Close Combat
Review by Alfred Giovetti
Price: $45
Genre: World War II strategy war game; squad level real-time strategy - combat war game
Release: summer 1996
Format: Windows 95 or Macintosh
Developer: Atomic Games,
Publisher: Microsoft
Phone: 800-426-9400 and 206-882-8080
Requirements: Pentium, 90 MHz, Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, 20 MB hard disk space, 2X CD ROM drive, mouse, sound board, SVGA, network or null or phone modem for multi-player, Macintosh Power PC 601 or Power Mac, 12 MB RAM, 20 MB free hard disk space, 2X CD ROM drive, system 7.5, 800x600 resolution 256-color video, apple mouse, TCP/IP connection for head-to-head play via modem, LAN or internet.

This is top-down overhead perspective real-time squad-level wargaming. Originally called Beyond Squad Leader, when the company was associated with Avalon Hill in Baltimore Maryland, now called Close Combat when the publisher switched to Microsoft. And perhaps now that the company has gone with Microsoft some of the grognard bitching about the purity of the product, when compared to game classic Squad Leader, will die out.

Take the role of the US 29th Infantry Division or the German 352nd Infantry Division along the 20 miles of hedgerow and countryside from Omaha Beach to St. Lo. There are three scenarios: boot camp, maneuvers, and the one campaign. Boot camp mode is training. Maneuvers is actually individual missions played without the campaign. The campaign strings the maneuvers missions together and tracks your career through all the missions therein.

A large map window is seen in the upper portion of the screen with a command bar on the right and a set of status panels at the bottom. These monitors keep track of the units, their statistics, and a larger overhead map view in the lower right corner. Difficulty can be set by using one of three levels, including easy, normal, and hard, or by setting a number of statistics on enemy and allied troops.

Control extends right down to the individual soldier level, with multiple statistics on each man. The game supports resolutions of up to 800x600, and will zoom in or zoom out on the main overhead map display. The real-time aspect of play, like Command and Conquer, results in awkward commands from the human player who is controlling too many men, especially when the scrolling and other computer functions are being bogged down by the considerable data crunching it takes to model each soldier and bullet individually. Scrolling is slow and distracts play when it jerks around.

Individual soldiers can win one of six medals, five statistics are maintained on each man. Replacements of green troops occur between battles. Commands include move, move fast, fire, smoke, defend, and hide making this game one of the simplest command structures ever in a real war game.

There is no map, mission, or scenario editor which may turn some players off. The campaign and single missions are randomly generated on maps that change with time. The maps resemble those in Across the Rhine with small intricate details. Preferences allows you to set the pace of the game if things get too intense.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is very good, making quick decisions. When left to its own devices the AI can out play and out plan most human commanders, also like Across the Rhine. Units make their own decisions. If you give a unit an impossible order or a suicide mission, in all probability the unit will stay right where it is, since it has the common sense to not try something that will only get it killed.

The 176-page instruction manual is quite good, with a plethora of details about tactics, the history of the battle on both sides, various forms of armament and ordinance. The fact that both an online help system and manual and a paper manual of some substance are both included with the game is a great comfort to me. Microsoft has had the good sense to realize people still want the paper manuals because they are more convenient in many ways than the cyber ones. Buy and use William Trotter’s 306-page, excellent, indexed and table-filled book if you really want to get some play value out of the game.

Multi-player: A two player game can be played over internet or null and phone modem.

Hints: Take a balance between speed and efficiency. You need to move fast and protect your troops which are two conflicting goals. Slam the opposition where they are weak with superior forces and get the opposition to retreat. Pursue the retreating forces relentlessly and destroy them.

References: 80%
Next Generation, volume 2, number , June, 1996, pg. 53.
Johnny L. Wilson, Computer Gaming World, number 143, June, 1996
P. Miller, Computer Gaming World, number 146, September, 1996, pg.33, warm (66%).
Kevin Mical,, (91%).
John-Paul Gionet,, 9/10 (90%).
Steve Wartofsky, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 76-78.
Jeff James, Computer Player, volume 3, number 4, September, 1996, pg. 79, 8.10, (80%).
William R. Trotter, Close Combat Inside Moves, Microsoft Press, 1996, $16.95 recommended
Robert Mayer, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 78-80.