July 23, 2008 - As one of the nine original launch titles for the Atari 2600, Combat was the first multiplayer deathmatch experience I can recall. This was well before people described the practice of virtually eviscerating human opponents using terms like "deathmatch."
Combat was also among a handful of early Atari titles I would use to entice my dad into playing video games with me. Before long, the friendly matches would devolve into fierce competition as humorous taunts were exchanged alongside volleys of tank munitions.
Earlier, I mentioned something about one box shooting another box; this is the game I was referring to. With tank, biplane, and jetfighter variations, the game essentially drops both players in an arena to let them have at it. There's not a lot more to it, yet the gameplay is extremely engrossing - primarily because your pixilated opponent is controlled by the person sitting next to you rather than the system's crummy A.I.
Dogfighting in the clouds is a decent distraction, but the real meat and potatoes of Combat is the tank battles. The tanks themselves are agonizingly slow and unresponsive. This added to the fun and mounting tension as you approach your opponent. In many instances, life or death is decided by the player who can frantically turn their tank around a corner and fire off the faster shot.
The basic gameplay is intense. Certain levels allow you to arc your shots or become invisible except for a few seconds after firing. Tank Pong mode made bullets ricochet off walls, and in some levels, bullets would only destroy your opponent if they were banked off a solid obstacle first.
Multiplayer has come a long way, yet you can look back at Combat to find all of the basic ingredients needed for some killer warfare.
CCC Staff Contributor / Pixel Artist