XBOX REVIEW: CLOSE COMBAT: FIRST TO FIGHT

With so many military combat games being released there has to be some kind of novelty that sets each one apart. Close Combat: First to Fight maintains that you don't have to babysit your squad as they come pre-programmed courtesy of intense marine training - or is that brainwashing? That doesn't mean that you don't have any control over your squad. You can still issue commands but more of the obvious practices are taken care of automatically. Both the single and multi-player modes are worthy of play and that's rare for such a game.

First to Fight is very heavily militarily themed. It's almost too stuffy. This is one serious, no-nonsense game. Personally I like a little nonsense as it tends to make things seem more realistic. I can imagine that when you're in a life and death situation you may not be in the mood for jokes but when missions are completed and tensions are released you would think that some of these guys would have some kind of verbal celebration other than, "Good work." Even the music is composed of military-inspired marches. The game tries way too hard to make it believable and as a result comes across as forces and unnatural. It's just too heavy handed with the propaganda.

Once you're briefed on your mission, you and your squad will take to the streets of Beirut amidst nests of terrorists. There is no real story to the game, instead you will catch bits of information via television broadcasts similar to those in Splinter Cell. It's not imperative that you understand anything else but your immediate mission.

Your squad can be your most important asset if used properly. This is still a first-person shooter but your teammates can really cover your ass in a lot of situations. They are trained in MAGTAF which stands for Marine Air Ground Task Force which basically means that they will perform the necessary tactics to cover all angles in any given situation from as many vantage points as are accessible. If you open a door they will take positions to insure that all points of the room will be covered and eventually (hopefully) cleared of enemies. This also works in rural areas where they will take to rooftops to ensure that you can cross a street.

Commands can be given in real time so that you can react and adapt to the ever-changing situations. The AI for both sides is smart and you can expect the terrorists to also change their tactics to match your. Although you can play some of these missions solo it's not nearly as much fun without the squad by your side. Don't be impatient.

As the leader you have to make sure that your squad is well fed, relatively safe and not too overworked. While these are men of incredible discipline they are still human and are affected psychologically by your actions and demands. I couldn't really get these guys down too much although you can make them respond a little slower by pushing them. It seems that you're also highly disciplined since there aren't too many unreasonable commands to issue. So much for freedom. The bad guys are also affected psychologically and you will see evidence of this as you kick their sorry asses and watch them abandon their posts as they run with their tails between their cowardly legs.

Weapons are somewhat limited but by no means useless. The M-16 and the A4 allow you to zoom in on the enemy for more accurate shots. You can also call in various air strikes, mortar attacks and snipers to help you out. Vehicles such as tanks and jeeps are also at your disposal but only in appropriate situations. They're just keeping it real, dude.

Few things are as fun as the four-player co-op mode. You can play this mode on or offline. Offline you can play the mode using a four-way split screen. Using the SysLink you can connect two to eight consoles together and take advantage of team-based competition modes with the Xbox Live feature. Load times can be nasty and there is some audio lag but for the most part the gameplay is solid. New maps will be made available in the coming weeks and months.

I'm not blown away by the graphics or the animation which is stiff and unnatural looking. The environments don't appear very realistic and seem to look more like a Hollywood set. Effects such as explosions are underwhelming and even the shadows of the characters defy reality and wander about on their own volition. Disembodied voices and the sound of non-existent traffic make me wonder if the developers accidentally added a couple of tracks destined for another game to the mix.

Despite some shortcomings that don't actually interfere with the gameplay First to Fight is a solid shooter that will definitely scratch your itchy trigger finger.

Preview By Chris

There has been a rise in games that have a war theme as of late. We think video games are an escape from the "Real World", but at times the video game industry actually mirrors real life. As we all know the recent war and the terrorist attacks have sparked an interest in war-themed movies, books, and of course video games. Close Combat will focus on the first group to usually get called into action. The Marines are a very disciplined group dedicated in leaving no one behind. The game will allow gamers to be a squad leader and control a group of 4 in each mission. There will be a single player mode as well as an online multi-player mode.

Of course war games are nothing new, yet this one is going to raise the bar in the realistic looking graphics and feel of the game. The game was actually first used as simulator to train real Marines in various situations. The game will have one of the smartest AI systems ever made. Enemies will think and react on their own making the game a real challenge for gamers that love war games. We also have seen some of the early screen shots and the game is looking good having the ability of facial expressions and even true to life shadow casting as well as some very cool lighting effects and other graphics that will bring the game to life. Gamers will patrol the ground and have the option to call in the fire strike team, "Air Units".

Strategy will be the key to success in this intense war game. It's not known if the same company will be making the PC version or not. Some reports have one developing team making the Xbox version and another in charge of the PC version. The game will offer some neat features. Take a look at the screen shots and the list of game features so far. The game developers had help from the real United States Marine Corp to make it as realistic as possible. Stay tune if we get more info we will update the preview.

Features:

Close Combat: First to fight is as close as you can get on a computer or Xbox to being a Marine fire team leader in modern urban combat!

  • Cutting-edge graphics engine delivers amazingly realistic graphics, facial animations, volumetric real-time shadows, dynamic lighting and more
  • In-game psychology model makes AI's behave as though they were humans with wills of their own
  • Developed in conjunction with the US Marine Corps
  • Use authentic Marine urban military doctrine (Ready-Team-Fire-Assist): governs how marines maneuver through urban environments
  • Use the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) to destroy enemies: call for fire and support from Cobra helicopters, mortar, other fireteams, tanks, AAVs
  • Use true military tactics to defeat enemies: lay suppressing fire, flank enemies, separate leaders from enemies, etc.
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System: XBOX
Dev: Destineer
Pub: 2K Games
Released: March 2005
Players: 1 - 8
Review by Fenix
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
3.0
VALUE
4.5