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Close Combat 3

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Close Combat 3

Close Combat 3 the Russian front is a Real time strategy game covering the world war 2 conflict between Germany and Russia. The game is played from a top down perspective as if looking directly down from an aircraft over the battlefield. The Close Combat series of war games are a completely different animal to any other real time strategy titles. For example the Command and Conquer series bear no resemblence in looks or gameplay. The game takes an altogether slower more considered and realistic approach to the action. You do not just select a bundle of vehicles and troops and send them off guns blazing at the enemy. Also this is purely a wargame, there is no resource management involved in the game.
Combat and it's effects are modelled right down to the individual soldier, be he part of an infantry unit or the crew of a tank, halftrack or field gun. If a soldier gets injured or killed in a tank for example then the capabilities of that vehicle are suitably degraded. Soldiers also get scared under fire and will refuse to take orders or even break and run away if it gets to hairy for them.
Keeping a command unit nearby helps keep up the morale and bravery or your soldiers so that they continue to follow out your orders.
All kinds of weapons are included in the game. The infantry have rifles like the German Mauser, light and heavy machine guns of various marks, sub machine guns like the MP40, grenades and anti tank weapons. The tanks include classics like the powerful German Tiger 1 and the King Tiger heavy tanks, the Panther medium tank, the Panzer 4 in various variants and many others including assault guns and tank destroyers. The Russians have the unbiquitous T34 and T34 85 together with excellent assault guns and the heavy KV series tanks.
Late in the war the Russians can also field the supremely powerful Josef Stalin heavy tanks, more than a match for even a King Tiger.

Further units include mortar units, field guns and static tank turrets. A feature noticable by it's abscence in all Close Combat games is airpower. There is no form of air unit in the game whatsoever. You cannot call in artillery strikes either. The only indirect fire you have any command over are your own mortar units, and the German rocket carrying halftrack.

The maps are larger than previous games in the series. Terrains covered include factories, villages, muddy fields, snow covered hills and forests and plenty more. The terrain effects the movement and cover of the units. For example in muddy conditions your tanks get stuck and slow down to a crawl, in frozen icy maps vehicles can freeze up. buildings and craters give better cover for infantry units thus increasing their survivability. You can house units in buildings for cover and conceelment. A good ploy is to station an anti tank gun in a building and ambush the enemies armour.

You can give various orders to the units under your command. The move fast order will cause the unit to move at best possible speed to it's destination. When applied to an infantry platoon the soldiers will run to their destination. You can also get them to crawl by selecting sneak when you move them. Soldier fatigue is modelled by the game, the more a unit runs or crawls the more tired and less effective they become. It therefore pays to rest units when possible.
Other orders include defend and ambush. These orders effect the range at which the unit will open fire on the enemy.

One criticism of the game is the dominance of armoured units. Of course in the war tanks were a formidable threat to an infantry unit, but in close combat they are too powerful when up against infantry. In the war infantry could ambush enemy tanks and plant explosives to destroy them. This lead to the need for an infantry team to provide close support for their tanks. Although in the game infantry 'can' destroy and disable tanks usually they get machine gunned down before they can do much.
This leads to a game where all you end up wanting on your fighting force is armour. Even halftracks are not much use as they are vulnerable to mortar fire.
Another poor aspect of the game is the pathfinding, particularly of tanks. Getting them where you want them when you want them is often a frustrating business.
Graphics are well done in the game. The battlefields look realistic with well reproduced trees, trenches, shell holes, railway tracks etc etc. The units also look great. Tanks and soldiers cast shadows and look the part. This is all done without any need for a fancy graphics card. Sound is done excellently in the game. Weapons have their individual sounds, the 88mm main weapon in a Tiger sounds particularly good (the sound on a battle field of an 88 must have caused dread to allied forces). Small arms fire also sounds the part.
You have the option of making the soldiers speak in English or their native language, be it German or Russian, this is a great touch.
The game plays well overall despite the above mentioned annoyances. You can also setup custom battles where you pick the forces fighting. Doing this lets you just have infantry v infantry battles which are great fun, especially on a village map, or tank only duels where you duke it out between Tiger and Josef Stalin tanks for example. Their are virtually endless scenarios you can produce using this custom battle option. Try giving the enemy hoards of infantry and your own forces just one tank and see how you get on then try it vice versa, great fun.

If you want a slow and considered strategy game then this title should be on your computer. If you're interested in military history you will also get satisfaction from this great computer game.

Close Combat 3 SCORECARD

Graphics 8/10
Sound 8/10
Gameplay 8/10
Originality 7/10

Computer Games score 8/10