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Game Over Online ~ Close Combat 4: Battle of the Bulge

GameOver Game Reviews - Close Combat 4: Battle of the Bulge (c) Mindscape, Reviewed by - Gades

Game & Publisher Close Combat 4: Battle of the Bulge (c) Mindscape
System Requirements Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 60MB HD
Overall Rating 87%
Date Published Tuesday, November 30th, 1999 at 09:31 PM


Divider Left By: Gades Divider Right

Being such a big fan of the Close Combat series since the beginning, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this game since I finished it’s predecessor, Close Combat 3: The Russian Front. During that span however, the developer Atomic Games decided to change publishers from Microsoft to Mindscape. With this movement, many thought that the series would be changed in a very different way, however it sticks to it’s roots as a tactical simulation and excels over the past three titles in many ways.

The scenario this time around takes place in the Ardennes, spanning from December 16, 1944 to January 28, 1945. At this time, it was clear that Germany was losing the war. This was the last, desperate attempt to reclaim their glory in an all-or-nothing last ditch battle. The resulting battle was the largest land battle in World War II.

The attention to detail in this game has been greatly increased. Using the same engine as the previous games, they’ve managed to bump up the resolution to 1024 x 768 which adds some more increased detail and crisper graphics. The vehicles look even better and the use of smoke clouds and explosions are simply breathtaking. When a tank explodes, clouds of smoke shoot up realistically and continue to blow off smoke during the course of the battle. Moreover, the battlefields are also very well detailed and accurate to actual war reconnaissance. The surprising feature of this title is that it is based on a 2D engine and doesn’t require a powerhouse computer to run.

The sounds in CC4 are simply stunning. The authenticities of the German and English accents are top notch and can be adjusted to even make Germans speak English. From the birds chirping to the sounds of tanks firing at each other, nothing is left out. Simply put, each individual weapon has a distinct firing sound and explosions. The speech, although quite limited is well done. When your units begin to panic, they scream out in fear and when they kill a unit, they shout out with confidence. However, it would have been better if there were more than one person doing the speech for each side because it would add more realism.

The game play is where this title excels. Don’t think of this game as a Command & Conquer clone or you’ll be wondering why you’re losing real badly. This game requires patience, skill and tactical brawn. The difference between it’s previous games is the new allocation of the Force Pool. Previous games allowed players to acquire units by paying through Force Points. However, this time around you are given the platoon through supply depots scattered throughout the map. Although this can add to the realism, it does restrict players to that battle group instead of mixing and matching units to make the group. This in some was irritates many hard-core gamers of this series, though it seemed like the realistic way to make groups. The campaign mode is probably the best feature in this game. Units can move from one area to another adjacent area. The way battles are determined is the ability to move units to intercept opponents’ groups. What’s good about this is that losing a battle can really have a direct impact on the whole battle. Also, from the direction of entering the battlefield can make you begin the battle from one of the corners of the battlefield, instead of left side Allies and right side Axis in previous games. Sometimes, units will run out of fuel or ammo and have to reload at supply depots. Weather can affect game play as well if you want to place artillery barrages or air support to certain battles. One great addition is the ability of spies used in the battle map. Although you have direct influence over them, spies can hinder movement of battle groups and possibly moving them back instead of forward.

Combat is truly remarkable. This game boasts over 40 different maps that can be initiated when two opposing battle groups enter an area. The objective for either side is to take control of all the victory locations or by causing your enemy to move off the map. The latter can be done by destroying all their forces or by reducing their morale until they retreat. However, sometimes when they become desperate, they can call a truce and this results in placing the battle to a standstill and will ensue on the next turn. What’s great about the battle system is the ability to ambush other units or to defend them. There are a number of movement types available, from sneaking to moving fast. Some units are also able to use smoke to hinder opponents view from firing on your squad. However, when the units’ leader dies in combat, sometimes the soldiers will panic and will not listen to your commands. If being fired upon repeatedly, they will even cower and most likely surrender. One very annoying feature is that when one of your vehicles is destroyed, the units in them run out. However, they are useless and will not listen to your commands - even if they are a Platoon leader group. Some additions have been enhanced, like the sniper is much more accurate, and an even more realistic line-of-sight. Tanks however are way to overpowering in the game. If one is to play the Allied side first, the Jagdpanthers will just run your other tanks over. Rocket half-tracks are also a little too powerful as well. However, ways to destroy these are Bazooka men. Atomic has made these units much more useful but it would be a lot better if they were allowed to carry much more ammunition instead of just 6-7. AT Guns also shoot much faster and units although carry AT capabilities, don’t really stand a chance against tanks unless you ambush them.

One questionable flaw however is the AI. In a sense, there was little done at its part to make it more challenging. For instance, I’ve been playing the Allies in the campaign and according to history, the Axis were supposedly crushing the Allies in the early part of the war. However, I’ve been able to stop the German’s attempts and have been taking over German areas! Although it has been greatly enhanced (Close Combat II’s AI was a joke), they do move their units very awkwardly and very susceptible to ambushes from my units. Sometimes however, men do move behind tanks when advancing and units move in groups to support each other. Also they do sometimes, although rarely flank your units. Perhaps these imperfections should be patched up in a future update.

The multiplayer feature is nothing to be screaming about. It does have a matching service through MS Gaming Zone and Mplayer. There’s only one feature, one-on-one in a map. Some more creative ideas would be team play against opponents (a-la Myth).

What makes this game great is the replay value with the inclusion of the Scenario Editor. It is very versatile and has the ability to make great new campaigns and to adjust the units allocated and which types available. This feature could probably be a stand-alone itself with the flexibility of options.

All things considered, this game is extremely fun and very addictive. Anybody who is familiar with these games could jump right in and gamers who are new to this genre wouldn’t be surprised by how addictive this game can be. The new Force Pool is well integrated into the campaign and the fresh new units add a more challenging feel to it. However, the AI could be reworked a little more and perhaps the units’ ability to destroy tanks could be a lot more flexible.

 

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Rating
87%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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