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  Topic: A Review of the Close Combat Series

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PostForum: The Mess   Posted: Tue May 19, 2020 10:08 pm   Subject: A Review of the Close Combat Series

For many wargamersa, including myself, Close Combat is a beloved series. It's a classic. It has the right atmosphere, the right gameplay. It's the perfect storm on a 2D platform. In this review, I'm going to take a look at the series as a whole, starting with Close Combat 2: A Bridge Too Far, which is where I got my start. It's also where the series really takes off and becomes the cult classic it is today. It becomes the game players still enjoy to this day. Moving through the series, reviewing each installment, I'm going to give my critique of the series. At some points, you'll notice the passions I have for it. At others, you'll notice the frustration I have with it. Being a historian, there are just some things I can't forgive, even if I do love the series. As a wargamer, there are quality standards in gameplay and controls I expect, which is influenced by other games I've played and my knowledge of history. The conclusion of this review sums up my overall opinion.

Bear in mind that nobody is required to agree with my assessment. This is my opinion, and I believe it's valid, given the trends I see not only in the Close Combat series, but the game development industry as a whole.

I'm excluding reviews on Close Combat: Marines and The Road the Baghdad. I haven't played The Road the Baghdad, and it spent so little time on the shelves that I assume it wasn't a worthy entry to series at all. Close Combat: Marines was developed for training and available only to the U.S. government, as was RAF Regiment, and Modern Tactics is its successor for public sales and likely my review for it naturally extends to what would've been a review for Marines and RAF Regiment. I also won't be reviewing Close Combat: First to Fight, which isn't in the same genre as the rest of the series, being a first-person tactical shooter, and I have sparing time with that game, anyway, and can't give a valid opinion.

Now, this is going to be a wall of text. I'm communicating the entirety of my thoughts on Close Combat, rather than splitting it into multiple posts. Without further ado, let's hit it.

//Close Combat II: A Bridge Too Far

From a design perspective, ABTF was ahead of its time, but not in terms of the graphics. By the time 1997 comes around, there have already been a plethora of 3D games developed and released. Simulation wargames, however, were thoroughly beaten by Close Combat in terms of its depth and realism. Line of sight, range, armor penetration and the angle of impact, a basic simulation of anti-tank characteristics of HEAT and AP solid core rounds, terrain, elevation, the list goes on. In its time, I'll argue that the game was the definitive tactical World War II simulation. No other games achieved the same level of realism, and its impressive that the game had this capability in text-based file formats and 2D planes. Other titles were mostly operational, some higher scope above Close Combat, but in its own genre and scope Close Combat 2 conquered all. It achieved what other turn based games of the same scope in real-time, with multiplayer (which was still in relative infancy), and its own engine, which isn't unheard of in that era. It's not until the 2000s that we see game engines become mainstream and developers saving costs by putting their games on an already developed engine, and codebase for that engine. Before that point, game engines were usually proprietary and tailored for the experience the developer wanted to achieve.

From a gameplay perspective... well, you know all about that. There's just something about it. The atmosphere, the morale of individual troops, squads and armor, artillery and mortars. It's the complete package, with an AI that wasn't necessarily advanced, but got the job done. Veterans of the series, including myself, learned the capabilities of each weapon and tailored their unit selections to that, part of the strategy being spending points intelligently over the course of the campaign, where every loss mattered. You had to play tactically and efficiently to get through it, with missions that became a race against the clock. Frankly, it was awesome. Tense and gritty. When I was a kid, some years after the release of the game, the game made me feel like I was really there. It's not a wargaming experience I've had in quite some time, even in the same series, and I haven't played many games that created that same atmosphere of being a platoon or company commander on the World War Two battlefield.

An important thing I want to emphasize is that the game was designed around single player. Remember, multiplayer hadn't yet become the beast it is today, so there was an emphasis on developing a game that provided a single player experience that had some real meat to it, or the game wouldn't sell. This is going to become a recurring factor throughout my review, both about the series and the game industry as a whole.

A Bridge Too Far, to this day, is still one of my favorite tactical wargames of all time.

//Close Combat III: The Russian Front

The first time I encountered A Russian Front was in the demo. I was probably about 10 or 11 by this point, and I couldn't wait for the download to finish, which was dial-up at the time (does anybody else remember that tone you would hear on your phone while the dial-up was active? Internet's come a long way!). When I got around to buying the game, it wasn't until my late teens, when I had money to buy it myself. My Dad was still playing A Bridge Too Far, which is how I got introduced to the series.

It's important to mention that the engine was growing. I'm not sure if they developed a new engine or not, or just extended its capabilities. Innovations were still being made. The maps looked better, the functionalities getting nailed down. It carried over the same linear campaign style as its predecessor, but this time it included a powerful scenario editor. Take any map in the game, assign your own deployment zones, your own victory locations, basically a custom battle on familiar ground. It was a game changer in the Close Combat Series, and subsequently this is where the modding scene of Close Combat starts to take off.

However, this is also where you start to see poison seep into the game industry, though not yet in the Close Combat series. After the release of Close Combat III, Microsoft, which had been Atomic Games' publisher up to this point, decides to discontinue the series. It isn't because the games aren't profitable or enjoyed by their players. They aren't profitable ENOUGH for Microsoft, which is becoming a juggernaut in the software development industry. After Microsoft starts to figure out the game industry, having also published titles like Age of Empires, Microsoft crosses that unspeakable line, where games become not the product of creativity and communication, but rather a cash cow. Normally, I'd agree with Microsoft's decision. If games were like any other products, like cars, household cleaners, things that people need, competition drives companies to create more and more profitable and user-friendly products, or those products wouldn't be purchased and the company would fail.

Art is NOT an industry. It's a communication, it's expression. And when art becomes a cash cow, it automatically becomes disingenuous and poisonous to the culture in which it exists, it becomes a dishonest product, but this is a topic for a different discussion. For now, know that this is where the Close Combat series starts to become a victim of commercialized and modified art created for profitability, not the enjoyment and positive experience of the people that experience it.

As much as I enjoy The Russian Front, it's low on my list. The weaknesses of the AI starts to show, with no changes to account for larger map sizes, as minute as the increase may be, and this point is probably a nit-pick, but this kind of stuff matters to me. My experience of The Russian Front was a little underwhelming in comparison to A Bridge too Far, but its a valid entry in the series, nonetheless. For what it brings to the table, it's still damn fun, and I'm going to attribute my lesser interest in it to my lack of interest in the Eastern Theater of World War Two. I don't have as much passion and interest for it as I do the war in Europe.

However, I will say that being as there were changes and additions made to include a scenario editor, I don't see a reason for including a linear campaign, especially when the following year Battle of the Bulge was released with a strategic map and thus operational startegy was included in the series. But, this can also possibly be attributed to a smaller budget, for instance, or a lack of the resources required to make further additions to the game, which is likely the case if Microsoft didn't decide to step in and clamp down on the development team to get the game finished. I don't know if that was the case, so this point isn't a knock to the developers unless budget and the publisher were not a factor. Note, too, that hindsight is 20-20, and it could also be the technical limitations of the engine being used for the game. The idea just might not have come up to create a strategic map, or the game might have been too far in development to warrant changes to the engine.

//Close Combat IV: Battle of the Bulge

Ah, Battle of the Bulge. A love-hate relationship. Battle of the Bulge has more emphasis on realism and force composition present in the historical operation at the time. The allies have a severe lack of air power early in the campaign, which was historical situation, and can make few movements against the Germans in the opening of the game, because it's a surprise attack with devestating effect in its early stages. The Germans, conducting a blitzkrieg, likewise have a surplus of armor in comparison to the Americans in their forces. I loved it for historical accuracy, but hated the fact that I had to fight so many damn tanks when playing as the Americans. I imagine that's a similar anxiety the historical commanders faced when these events took place. For that reason, it's actually a plus. Balance was in the weapons and terrain, not in the forces available, but balance is something I'll get to later.

From a design perspective, with enough existing features and budget from a new publisher and a new developer, who would've inherited the source code of previous entries, there really isn't an excuse for missing features. The welcome addition of a startegic map is a plus, but it's also a negative. Close Combat was never meant to model the strategic scope of a World War Two operation. It's a company level tactical simulation. The strategic map for Battle of the Bulge encpompasses the total area of combat operations in the Ardennes, where the Germans surrounded and trapped American troops in an area known historically as the Bulge. It wasn't until Patton conducted a counteroffensive that the Americans there were relieved and the Germans pushed back, later setting the stage for the invasion of Germany itself.

History aside, my point is that Close Combat simulates the smaller areas of combat in a region. Two companies of combined arms forces, one company-sized force for each player. It's a small unit tactical engagement. Combining that scope of combat with the overall startegic plan just doesn't quite fit, because a company of troops in a battle represents the entirety of a division. Where's the rest of the division? Where are the rest of engagements along the front line in that region on strategic map? Don't get me wrong. The startegic map created, frankly, a damn fun startegic layer to the game. You could now outflank enemy troops, break through front lines, etc. You were now an operational commander, as well. However, since thinking about the game in this way, this odd combination of company level fights and operationalk strategy, though combined almost seamlessly, I can't seem to get it out of my head. It's one of those situations where you see something, but now you can't unsee it. And for me, that's immersion breaking. Granted, it would take a monumental amount of increased development time to keep Close Combat tactical small-unit engagements, but also include companies of an entire division across a massive and sprawling strategic map. Given Close Combat's gameplay style, operational and startegic level play is far batter suited to the simulations meant for that purpose. Close Combat IV's campaign is still fun, but it deteriorates the experience a little bit for me because of the mismatch of gameplay scale. I don't consider Close Combat II's campaign to have a disparity in scale. In A Bridge Too Far's campaign, each mission was focused on individual actions in Market Garden, not the whole of Market Garden. Battle of the Bulge portrays, with its strategic map, the whole operation at the The Bulge, rather than individual engagements within it. While you could consider the same for the strategic map (i.e. maybe it's just that company's combat in that region), it wouldn't logically be true. The unit selection screens mention an entire division, and the loss or victory in that region hinges entirely on your actions on that particular map, implying that your units are the only units fighting there and represent the whole of the division.

The biggest gripe I have with Battle of the Bulge is its far less superior scenario editor. The advertisement of the feature states that you can create endless configurations of scenarios. Yes, it's virtually endless, but also rather limited. A single battle requires that you make the scenario inside the campaign "engine". You can't achieve the same effects in Battle of the Bulge as you could The Russian Front. The victory locations are pre-placed, as are the deployment zones to a certain extent. It's a step backward, which tells me more development time was spent on the campaign and maps than it was the scenario editor. This doesn't really make sense. The Close Combat series, by this point, has largely been developed on the same engine, modified which each title for additional features and changes to its source code. Being as the scenario editor in The Russian Front was already created it means that the codebase for that feature already exists. It wouldn't have taken much effort to include both a scenario editor for single tactical battles with the same level of customization as the Russian Front and a scenario editor to make a campaign using the stock strategic map. They developed that, anyway, so why exclude the same scenario editor from The Russian Front when it already existed? All it needed was adjustments, and it wouldn't have taken very long to do. Any programmer worth his salt, using essentially the exact same engine, with a codebase that already existed, would be able to bring a feature from a predecessor game using the same engine to the new title. Modders will attest the each game is pretty much the exact same engine architecture. Every file was text based, and in the newer games it was made that much more moddable by making them into actual windows text files that could be read and changed in Excel. There's no excuse for excluding a feature that already existed, especially being as the game you're developing is using the same engine and was done on predecessor using that engine. Since development time was spent on creating a campaign scenario editor, anyway, it would've been a negligable period of time to just include both scenario editors, the latter of which was a favored feature of The Russian Front. Players would've appreciated the feature being carried over and into Battle of the Bulge. I would've, anyway, and its inclusion would've been a factor in carrying Battle of the Bulge higher in my list of Close Combat games, especially given that Band of Brothers (that miniseries is outstanding) was responsible for igniting my interest in the Battle of the Bulge, anyway. Combine passion with what I've outlined to be positive features, and I would've enjoyed Battle of the Bulge much more than I did. I love the game, so that's saying something, especially given that the modding community was starting to churn out some really good content, increasing the lifespan of Close Combat. You want people to keep playing your games for years to come? Make it moddable, give it good features that favor your players and their creativity, the enjoyment of the game. You can't lose. If profit is a concern, you still don't lose. A good product gets purchased. A good product sells. If you put in the effort, you can't lose, and fans of your games will tell their friends about it, which increases your playerbase. Words gets around in forums and message boards with positive reviews. New players hear about it, even years after, and the game continues to sell more and more copies as time goes on. Hell, I still play Civil War Generals 2 (published by Sierra in 1997) over Ultimate General Gettysburg and Ultimate General Civil War, because frankly it's a better game, with more depth and realism, more carefully and passionately crafted by its developers. I don't understand how developers, specifically project managers, studio leads and publishers, f*ck up something as simple as that. By this point, I'm sure you can tell where my frustration in the Close Combat series comes from, so let's move on to Invasion Normandy before I start ranting.

//Close Combat V: Invasion Normandy

This is where the modding scene for Close Combat REALLY TAKES OFF. The game has the same negative points as Battle of the Bulge, the things I've already mentioned, so I won't go into those again.

First, I want to mention that every Close Combat game so far has been unique in its settings. A Bridge Too Far featured Operation Market Garden, The Russian Front sporting the eastern theater of World War Two, and Battle of the Bulge delving into the Ardennes during the winter of 1944. The original Close Combat and Invasion Normandy focus on the invasion of France by the Allies to liberate it from the Germans, though Close Combat 1 focuses on Operation Cobra, over a month after the initial beach landings and paradrops. Concepts are starting to repeat themselves, the creativity is running dry.

Given what's already been said, as applicable as they are, my biggest gripe with Invasion Normandy is the AI. It's not that the AI is horrible. It's that I had to modify the registry entry for the game to increase the intelligence and difficulty of the AI. Almost every veteran of Close Combat V will tell you that the most important step to a better single player experience is to edit the registry entry in Windows to increase the effectiveness and decision-making of the AI. My gripe is the fact that I have to do this at all. Why downgrade the AI when the architecture already exists to have a better one? When analyzing something, especially companies and organizations, it's important to pay attention to observable actions and compare it to available data and other observations. It's 2004 when Close Combat 5 comes out, and the final patch downgrades the AI. By this time, multiplayer is becoming more prevalent. It's my theory, given what I see, that the AI was downgraded to push toward multiplayer. It's the only way that decision makes sense. An argument that players would be complaining about the difficulty wouldn't apply, because players have battled against the same AI over the course of the entire series up to this point. They know what to expect, and new players are tutored by the game's veterans and practice to get better. No, this was a decision by the developers to start pushing for multiplayer, which also makes sense when you compare the total lack of any improvements to the AI, especially by 2004, other than pathfinding. The developers thought they saw a trend of players wanting a multiplayer focus, but totally miscalculated it. Even today, in 2020, there are masses of players that prefer single player experiences over multiplayer, and I'm one of them. Most, when they do play multiplayer, play it with their group of friends. Close Combat isn't a MMO, and for the most part that's where multiplayer ends in this genre. It's not meant to be a social multiplayer experience in the same vein as World of Warcraft, Fortnite, Overwatch and the rest. It's not a competitive multiplayer game, either, like Heroes on the Storm. It was never meant to be. But the complaints of the AI were mostly a side complaint at this point, and wouldn't become an issue until the re-releases, but we'll get to those.

A final note on Invasion Normandy is that this is where innovations to the play experience end. No entry to the series, except for Modern Tactics, will have any changes to the gameplay or core features ever again, on this engine, that didn't already exist. This includes Invasion Normandy, which was built on the same engine build as Battle of the Bulge, and the only difference between them being the setting and theater in which they played, and Invasion Normandy has a weaker AI than its predecessor due to a simple registry entry change. It's not a step forward, but not a full step backward, either. Being the last in the series (I'm excluding Close Combat: Marines, which was developed for military training and availabel only to the US government. I'm also excluding Road to Baghdad because it spent so little lime on the shelves, and I haven't played it), it became the platform for a massive modding community. I argue that only reason Close Combat has the following and longevity it does is because of the modders, who continued to expand the game into new theaters, new battlefields, map packs, pocket mods, total conversions to Star Wars and the Cold War gone hot. It is because of you, modders, that this game has continued to exist in the fond memories of wargamers past and present. You should be proud of yourselves, if you aren't already.

//Close Combat: Modern Tactics

I'm skipping the re-releases, because I more or less have the exact same things to say about all of them, so I'm going to bunch all of those into the same section.

When I first heard about Modern Tactics, I played with the idea of picking it up. I finally got around to watching a review by TheImperatorKnight (TIK) to make an informed decision, especially being as a forum veteran (Stwa) kept toting it as the best in the series. Impressed, I purchased the game.

Let me say that Modern Tactics is, hands down, the direction the developers should've been going with the series. I say "direction" because the campaign would've been excluded if they just straight up made Close Combat into what Modern Tactics is, just in a World War Two setting, among other things that I'll go into.

The key differences between Modern Tactics and the previous entries is the multiplayer and the scenario editor. Modern Tactics introduced the ability for TEN PLAYERS to fight it out. After I saw it I couldn't help but think to myself "Why the f*ck was this not already there?" I immediately wanted to get a group of players together and slug it out, 5 companies of men vs 5 companies. It was a scale of combat I hadn't been able to experience in Close Combat before. You could finally cooperate and coordinate tactical manuevers and combat with other players to defeat opponents, instead of just going 1 on 1. The scenario editor was BAD.ASS.

Not only could you set the deployment zones and victory locations, as was the case with the Russian Front, but you could also set support for either side, designate which player got which forces, what their compositions were, what have you. It meant one player could be the company commander, the other players being his subrodinate platoon commanders. There were scenarios in the game, too, for leading single soldiers for in-depth squad level engagements for those wanting to simulate the role of a squad leader. It was awesome!

But, there's only one problem - there was almost no playerbase for it. Sure, there was still single player, but the AI was same AI I'd adapted my tactics over the years to just straight up stomp and mangle, and in Modern Tactics the AI is aggressive to the point of absurdity, which made it that much easier to just mow them down with the more realistic gameplay. Because it wasn't as well known or as popular as the other entries any potential that this new format of multiplayer might've had was squandered. But, this is also an indicator of developer laziness.

Because Modern Tactics is the public release derivative of Marines and RAF regiment, games which were developed to be solely multiplayer in order to facilitate tactical training for Marine Corps and RAF officers, the multiplayer you see in Modern Tactics was developed in Marines and RAF Regiment. The same goes for the more realistic weapons, body armor and building characteristics (soldiers can only get into a building by going through the door, and can't phase into walls like the rest of the series, and can only shoot through windows and not walls, etc.). These were concepts put in for use with military training, and the developers of Marines and RAF Regiment were the lowest bidder. They gave the government what they needed to train officers, nothing more.

The problem is that Modern Tactics was created from those games, with no other changes. Sure, it was easily moddable, with an infinite number of maps you can add from mods or converting maps from the games you own and putting them into it. But, the laziness is in the fact that developers pretty much just carbon copied the game and handed it over to the public without anything else. It was a quick grab for money by Matrix Games, and its positive features went totally unnoticed and weren't implemented into the rest of the series. But, I'll get into that.

Lastly, the realistic buildings. There's no moving through walls, anymore. The soldiers have to go in through the door, and line of sight is blocked by walls, meaning you can't shoot through them, only through the structure's windows. I like it, but the game was never designed with this in mind. Games like Company of Hereos, Company of Heroes 2 and Men of War were designed with this in mind. Soldiers automatically appeared at windows after entering a building in order to be able to shoot out of the windows. The individual soldier AI has no pathfinding functionality other than to move as a unit, find cover and have morale. There's no functionality for moving to doors and windows to be able to fire at enemy troops or AFVs. It might've worked for military training purposes, but only because those Close Combat releases were intended for overall tactical decision making. They weren't meant for an in-depth tactical simulation. It was for training officers in tactical concepts. So, what ends up happening is that the squad moves into the building, but doesn't move to windows, which means have the time you have no line of sight to your intended target. Additionally, there are no additional markings for doors or windows to indicate where they are. Until the interior of the building is shown you have no idea where these features are. Don't get me wrong. It's a step toward better realism and simulation, but the engine needs to be coded differently to accomodate these features. As of right now, there's no functionality in the game engine to properly simulate or use these functions of buildings.

//Close Combat - The Remakes and Re-Releases

Here's a simple statement about the re-releases. Nothing changed. It's the exact same games. Cross of Iron is even a direct port of The Russian Front for compatibility on modern operating systems. It has the EXACT SAME file structure and file types.

The re-releases were all marketed as, and I quote, "highly enhanced". They aren't. The only improvements to the games were more maps, compatibility with modern operating systems and graphics cards, and AI pathfinding improvements, if you could call it that.

There were no other changes. In the case of Last Stand Arnhem, which was probably the most unique of any of the re-releases, being a ground up remake of A Bridge Too Far on the new Close Combat engine build, was no different than the other re-releases, aside from bringing back the points system for purchasing troops.

The AI for all re-releases was the same AI from previous installments, with no improvements other than pathfinding, which had what I would call a marginal improvement to unit meanuevers. In the re-releases of the games it wasn't as big a deal, because the maps were around the same size, and anybody who's kept track of my research into Close Combat's AI and played my Small Map Mods will know exactly what I'm talking about. But, they were almost exactly the same game. When I checked the Longest Day's registry entry, I found that the same entry existed, just under a different directory. I changed the setting in the registry and BAM! The AI was the same quality as Wacht am Rhein again.

What this tells me is that the re-releases were nothing more than a shameless cash grab, the fans buying the exact same game for a second time. They didn't even bother to change anything else, and no concessions were made for the single player experience. This is what I was talking about earlier. The developers, as the series continued, made bigger and bigger maps, because the players wanted them, but no improvements and changes to the AI were made to account for any other gameplay changes. AI isn't plug and play. You can't take an AI designed for one thing and apply it to another. If you look at the release dates for the remakes you'll notice they're yearly. In fact, Modern Tactics and Cross of Iron were made and released in the same year.

My conversation with the developers, if I had the chance, would go like this:

"So you're telling me you had access to licenses and source codes for the entire series and made no meaningful changes? The AI is a complete mess these days, predicatable and easy to beat the dog shit out of. Why not make it a relevant opponent? There's still validity in improving the AI, rebuilding it if you have to, to make it something worth fighting against. I made three small map mods to improve the AI and found that there were a plethora of players that still wanted a good single player experience.

Matter of fact, why not include the same multiplayer functionality we saw in Modern Tactics? You have the code base, you have the source code from it, the functionality is there for re-application into the other titles. Sure, maybe you didn't have the license yet to implement anything from the government training releases, but you did later. You scheduled the releases, scheduled the resources. You knew this was coming. Why not implement it in later patches if that's what you had to do? You even continued to patch the games after their release, then a final patch across the board to make them all consistent. Why not implement all of these features in a single patch, implementing the improved multiplayer and better scenario editor from Modern Tactics into the others, then spending genuine effort on the AI to make it a worthy contender?

There's no excuse for any of this. You had a year for each of these games, then you devoted programmers to patching any bugs after the fact. It was sloppy and lazy, especially considering that the only things you did to the engine were making it compatible with modern operating systems. Do you not have respect for the people that buy your games? Are they just a bottom line to you?"

There will be some who think I'm getting a little presumptuous and overreactive, and that's fine. Given the features that were already placed into each installment of the series, the multiple developers working on all of them over time, using the exact same engine release after release, I can't find a logical reason for not improving a product for the enjoyment of its fans, for not striving for a positive experience of the players when the code has already been programmed. It would've been a simple task to implement them because of that fact. There's never an excuse for shameless cash grabs, the funds from which were probably used to fund Panthers in the Fog and Gateway to Caen.
Then again, being an independent game developer myself, I believe in giving your customers the best product you possibly can. There's never an excuse for shoddy work, lazy work. You put your absolute best into your product. Every ounce of effort you can muster to create something that respects your customers and gives them a worthwhile experience, not some rehash of old content. We trusted these developers to give us something worthwhile, to bring new life to a series we held dear, and I lost all respect for them for releasing the exact same game twice.

//Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog and Gateway to Caen

While I'm at it, I'm going to apply the same comments to Panthers in the Fog and Gateway to Caen. They're basically the same game. Aside from changes to unit selection and availability, they're basically the same. They're in the same theaters, too. Both the invasion of occupied France, just in two different operations.

Something I noticed about them, though, was the lack of realism. There was a clear emphasis on competitive multiplayer. Weapons ranges were reduced to comical distances, M10 Wolverines can destroy a Tiger with one shot (the gun on that thing doesn't have the velocity to do that, unless from the rear. The armor of a Tiger ranges from 2.5 inches to almost 5 inches when the M10's gun can only penetrate up to 2.3 inches. This was doen for balance, not realism). The AI is inept due to the map sizes and sheer number of vicotry locations. The list goes on.

Basically, the more I get into reviewing the later releases the angrier I get. It's not the fact that I'm passionate about the game series, although I am. It's the behavior of the developers. Quick cash grabs and rehashes of the same engine with no improvements made to it for better gameplay or additional features where they're needed. As a game developer it infuriates me, because by my standards it's unethical. As a wargamer, it dissapoints me.

//Close Combat: The Bloody First

I'll be honest with you. I didn't like this one, either. I think by this point I had a bad taste in my mouth from my research into the development of the rest of the series. That being said, any review I give of this game wouldn't be objective. It would just be me blasting it from a position rife with salt.

In all honesty, too, I haven't really played that much of it. I was a beta tester, but I only played it for about an hour before making up my mind about it. I'll leave an honest review of the game to somebody who's spent alot of time with it, or maybe if I decide to sit down and really give it an honest play.


The Close Combat series has been a roller coaster ride with alot of ups and downs. I love its first 5 entries. I have very fond memories of them, and I'll continue to play them.

What it comes down to is that the series has been the victim of commercialized video game cash grabs by publishers. More often than not, the developers are not to blame for development and design mishaps and misleading sales, not to mention re-releases and remasters of older titles. In fact, I'm absolutely certain that most developers, programmers and artists involved in a project have the best intentions in mind. But, being as most development companies are beholden to publisher overlords, most of which have no interest or even understand the video game and simulation industry, merely seeing it as a source of income instead of a service to people and exists for their positive and genuine entertainment, the honest developers have no say in the development process in most cases. This is the rule, not the exception, and there are plenty of companies and independent developers that have respect for their players and conduct business honestly.

Whatever the case, I couldn't hold back in expressing my opinion any longer. In my mind, something had to be said about the sad fate of this beloved franchise.

Take care, you guys. I hope this was informative and enlightening.
  Topic: Problem with the small maps in the mod "FK Small Maps G

Replies: 4
Views: 1016

PostForum: Close Combat Gateway to Caen   Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2020 5:38 am   Subject: Re: Problem with the small maps in the mod "FK Small Ma
Did you place it in the root folder, in the mod's folder? For example, my Gateway to Caen small maps (may be different from yours, depending on where you've installed the game, on what hard drive, etc. However, the mod folder will always be in the game's main directory, the maps and modded files inside it):

Program Files/Gateway to Caen/[MOD FOLDER] (I confess I don't remember what I named it, haven't touched Close Combat since finishing the mods)

Then on the shortcut, in the "Target" field:


If the map sizes haven't changed, the game hasn't loaded the mod's files, thus the mod isn't running. Without actually being able to see how you've installed it on your computer, this is the best I can give you aside from telling you to go over the instructions again and give it another shot. I'm sorry if I can't be of better help, but I'm not sure how else to explain. You could try a google search on installing mods in Gateway to Caen, too.
  Topic: Problem with the small maps in the mod "FK Small Maps G

Replies: 4
Views: 1016

PostForum: Close Combat Gateway to Caen   Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2020 8:06 pm   Subject: Re: Problem with the small maps in the mod "FK Small Ma
Yep, looks like a typo in my install instructions. The maps whould be in the Gateway to Caen folder, not Panthers in the Fog.
  Topic: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod

Replies: 18
Views: 3750

PostForum: Close Combat Panthers in the Fog   Posted: Thu Feb 13, 2020 6:22 pm   Subject: Re: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod
qwaqwe wrote (View Post):

Thank you very much.

Amazing mode.

But i wish maps will be reduced by another 20-30%.

The map scale in PiTF and GtC are much higher than the ones that came before it. Cutting down another 2-30% would make the fights so congested that there are almost no tactical options. I try to keep roads open, too, because if a lot of tanks get knocked out on the roads there's no maneuvering them and the AI would just lose them all the time, or maybe just straight up lose its sh*t and freeze.

I'm glad you're enjoying it, by the way.
  Topic: Advice required re playing CC2,3,4 and 5

Replies: 7
Views: 1703

PostForum: Tech Support   Posted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:48 am   Subject: Re: Advice required re playing CC2,3,4 and 5
The GOG releases run on windows 10. Even CC2. Haven’t had any problems with ‘em.
  Topic: [RELEASE] GtC Small Map Mod

Replies: 3
Views: 1203

PostForum: Close Combat Gateway to Caen   Posted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 2:54 am   Subject: [RELEASE] GtC Small Map Mod
Okay, guys. You know the drill. Follow the link and reap the rewards of an AI brought back to its roots on small maps and victory location placement that suits good gameplay against it.


EDIT: And as was the case with the PitF maps, removing the FPools file from DATA/BASE will yield just as good a result as without it. It's really a matter of preference, but you'll get MUCH more intense battles out of the higher amounts of units. It's a hell of a fight.
  Topic: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod

Replies: 18
Views: 3750

PostForum: Close Combat Panthers in the Fog   Posted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 4:18 pm   Subject: Re: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod
Oh, and through my experimentation I figured out that even without all slots enabled, and leaving the stock game's data for available forces intact, the AI still performs just as well. So, if you don't want all slots enabled, feel free to delete FPools.txt from the mod's installation. Be sure to leave BGroups.txt though. That has the AI commander changes in it.
  Topic: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod

Replies: 18
Views: 3750

PostForum: Close Combat Panthers in the Fog   Posted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 4:08 pm   Subject: Re: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod
Heads up, I'm working on the GtC small maps, Bendit. I've got a day or two of free time, and I figured I'd knock 'em out real quick.
  Topic: Close Combat Bloody First Reviews

Replies: 20
Views: 5375

PostForum: Close Combat The Bloody First   Posted: Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:23 am   Subject: Re: Close Combat Bloody First Reviews
Figures. Fans of the series could make a better game with more detail and a better simulation than developers paid thousands, maybe millions, to make one. I picked it up to try it out, but I hope I didn’t just get shafted.
  Topic: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod

Replies: 18
Views: 3750

PostForum: Close Combat Panthers in the Fog   Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 1:56 am   Subject: Re: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod
Okay, Bendit. Here you are. I included a written tutorial (which I hop is clear enough. I included a lot of pictures to help walk you through it) and the finished example map I did in the tutorial. Feel free to include it in your finished mod, if you want. For anyone else that's interested, too, part of the tutorial is an analysis of the AI to help whoever's reading it to understand why I put the maps together the way I did. Let me know if you need any help, Bendit. SchnelleMeyer is a good resource for it, too, as he's the one that helped me into an epiphany to make these maps quickly.

Download link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/07wtb0c3ro0vf49/Small%20Map%20Tutorial.zip?dl=0
  Topic: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod

Replies: 18
Views: 3750

PostForum: Close Combat Panthers in the Fog   Posted: Mon Sep 23, 2019 6:29 am   Subject: Re: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod
Sure I can give you the rundown on it, and I’ll give you all my notes on the AI behaviors, too, including deployment and how that relates to the victory locations and the AI’s attack/defense behaviors. All you need is 5CC and notepad. Don’t even have to do any recoding of terrain elements or elevations. I’ll write it up in word or something and post it here for your use tomorrow evening.
  Topic: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod

Replies: 18
Views: 3750

PostForum: Close Combat Panthers in the Fog   Posted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 3:53 am   Subject: Re: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod
Excellent! Glad to see you guys are having a blast with it.

Bendit wrote (View Post):
This is a great mod! I can't believe how much it improves Panthers in the Fog. The smaller maps are still a decent size, but it makes searching the fog for AI troops a thing of the past, and the complex PitF terrain is now much easier to understand.

Battles are indeed intense. The AI really adapts wonderfully well to the smaller map sizes and Freeking's placement of Victory Locations. I appreciate the changes to unlocking all slots and giving AI units better morale, tactical, strategic and leader stats too. And the expanded deployment zones make AI fighting onto maps much more interesting.

Thanks for all the work FreeKing.

The victory locations themselves were placed with some research into the placement of victory locations in CC2. I’d watched let’s plays and studied the maps to figure out the ideal placement, amount, and point values.

I’m not exaggerating when I say the AI is almost exactly the same as CC2, with a few differences to pathfinding and such. It’s otherwise the same as every other Close Combat, save for The Bloody First. The several developers of the series hardly even touched it.

In any case, keep having fun, guys!
  Topic: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod

Replies: 18
Views: 3750

PostForum: Close Combat Panthers in the Fog   Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:46 pm   Subject: [RELEASE] PitF Small Map Mod
See below for a Dropbox link to the mod.


I do have some news, too, as far as these small map mods are concerned. Given my long work hours, and responsibilities outside of my job, I have to cease work on these. They take quite a while to put together. It's not hard to do, it's just time consuming. My goals in independent game development and writing have to take precedence, or they'll never get done. If anybody wants to pick up the torch, it's a really easy process, and I'd be happy to run through my process for cutting down the map size. While I want to finish them myself, my goals and aspirations have to be my top priority, and sticking to my guns on finishing the maps I did taught me a valuable lesson about what hard work and persistence will do for one's goals, which was one of the goals of doing the small map mods to begin with.

Either way, enjoy the mod guys!

After unlocking all slots in PitF, combined with the new map size, these are some vicious fights. The number of units in PitF, which is higher than the releases that came before it, makes it a hell of a fight.
  Topic: Running mods with modified exe such as Afrika mod

Replies: 9
Views: 1910

PostForum: Close Combat 2: A Bridge Too Far   Posted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:59 pm   Subject: Re: Running mods with modified exe such as Afrika mod
You’ll have to grab a copy of your own. It’d be illegal to give you a copy of the GOG exe.
  Topic: Hawker Hurricane crashsite excavated

Replies: 1
Views: 615

PostForum: The Mess   Posted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:12 am   Subject: Re: Hawker Hurricane crashsite excavated
Bungarra wrote (View Post):
Some archeology students have excavated what remains of a Hawker Hurricane shot down in November 1940

P/O Hugh Desmond Clark’s Hurricane N2608. He survived the war.


Happy to hear he survived! Most of the time these excavations end with a dead pilot being identified. It’s a welcome change of pace that he made it home.
  Topic: Running mods with modified exe such as Afrika mod

Replies: 9
Views: 1910

PostForum: Close Combat 2: A Bridge Too Far   Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 9:27 pm   Subject: Re: Running mods with modified exe such as Afrika mod
Being as CC2 through CC5 are available on GOG now, and run perfectfly fine on the new operating systems, might be a good idea to edit the .exe for the mods that are using an older .exe. It would make those mods compatible with the GOG, and part of the reason why I didn't play some of them when I picked up CC5 on GOG.

EDIT: Thought we were talking about CC5. Musta forgot it was in the CC2 section.
  Topic: [RELEASE] LSA Small Map Mod

Replies: 6
Views: 1628

PostForum: Close Combat Last Stand Arnhem   Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 9:16 pm   Subject: Re: [RELEASE] LSA Small Map Mod
Sapa wrote (View Post):
Thanks! Is it possible to get all the map files in one zip download? Or maybe it is me that is old and stupid Very Happy

There's a text file in there for installation instructions. I've found that using /D in a shortcut is easier to manage than a plugin manager or setup/uninstall .exe. Less hassle, very simple uninstall. You just delete a folder and the mod is uninstalled. An excellent addition for the modding community.

ScnelleMeyer wrote (View Post):

Thanks for making this Freeking! I will be playing and enjoying your mod.

You bet, bud! It's a little monotonous in the beginning of the grand campaign (Been playing the mod myself. Have to enjoy the fruits of my own labors, after all  Very Happy), because the units for the Germans are usually small rear guard forces. I'm not very far into the campaign, and truth be told without a small maps mods I wouldn't have played the campaign to begin with. I assume it's going to really pick up when the big German battlegroups come into the field. So far, I've been able to destroy almost every bridge south of the canal, except for St. Oedenrode. Allies came in from two different directions on that one. And Heumen Bridge, I think, where the AI all of a sudden showed up from the hedgerows and surprised the hell out of me  Laughing . XXX Corps is going to have a hell of a time getting into the Eindhoven and Arnhem sectors fast enough to do anything.

This weekend I'll be working on PitF. There's half the number of maps, so I'll probably have it knocked out before Monday.
  Topic: [RELEASE] LSA Small Map Mod

Replies: 6
Views: 1628

PostForum: Close Combat Last Stand Arnhem   Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 3:14 pm   Subject: [RELEASE] LSA Small Map Mod
See below for a Dropbox link to the Small Maps Mod that I put together. Been playing it, having a good time with it, too. Waiting until this weekend to start work on PitF's maps.


As always, let me know if there are any bugs, weird stuff going on with the maps. Let me know if there are any maps that need to be adjusted, or that aren't up to par with the rest. I'll update as necessary as you guys bring these comments in on that.

Have fun!
  Topic: Small Map Mod - Which One First

Replies: 4
Views: 1176

PostForum: Modding Workshop   Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 2:45 pm   Subject: Re: Small Map Mod - Which One First
You bet!

There’s going to be an update to it, too. Some data in the Campaign.txt file that I had misjudged. I had made the amount of time in the bridge battles 150% of the original, because I unlocked all unit slots. Turns out, however, that the battlegroups in the campaign for some of the bridges was tiny. No need for the doubled time, and is actually detrimental to the gameplay on those maps.

I’m not stopping at the small maps, either. CC2 was a brutal experience. Felt like a straight up gunfight, instead of an arcade shootout. That being said, when the small maps are done I’ll be going through weapons data and stuff to replicate the original game experience as much as possible and release the changes for each title as a separate mod. Part of my inspiration for this is my frustration at the way the series had gone. I want my classic CC back.
  Topic: Small Map Mod - Which One First

Replies: 4
Views: 1176

PostForum: Modding Workshop   Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 4:52 am   Subject: Re: Small Map Mod - Which One First
Long story short, this is Jagre3-3. Couldn't access the other account, it being on a Yahoo and everything. Anyway, onward with the announcement.

The small map mod for Last Stand Arnhem has been submitted to be put in the mods section of Last Stand Arnhem's downloads page after figuring out all the bridge data and such. I'll let you guys know when it's been approved. Moving on to Panthers in the Fog next.
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In August of 2004, Zappi, Homba, Bambam887, RedScorpion and MOOXE all pitched
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