Throughout U.S military history the United States Marines have been called upon to lead the way, often alone and into the thick of danger. It’s possibly no surprise then that the developers at Destineer have appropriately named their realistic first person shooter, Close Combat: First to Fight.
Assuming the role of team leader you are shouldered with the responsibility of guiding your four man fire team through the urban sprawl of alleyways, buildings and sewers that make up the war torn city of Beirut. Based on a true to life Marine training simulator and combining the personal experiences from some of the U.S Marine Corps finest, your Marines are well drilled in the art of urban warfare and automatically follow an authentic procedure the Marines call Ready Team Fire Assist (RTFA).
You could be mistaken in thinking that First to Fight is just another FPS similar to the Tom Clancy series of Ghost Recon, or a Tactical Shooter such as Full Spectrum Warrior which is also based on another U.S military training program. Fortunately Destineer have seemingly taken a page from each of these and what we have is a cross between the two genres.
You quickly pick-up on the fact that your fellow Marines know what they are doing and that they aren’t just sheep following you through the shadows. While operating as a team, each member partakes in their role of RTFA, covering his zone of fire and smart enough not to stand in the middle of the street asking for trouble. This leaves you to lead and gun down hostiles knowing your back is covered and that each member is doing their best to stay out of harms way. Whilst tactically moving around, offering covering fire, suppressing a target or clearing a room - you must complete objectives supplied to you in real-time. To deal with sudden threats, you can sometimes call upon the combined arms of the Marines Corp, remembering when the Marines go to war they take everything they need to get the job done. This comes in the form of helicopter gunships, snipers and mortars which don’t play a major roll in First to Fight but do add to the authenticity - there is nothing like a Cobra gunship taking out a tank.
Remembering First to Fight is based on a training simulation, tactics are as critical as a trigger finger, and running around spraying lead will most likely get you killed. The challenging nature is purely down to the fact that you are manoeuvring around what the military call ‘4D terrain’ (your enemy is above, behind, below and in front of you), a real world urban scenario. Combine the concept of being a target from any direction with an enemy AI as smart as your own fire team and you have yourself close combat.
The look of the game offers what I have come to expect in the way of a Middle Eastern urban environment - dull, dusty and dark. I wouldn’t let this detract from what is a good all round package, and to be honest the graphics are impressive. The sound is also accurate, with overhead traffic through to ear-piercing air-raid sirens as you dodge bullets in streets. It’s no surprise that movement is controlled with your left thumbstick, but the way in which you go about sprinting and leaning is frustrating to say the least. Sprint is a double tap up and in the heat of combat I have often been left slowly walking amongst a hail of gunfire looking rather stupid. Leaning is a great way to see round corners - if you can actually pull it off with the twitchy controls.
An appealing feature of First to Fight are the multi-player modes which extend the life of the game ten fold. There is endless split-screen gaming to be had with your mates filling in the other three positions in your fire team. Then - of course there is Xbox live. Close Combat: First To Fight is what I would call a Tactical First Person Shooter. It is not just a matter of walking down the street mowing down everything thing you see, nor is it just about tactics and having your team-mates do all the work. You are involved in as many aspects of real-time urban warfare as you want to be, including getting shot.
With Close Combat: Red Phoenix in the pipeline I can only imagine what would be an improvement on this respectable title.