Close Combat: First to Fight
Given the current political climate, you’d think that developers would be wary of covering present and near future conflicts in their games, but it seems that authentic military shooters are still very much in fashion. The recently released Full Spectrum Warrior which plays out street fighting in an imaginary Middle Eastern city received critical acclaim and was successful at retail. The player controlled two squads of four men and using both together effectively was crucial. Based on real US tactics and built around a real military training tool, it certainly had realism close to its heart. Take 2’s Close Combat: First to Fight follows the exact same principles, yet taking a slightly different angle on the same subject matter. It’ll be familiar ground for many, but could end up as a refreshing change from the more brainless shooters around.
Set in 2006, Close Combat sees you leading a four man team of US Marines through an as yet unnamed city in the Middle East, although we’re told that it won’t be either Iraq or Afghanistan. Covering ourselves already? Very sensible. Interestingly, the game was created with the close involvement of the Marine Corps, which plans to use First to Fight to actually train Marines when the game is released.
The most immediate difference from Full Spectrum Warrior‘s gameplay is the way in which you are connected to the action. Close Combat is viewed in the first person, as opposed to a floating camera. This makes for a more personal, confrontational experience, but potentially a more confusing one. With enemies coming out of the sewers, through neighboring buildings and from rooftops, the lack of a wider viewpoint could yet prove costly, with games like Ghost Recon 2 opting to go with a mixture of several perspectives.
A huge emphasis has been put on the game’s use of the Marines’ Ready-Team-Fire-Assist (or RTFA) tactics which are used in modern urban combat. RTFA guides how Marine fireteams move as a unit safely through streets under siege, cover fire sectors on stairs, take down rooms and so on, keeping your AI teammates in the game working as a group. Rather than standing in the open, your fireteam automatically uses cover in the environment to their advantage. Throughout a firefight, your fireteam will advance against the enemy and find additional angles of fire on their own. If one Marine is pinned, the other Marines automatically move to protect him just as they would in real combat. First to Fight also makes use of air and ground support, giving the player the option of calling in mortar barrages and armoured vehicles, amongst others.
You can expect the usual graphical finesse that we’re used to with similar games as well as accomplished audio and online play. The game will be released almost simultaneously on Xbox, Windows and Macintosh platforms later this year as Christmas approaches. Interestingly, a sequel called Red Phoenix is already under development, based on a North Korean invasion of South Korea in 2006. As for First to Fight, it has a real battle on its hands if it wants to make a mark, with an already packed Christmas release schedule and countless other military shooters getting ready to launch onto the gaming scene.