Genre: Tactical FPS
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Atomic Games
Release Date: April 6, 2005
Buy 'CLOSE COMBAT: First to Fight': Xbox
Close Combat: First to Fight is one of myriad military-themed, team-based first person shooters to come out in the last year. What makes it stand out from the others? Well, nothing really. Observe.
FtF takes place in Beirut, Lebanon in the year 2006 (which is totally, like, the future). Anyway, something crazy happens, and the marines are called in to straighten things out. We, that is, the player, take the role of a lance corporal in charge of a three-man squad.
The story, such as it is, is fed to us via CNN style newscasts, which segue into six main missions that focus on capturing or killing one of five enemy leaders. Each of the six main missions is divided into numerous sub-missions, each with its own short briefing and objective.
Being a trendy, meat-shunning aesthete living in a post-Halo America, I demand perfect control from a first person shooter. Any FPS I play and assign a number score to that doesn't have perfect control is automatically deducted one point. Two if I'm in a bad mood, which is always.
Luckily, First to Fight has perfect control.
The basic dual thumbstick/right trigger button method of moving and firing is used here. Holding down the X button brings up a menu that lets you select weapons and grenades, and, when available, call for sniper support or an air strike or something. Holding down the A button gives you a menu of commands to issue your troops. Pretty easy all around.
Speaking of easy, the graphics aren't very easy on the eyes; they're pleasant but not terrible. It's just kind of disappointing that the Xbox has more games with mediocre graphics than both of the other platforms on the market. I still think Ninja Gaiden is the best looking game on the system, and it's not exactly brand new.
The front of the box for First to Fight tells us that it's based on a training tool developed for the United States Marines, then, below that in fine print, we learn that the Marines don't approve or endorse this product. At all. My point?
This game isn't very realistic.
It must be really loosely based on that Marine training tool, because - and I'm no expert - the last time I checked, no branch of the military carries special medical kits that instantly heal gunshot wounds. I didn't know terrorists were psychic either (unless those rumors of the psychic child warfare camps were true, but that would mean … nooooooooo!!) because they have the most uncanny ability of knowing exactly when you're reloading, even when they're hiding behind a corner, driven back by your gunfire. Most of the time, however, the enemies just stand still, waiting to die (must've used up all their psychic energy for the day).
Yes, I know, complaining about things like instant healing kits and cheating AI in a video game is stupid, but First to Fight makes it a point to stress just how utterly realistic it is. There's even a section of the instruction manual devoted to enemy psychology and how to break an enemy's will to fight. I found that the best way to do this is by shooting and killing them.
It is true, however, that your troops can stack around doors and charge into a room, each member of the team covering a specific area. It's also a fact that your troops also cover a specific area of any terrain that you happen to be fighting in and eliminate enemy soldiers efficiently, without compromising the safety of the entire team. It should be noted, though, that many other games have done things like this already, and most of them don't jump up and down waving their arms and yelling, "Look what I can do!" quite as blatantly.
The fighting in the game takes place almost exclusively in very cramped buildings or large outdoor areas within Beirut. I found that the outdoor areas, which feature a wide variety of terrain that you can use to your advantage, were the most fun in which to fight. Having multiple enemies firing at you from five different locations at once while you struggle to find cover in the blasted ruins of an apartment complex can be pretty thrilling, I have to admit. Again, your computer controlled teammates do a good job of covering all directions and keeping you alive.
In a rare change of heart, I'm actually glad that First to Fight has a sparse, almost non-existent soundtrack. Doing things like stacking up around a door, calling for sniper support, or occasionally, entering a new area of a level will trigger short musical queues. Most of the music is pretty generic "action style" stuff, something you'd hear in many bad Hollywood action movies. Letting the sound effects speak for themselves was a good move, I think, but the voice acting can be pretty weak, and occasionally really annoying. Sometimes your Marines say things like "Look alive devil-dogs!" and I don't know if that's supposed to be funny, but it's just not good.
Of course, I'm sure you could care less about the music because this is a first person shooter, and first person shooters are all about multiplayer. Mostly.
I don't personally have Xbox Live, so I made a quick trip to the house of a dear friend, where, together, with the aid of beer and Mountain Dew, we would test the multiplayer portion of the game. Before we started, we went to the local supermarket to buy "food," and he asked me how the game was. I said it was "okay." We left the market with about 12 boxes of Cheese-Its and an intense desire to do some multiplayer gaming.
Somewhere during the process of turning on the Xbox, my friend managed to knock over a beer, spilling its contents all over the controllers.
"I love when that happens; that's my favorite part of the game," he said in a deadpan manner.
Finally, we started a deathmatch game of First to Fight over Xbox Live. We played for a little while, but it really wasn't that exciting. It's deathmatch, and that's about all you can do over Live.
So we yelled at some 12-year-olds and some jingo patriots, and then logged off to tackle something that would prove to be much more interesting: split-screen co-op.
We started what would eventually be called Operation Enduring Rock. We put some rock and roll music on the stereo, specifically, Green Day, something easy to listen to. We started to play through the single player missions, our eyes fixed intently on the television screen. After an hour and a couple of wine coolers, my buddy said:
"This game ROCKS!!"
By five in the morning, we were both dead-tired, our eyes were bloodshot, our legs were atrophied, and Antioch Arrow was screeching in the background, eroding our souls. I sat eating a piece of store-bought pizza. My friend was sitting two inches away from the television screen, squinting. He turned my direction and regarded me with glazed-over eyes.
"Why is your character glowing?" he asked. I stopped eating my pizza.
"Um, h-he's not… I'm not even playing anymore."
It was then that we realized that it would probably be a good idea to get some sleep. After about four hours of sleep, we woke up and beat the game. It was only then that I had a minor epiphany.
"This was quite fun. Single player was only marginally enjoyable, but playing First to Fight on co-op mode is something you can do while your friend gets drunk, while you play some rock and roll in the background, and eat some pizza. It's something you can do, and not have to think about, you can just relax with a friend or three, and play the game, even if the people you're playing with are only casual gamers. What a great way to pass a Saturday night."
(Yes, that's really how I think to myself.)
More articles about Close Combat: First To Fight