games 6-9: Tank-Pong, in which the shell bounces off the walls. Some variations require that you bounce the shot off at least one wall before it can score a hit.
- Games 10-14: Invisible Tanks, including regular and Tank-Pong variations.
- Games 15-20: Biplane dogfight. Some have clouds that obscure the planes, some have open skies. Some have single-shot rifles, some have shorter range machine guns, and some have guided missiles. One variation gives each player a squadron of two planes, and another pits three fighters against one bomber.
- Games 21-27: Jet dogfight. Like the biplanes, there are variations in clouds, unguided rockets or guided missiles, and squadrons (two-vs-two and three-vs-one).
The difficulty switches are used to handicap the games, shortening the tank shell range or slowing the airplane.
Atari developed a sequel game Combat II intended for release in the early 1980s, but it was shelved and didn't see a release until the early 2000s. It features only tank combat. An Atari 5200 homebrew sequel was released, featuring up to four-player gameplay.
Combat provides examples of:
- Asymmetric Multiplayer: The one-vs-three options in the biplane and jet games. The jet version is fair (one side has a larger target, while the other side has more firepower), but the biplanes-vs-bomber variation is not (the bomber is as large as the three biplanes combined, but only has one-third the firepower).
- Colorblind Mode: When the Color/BW switch is set to BW, the game is monochrome.
- Color-Coded Multiplayer: Player 1 is red (Tank), yellow-green (Tank-Pong), peach (Biplanes) or orange (Jets). Player two is blue (Tank), purple (Tank-Pong) or light green (Biplanes/Jets). If the Color/BW switch is set to BW, Player 1 is white and Player 2 is black, regardless of variation.
- Every Bullet is a Tracer: Bullets are one-pixel dots, the same color as the player. (The bomber has a double-sized projectile, not that it helps)
- Fan Sequel: The homebrew Combat II Advanced for the Atari 5200, which includes a 4-player mode and submarine battles.
- No Plot? No Problem!: No mention of who's fighting who, it's just a pastiche of 20th-century warfare.
- One Bullet at a Time: You can't fire another shot until the one you've fired has hit a wall (Tank only, in Tank-Pong they bounce) or run out of range.
- Painfully Slow Projectile: The tanks move very slowly, so it's hard to dodge tank shells. But the biplanes and jets can dodge quite easily.
- Player Versus Player: Two players shooting each other with tanks or airplanes.
- Scoring Points: Each player scores one point every time they hit the other player.
- Side View: The biplane games are seen from the side. This gives them very different controls from the otherwise-similar jet games: down turns the plane left (pulling back on the stick to make it ascend relative to its own axis), and up turns it right (making it descend relative to its own axis). Left and right speed up and slow down the biplane. The jets and tanks have more natural controls (left for left, right for right)
- Tanks, but No Tanks: The tanks don't have turrets, so a player of modern tank games would recognize them as "Turretless Tank Destroyers".
- Timed Mission: 2:16 per round. (More precisely, 8192 frames, where each frame is 1/60th of a second. This comes out to be slightly more than 136.5 seconds.)
- Top-Down View: The tank and jet games are seen from above.
- Wrap Around: The biplane and jet games. You and your bullets wrap around the screen both horizontally and vertically. This allows trick shots where you can shoot through one side of the screen to hit the player on the other side. Also the tank games, if you get shot just right you can warp through the outside wall.