Last year THQ did the near impossible and that was create a real time strategy game crossed with action in a war zone. Controlling two teams of units from an aerial view was a stroke of genius and it turned out to be one of the games of the year. Close Combat resembles Full Spectrum in many ways. You take control of a team, you order them and you're a US ranger unit. The difference is the quality of the two titles. Close Combat when it works well, is an excellent game, but when it doesn't, is very poor.The battle is set in the year 2006 in the hostile region of Beirut. You've been sent into remove some civil unrest and take down a hostile force while keeping your men alive. You go in as part of the US and NATO response to the unrest with the aim of quelling it and keeping peace in Beirut. It's quite cliche and quite close to Full Spectrum Warrior's storyline but it's not much of a surprise. Unlike in Full Spectrum you don't really feel part of a major war, and only small bits of it. This can take some of the atmospheric tension felt in Full Spectrum Warrior away.The game is played from a first person perspective firmly putting it in the Rainbow Six category rather than FSW. You as a leader do not have the opportunity to take command of other characters so if you are shot, the mission will end. You basically lead your team through levels taking down enemies and pretty much getting from point A to point B. This is one problem with the game and that is the lack of variety. You either have to destroy something or clear an area out. There isn't much else you do. Also it can be frustrating as well - there is the possibility you will miss an enemy in one area of the game and until that enemy is shot, the game will not progress leaving you on a wild goose chase through some rather large areas. Most of the time you come across the offender by chance rather than having any idea where you missed one.Where the game excels is its authenticity to marine tactics. The developers have really gone the extra mile in this regard and you will see soldiers automatically cover each other, in particular one tactic Ready, Fire, Team, Assist with each marine assigned to a specific task. Another interesting aspect is compliance. You can freak enemies out enough to have them drop their weapons and arrest them rather than shoot them, you get more military points for doing so and are ranked better at the end of missions. The game does not force you to really use tactics however. Due to the first person perspective you can back yourself to be a crack shot and just run out willy nilly rather than being forced to use military doctrine like in FSW.That's not to say the game is average. There are some parts of the game which other military games can learn quit a bit from such as the psychology factor. As your team is shot at and loses health their morale and will to fight will go down. This can lead to them ignoring your commands and generally just not doing anything. A quick health boost may be enough to get them happy again but if not you're going to have a tougher time completing a mission. It means they have lost respect for you and are in survival mode rather than attack mode. Co-op mode takes this even further with a human element also involved and co-op is probably the best feature of the game. It is a lot more fun to play with another human's brains behind the unit.The levels as mentioned before are very average, linear and mostly the same. The environmental style doesn't change and while this may not have been a problem, the lack of variety in mission objectives really does compound this even further. You will take down warehouses, schools and other buildings as well. If the going gets tough mortar and helicopter strikes can be sent in but you have a limited number per mission. The game is quite impressive visually at times, and very drab other times. The character models are highly detailed and the way the environment reacts to explosions is quite realistic.Close Combat First to Fight is a valiant effort at taking Rainbow Six and putting it in a military environment. The game for the most part works quite well, but the repetitive nature, boring levels and lack of variety in mission objectives keeps this from being as impressive as a Rainbow Six game. Definitely one to rent first for Full Spectrum Warrior fans or fans of tactical action in general.
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