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The Thrill of Combat--The Power of Command


The original Close Combat game was an unusual and innovative Real Time Tactics game. The player commanded individual American or German troops and vehicles in Normandy during Operation Overlord. It eschewed traditional gameplay in favor of realism: fog of war is replaced by actual line-of-sight concealment, troops receive realistic wounds, and will panic under heavy fire.

A year after the original game, Atomic released a sequel, set during Operation Market Garden. It introduced multi-story buildings and major graphical improvements. Close Combat III was much broader in scope, covering all of the Eastern front. It introduced air-strikes, mine-fields, and off-board artillery, but was criticized for its emphasis on armored warfare. Close Combat IV consisted of the Battle of the Bulge, and introduced strategic movement, but was criticized for Crippling Overspecialization in the make-up of its battle groups. Close Combat Invasion Normandy abandoned the numbering scheme and returned the setting to Operation Overlord. It has generally been received as a polished, balanced game.

Atomic also developed a modern version (Close Combat: Marines) which was sold as a training tool to the US Department of Defense. Two civilian versions were marketed: The Road to Baghdad and Close Combat: Modern Tactics. The former suffered from a rushed development, but the latter was well received. There was also apparently an airfield defense version sold to the RAF. Close Combats II to Invasion Normandy were remade by Matrix Games with enhanced AI and game mechanics.

Tropes used in Close Combat include:
  • AKA-47: Averted: only explosives and bayonets are generic.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Less jarring than in many games, because troops are requisitioned at the start, and the limit is rarely reached.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Most heavy armored vehicles, as well as some units, such as flamethrowers. Even so, they are very occasionally useful.
  • The Berserker: Although rare, troops can go berserk and charge into melee screaming. When they don't die instantly, they can do amazing things.
  • Breakable Weapons: Guns can jam. It doesn't happen very often, though, and the soldier operating it will stop and unjam, if possible.
  • Copy and Paste Environments: Used in the case of buildings, of which there are a few score per game. Averted in most other ways, though: the maps are beautiful.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Justified, as it features historical weapons.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted. Soldiers who are hurt at all will move more slowly, shoot less accurately, and be more likely to rout. A given bullet is more likely to kill or incapacitate them than it is to merely hurt them, anyway.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Averted: Most infantry weapons won't damage even medium armored vehicles, although they may force the crew to button up, reducing visibility.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Almost entirely averted, much to the developers credit. However...
    • During Operation Market Garden, the Arnhem Rail Bridge was captured without opposition, while in Close Combat II, it is one of the most annoying battles.
      • It should be noted that while there was little or no opposition while capturing the Arnhem Rail Bridge, it was destroyed by the German defenders as the British reached it.
        • Justified as A Bridge Too Far is a VERY open ended simulator of Market Garden that covers what the sides COULD have done/accomplished rather than merely what they actually did. Had the Arnhem Rail Bridge been as heavily defended as it tends to be in-game, it would also have probably been similarly hellish.
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Averted: Troops will run and fire, but accuracy suffers, and they can't reload while moving. It even features an "assault MG.42," which can be fired while moving.
  • Easy Logistics: One of the few RTT titles to utterly avert this.
  • Emergency Weapon: Most soldiers carry a pistol (with very few bullets), and all can use melee attacks.
  • Fog of War: A notable variant. Instead, enemy units are visible only if they can be seen by friendly troops. Some units, notably tanks, have a very restricted field of view, meaning they have a difficult time surviving without infantry support.
  • For Massive Damage: Most German tanks are all but invulnerable from the front, even to medium AT weapons such as the 57mm AT gun and bazooka. The sides, rear, and roof, however, are all quite weak.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Apparently averted, however, troops won't willingly fire into areas with friendly troops, so it isn't very noticeable. They will occasionally kill themselves while charging and throwing grenades at the same time, though.
  • Kill It with Fire: Flamethrowers, flamethrower halftracks, and flamethrower tanks are all available.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Most of the games to some extent, but ESPECIALLY ABTF and ESPECIALLY for the Western Allies. You know what reinforcements you will get and a vague idea of when they'll arrive and where, but that is by no means a reliable timetable. And then we get to talking about the bridges themselves: more than one campaign has been decided on whether a particular bridge's explosive charges triggered or fizzled out.
  • Mook Chivalry: Used or Inverted in the Island operation in Close Combat II, depending on which side you choose. The allied tanks must advance down a narrow raised road, and almost inevitably take heavy losses.
  • Nintendo Hard: These games (particularly on the campaigns) chew up and spit out unprepared or green gamers for Breakfest. And even when you know what you're doing, a LOT depends on being able to predict what the enemy will do or is doing and how to counter that. This is especially evident in the highly-randomized ABTF.
  • No Swastikas: This troper doesn't recall seeing any.
  • Numbered Sequels: Used through Close Combat IV, and ignored afterwards. Some fans refer to Invasion Normandy as Close Combat V, though. Also, Invasion Normandy's executable file is named "CC 5.exe".
  • Rare Vehicles: The Jagdtiger and Kingtiger tanks definitely both count.
  • Run, Don't Walk: Averted: Troops can Move, Move Fast, or Sneak. Sneak and Move Fast are most common, but Move is chosen occasionally if the troops in question are safe from attack, and when moving long distances.
  • Scrappy Level
    • In Close Combat II, most of the Groesbeek maps fall into this category, as well as the Arnhem Rail Bridge.
  • Selective Historical Armoury: In Close Combat II, Universal Carriers and Jeeps are conspicuously absent.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: In many operations, heavy armor will take days to arrive. This is particularly true in Close Combat II, where the British Paratroopers at Arnhem can expect to wait 6-8 days for armored reinforcements.
  • Timed Mission: In Close Combat II, many battles centered around key bridges take this form. However, there is always an alternate crossing, or at least the possibility of erecting a "Bailey Bridge."
  • Units Not to Scale: Infantry are scaled up slightly---as they wear camouflage, they would be difficult to see otherwise.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Your troops are persistent from battle to battle and operation to operation, and their kills, medals, and other achievements/failures are kept track of individually for each soldier. As a result, it's quite easy to get attached to them, which just makes it worse when they inevitably die.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: A MUST to successfully play this game, particularly since "pausing" is awkward and (unlike most games) cuts you off from giving orders. You learn to think on your feer VERY quickly or you die even faster.