Close Combat: First to Fight

This game is now available for the Nintendo Wii… What else do you need to know?

I like weird games sometimes. My tastes run contrary to a lot of people, I find appeal where others would turn up their nose and consider it substandard. Which is why my North Carolina-raised wife will tell you she thinks my taste buds have a permanent case of stupid because I prefer San Pellegrino to Coca-Cola.

Despite the fact that this game has now been ported over to the Wii, I actually kind of liked Close Combat: First to Fight and I’ve got some specific reasons why, but I’ll need to give some background.

Atomic Games, the development house behind the entire Close Combat series, has always made some pretty hyper-realistic war games, most of them have as their foundation turn-based, strategy board games. A few months before Atomic Games sent First to Fight to their publisher, Destineer Studios, Pandemic Studios had released a strategy/action game called Full Spectrum Warrior, another game that, apparently, I was the only fan.

What I didn’t like about Full Spectrum Warrior and I did like about First to Fight is that Atomic Games didn’t use the false pretenses that Pandemic did. Pandemic dropped you in a fictional Middle Eastern nation in an urban combat situation that was every bit of Iraq except for the name. Atomic didn’t even bother. They plopped you down as a US Marine in Beirut on a UN peacekeeping mission, the site where 63 people died in the Embassy bombing of 1983 (some of whom were fellow Marines on… hey, a peacekeeping mission) and then pitted you against Lebanese Islamic militias, Syrian security forces, and Iranian special services troops.


You couldn’t have gotten more politically insensitive if you had people kicking puppies on the box art. If further proof was needed, it came when Konami dropped Atomic Games’ latest U.S. Marine-themed title, Six Days in Fallujah amidst a firestorm of controversy surrounding the game’s development brought on by members of a British peace activist group. That irritated me as it threatened to be a really good game. You can have Infinity Ward design a game in which you can gun innocent people down in a Russian airport in a fictional conflict (and IW never did tell us which Middle Eastern country we were fighting in during Call of Duty 4, did they?) but you apparently cannot make a video game about fighting in a real war.

So damn me for being an Ugly American, but I cannot understand the stifling of building a game around the desperate battle fought by U.S. Marines in Fallujah, one that actually happened, but we’re okay with putting the player in the shoes of a terrorist killing innocent civilians.

Aside from that, the game was well-built. You command a four-man fire team using U.S. Marine Corps Ready-Team-Fire-Assist methodology (the friendly AI you command performs it flawlessly) to burn through Beirut. I remember the first time I entered an alley and watching in fascination as the AI automatically separated my team into two, two-man elements and we crept down the alley, crouched, ready to fire and I didn’t even have to issue a single command. THAT is excellent game design, people.

The bad guys vary. The Lebanese militia isn’t very much of a challenge, the Syrians slightly better, and the Iranians are pretty much the baddest enemies you’ll find in the game. You also run into situations when you can use assets like snipers and close air support, which is always pretty cool.

The graphics, though dated today, portrayed a very good impression of a bullet-nibbled Beirut, wracked by a modern civil war very similar to what we saw the last time the Marines went through Beirut with the guns of the USS New Jersey as backup. Garbage is strewn all over the place, buildings are crumbling. Kinda looks like Detroit, in a way. The audio, on the other hand, is not very good. Gunfire sounds a little small and sharp even when firing heavy weapons like a .50-cal machine gun.


CC:F2F - What Works for Casual Gamer

On the easiest difficulty level, your fireteam pretty much can kill everyone without your ever even having fired a shot. Hardly classifies as fun, but that’s how good your team can be. It takes cover smartly, sometimes at your expense, but does still occasionally get bunched up in small, enclosed spaces whereupon the enemy takes the opportunity to wipe your entire team with an RPG.

Still, the first time you see your fireteam throw a flash bang grenade into a room and then slam the door shut on the occupants trying to leave, you will giggle a little. First aid stations (they look for all the world like a medicine cabinet on the walls) are plentiful and resupply points happen often enough you shouldn’t have too many problems. You can pick up enemy weapons, but they don’t really differ much from your own in terms of their behavior.

CC:F2F - What Doesn’t Work for the Casual Gamer

Not much. It’s not ArmA 2.

CC:F2F Pros

  • Excellent friendly AI that can consistently open cans of whoop-ass.
  • Decent graphics.
  • Medical kits and ammo can be acquired on a fairly regular basis.
  • Radial menu for command and control pretty simple to use.
  • FANG gamepad comes with a default key profile that makes life a lot easier.
  • Kicked political correctness’ ass and then jerked its underwear up over its head.

CC:F2F Cons

  • Weak audio.
  • Enemy AI sometimes a little too easily wiped out.
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