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Close Combat 2 is a top down view, realtime wargame which simulates "Operation Market Garden", where British and American forces attempted to capture the bridges between the front line all the way to Arnhem, a medium sized town, 60 miles behind those lines. You've probably seen the film based on the event and the game does conjure up images of the movie as you fight desperately against the odds at times. In the historic campain, the allies (US and British paratroopers, with Poles near the end) had to capture a series of bridges along the main northern road into Germany via Holland. The final bridge was the road bridge at Arnhem, which crossed the Rhine representing the final barrier into the German Reich. This was the infamous "Bridge Too Far". The plan was to drop paratroopers into what was believed to be lightly defended terretory, they would capture the bridges whilst the heavier units of the XXX Corps would charge like mad to relieve the forces before they were worn down. The action takes place beginning September 12th 1944 and continues for the next 12 days of the battle. So the scene is set for you to take over as supreme allied commander and try to succeed where historically they failed. I say failed although in reality most history books say the operation was a partial success as many of the bridges fell and the allies did advance further than they otherwise would. On the flip side the allies suffered terrible losses around the Arnhem area as the Germans had a SS Panzer division refitting in the area unbeknownst to the Ally intelligence. You can of course choose to be the German commander if you like the uniform, it's not quite so interesting a challenge I would say as you are predominantly on the defensive which tends to be easier and offers less scope. But that's my opinion, it still offers some entertainment playing this way. You can also play against a real human via the internet or a LAN, bu
t only single missions and not the whole campain. This brings me onto the game itself, you start off choosing the game settings, who you want to be, difficulty levels and which scenario you want. You can play a single battle, a group of battles for a local campaing, or the whole shooting match - The Grand Campaign. Each battle takes place on a lifelike map, which is like looking down on an area around about 600 metres square, each screen taking up about 300 metres by 200 metres. If you prefer I'll let you call them yards! The graphics are very good for a wargame, even RTS and arcade addicts will agree they are pretty good especially as you realise this game is a good 5 years old now. On the maps you get roads, hedgerows, trees, fields, houses etc and of course you can see your soldiers individually depicted with their tanks and other vehicles. You can also see the enemy which is handy but only once they've been "spotted". In other words if the enemy is inside a house you wont know about it until they either start shooting at your hapless grunts, or your scouts notice them hanging out of the windows. It's important to use natural cover provided by the terrain to keep your men safe and well hidden. If they are inside a stone house they can likely survive even a mortar assault but in the open even riflemen are a major hazard. The graphics can be deformed by your actions as well, and the game remembers this if you refight another battle on the same terrain. For example when you get your mortars to fire on the enemy in a field, you'll see small craters formed. Fire your tank at an enemy house and the roof can sometimes fall in, lovely, my kind of home improvements. It can be a little bloody as your men are shot, there is a small amount of the red stuff on display but the graphics depicting soldiers are small enough not to cause offense I feel. The aim of each scenario is to wipe out the enemy, to hurt and s
care them to the extent they surrender or to simply capture all the strategic objectives on the map. These objectives can be major buildings, road junctions and bridges etc, but you can guarantee most of them will be well defended. The game uses a good system to simulate morale, if the enemy are getting pasted and down to their last few stragglers, often if you send in your crack units at a charging assault they will surrender with no shots fired. This is also where one of my favourite parts of the game shows itself as the German forces actually speak in German! When surrendering they will throw up their arms and shout "Nicht Schiessen!" which of course means "Don't Shoot!". The allied troops shout the same in their own native tongue with a nice accent for the Yanks and a rather stilted version of English. "Jolly good show chaps", it's a bit too posh for most soldiers I suspect. There is quite a large vocabulary and with the sound of machine guns and the soldiers shouting it gets quite frantic at times. I think my personal favourite is "Ich habe keine Amunizion" which means "I have no ammunition", sorry if it's spelt wrong by the way. The game is actually educational in the respect that I now know some German phrases that my O Level German didn't include. Not sure how useful it will be to say I have no ammunition if I ever go there again. Maybe best not to say that if going through Immigration at Berlin Airport! The sound overall is excellent and does conjure up some good atmosphere as your men are pinned down in a building whilst you can hear the enemy tanks pounding them with heavy shellfire. For example. When there is no fighting you can hear birds singing, dogs barking etc, nice touch. Controlling your forces is easy, everything is done with a mouse. Simply move the cursor over the force you want to control (the screen scrolls around if you need it to, can b
e a bit too quick however, minor criticism) and then click them. They will now be highlighted, don't worry the enemy can't see them highlighted like some kind of Reddie Brek Kiddie in fatigues. Once highlighted you can also read more information at the bottom of the screen, it tells you the rank, name of the squad chosen and their equipment, morale, ammo levels etc. The size of the force depends on what it is but I suppose they can be considered platoon in size. A mortar unit is around four men, bazookas two, snipers just one man whilst the larger units like Sturmgrenadiers (stormtroopers) are up to eight men in size. You don't control individual men, just units and the whole group will try to do their best to follow your orders, they do better if their leader is still alive however. Pity that as you can guarantee the first man to die in each unit is the leader. Right click on a unit and the orders appear, you can choose move, move fast, sneak, fire, ambush, defend and smoke. Moving is pretty obvious, sneak the best to use if you are worried the enemy are nearby as this makes the men crawl along like snakes in the grass whilst move fast is risky but can be used if you order another unit to lay smoke to hide their move. Move fast can also tire your men out if used for long distances. Keeping your men fresh is quite important as they tend to panic easily if tired and this means they will tend to do their own thing and cannot be given orders until they calm down a bit! When you choose an order you then need to move the cursor to the target area, when moving this is where you want the men to go and when firing obviously this is the target you want to aim at. The target cursor gives details like the distance away the target is and when firing it changes colour to indicate what chance of success your squad has of causing damage. Green is a good chance, yellow medium and red a low chance of success. Black means no chance at all, li
ke if you tell your rifle squad to target the enemy King Tiger 200 yards away, the men will usually just shout "You're mad!" if you give this type of order. The chance of success depends on many factors, the range, type of weapon being used, whether the target is in cover and if it is armoured or a "soft" target. You need to bear in mind that your guys have limited ammo, usually the riflemen have enough for pretty hard combat for the entire mission (there is a time limit of around 20 minutes each scenario) but the machine gunners especially can run out quite quickly if they get over ambitious. Bazookas especially need to be told to fire only when they have a good chance of success as they have about 6 shots. Once the battle is finished, you get a screen showing how your men performed, and the enemy if you want to see them too. They may be injured, killed in action and some may be promoted if they do well or even get medals. Every man has a score showing how many men and tanks they accounted for, a bit sick maybe but it is only a game after all. Depending on the outcome of the mission, you may advance to the next piece of map with new terrain, if advancing, be pushed back to another map entirely or if it was a stalemate you get the same map again with whatever forces are remaining, but deployed depending whose hands the victory areas ended up. The deployment of troops is an important part of each mission, you have as long as you need to place them down on the map within their deployment zone. Each side has a separate deployment zone with "no-mans land" to prevent too much happening at the start with no time to react. Being a real time game it does mean occasionally you'll not be able to react quickly enough to everythin happening, but luckily your men will act on their own initiative and often they make good decisions of their own - although they almost never move around the map, content to
fire their weapons in attack or defense from a stationery position. Also before each battle you get to allocate "victory points" on the battle, using them as coinage of war to buy types of equipment or squads. The decisions are endless, do you squander a lot of points on that tank early on or try to have plenty of basic infantry to get good covering fire over the terrain? The vitory points are allocated across the whole campaign map, if you save some from one area of the conflict where you are doing well you can use them in the more hard fought terretories. It does give the player more of a sense of really being there, you feel really upset when your hard fought tank is blown up in front of your eyes as you didn't spot that Panzerfaust (bazooka) creeping up on you as you scrimped on scouts! There are many different types of units to squander your hard earned points on, about a dozen kinds of infantry units including mortars, flamethrowers etc and a similar number of tanks from light ones through to heavy beasts. There is also a wide range of other types of vehicles and field guns to choose from, plenty of toys for the boys there! You can decide to withdraw troops if you think they are doomed, simply walk them off the "friendly" side of the map and they live to fight again. Of course you may find them totally bogged down and hopelessly outnumbered in which case you can either surrender or try to make a run for it. Overall this is an excellent game and has aged very well. The later game sin the series are probably better in many respects but I feel the Market Garden campaign is very well suited to this model as there were reletively few troops involved compared to say the D Day landings - you only have about 100 men each side on one map as the maximum. Getting to Arnhem and capturing the bridge has a great sense of achievement attached to it and the subsequent struggle against ever increasing odds to hol
d on is monumental - and I think very historically accurate depending how you play it. This would really appeal to those interested in WWII and this operation in particular. Having said that RTS fans and wargamers in general should give it a go, it can be bought quite cheaply nowadays as it is an older game (I've seen it for less than £10 on Ebay, good value in my experience as I must have put over 100 hours into this game). I really can't say much negative about the game, it has some minor glitches when trying to perform very precise manoevres but that's it.
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