Close Combat: First to Fight Xbox Review

Ever wanted to lead a four-man fire team of US Marines through the perils of authentic, modern urban combat in a Middle-Eastern urban battleground? Well we are sure most of you have done something along those lines before but if you have the urge to do it again Close Combat: First to Fight (which will be know FTF for the rest of this review) is now sitting on store shelves or in some warehouse waiting to be picked up by you but with the number of games in this genre growing literally every week what does FTF do to set it apart from the ever growing crowd?

Gameplay

The basic story of FTF starts with some civil unrest brewing in the city of Beirut and of course this unrest leads to insurgents starting a rebellion. To solve this the United States in their never ending wisdom, decides to send in a unit of marines which of course consists of you and three other members.

As the leader you are able to control and order you team in different ways. These orders range from simple commands such as “Go” which direct them as a team to an area on the map to suppressing fire and covering an area to which speak from themselves. More advance commands such as “takedown” are use to order a team to quickly engage an enemy with maximum force and firepower.

Disapointingly, these orders work incorrectly at times as it seems there is a slight flaw with the games AI. These problems do not break the game as they only raise their heads intermittently but they do ruin the flow of the game at times. The problems range from your team flat-out refusing to follow specific orders to following them incorrectly. Sometime when you have just ordered them to “Watch your back” you will find them staring off into space or standing staring at a wall admiring the finer points of the Beirutian brickwork.

During the course of the single player campaign your weapons choices are extremely limited. Infact the only artillery you can arm yourself with are the M-16 A4, the M-16 A4 M203 grenade launcher attachment, frag and smoke grenades. Luckily you can pick up some of the weapons dropped by the enemies but once you finish a mission they are cruelly taken away from you leaving you with a rather bland choice again until you make your way through some of the level building up you stock again.

One of my favorite parts of FTF are the special functions/weapons that can be used in the single player campaign. These range from calling in air strikes, send in mortar teams, call in snipers or sending in choppers or tanks. Chances to use these functions are littered throughout the games mission but in my opinion these occasions are spread out far to thin. It is these functions that are FTF selling points and it can be extremely fun to watch the events unfold as you order them, especially the air strikes. I just can’t help but wish they developed on them a bit more.

Infact that is one of my main criticism of the game, while it is fun and entertaining at times and it does offer some new additions that haven’t been seen in other titles a lot these additions could have been expanded on and/or refined. If a little more work went into this title it could have been something really special, maybe even something that could rival the Rainbow 6 franchise. Sadly this is not the case.

Graphics

At first glance FTF is visually impressive but upon closer inspection many flaws can be noticed, some of which ruin what could have been a very crisp and clean game. Some aspects of the game are above average – most of the in game models (weapons and characters) are well done as are the locations, both indoor and outdoor, the same goes for the menus, but what completely ruins this is the far below average animation of just about ever movable object in the game. These range from your team mates to the terrorists and even some of the civilians. Each one of them looks a bit off and weird while in movement. The animation is very un-human like and is actually quite laughable at times.

The in game lightning is also one of the games weaker points, it tends to produce unrealistic shadows of objects that can often be misplaced and in some cases disappear through walls. These quirks completely rip the heart out of the realistic setting the dev team strived to portray.

Sound

The sound contained within FTF can best be described as functional and nothing more. It is just there because it has to be there. There is absolutely nothing new or spectacular about it. It looks as if a very minimalist approach went into the sound design. There is little to no music included within the game. The voiceover work is average, bordering upon bland at times. The sound effects (gunfire, explosions) are respectable and bordering on above average. Due to this low quality of sound the game lacks any sense of atmosphere while mission and cut-scenes are lacking of emotion.

Lifespan

Campaign mode should last the average gamer about 10-15 hours and there is no incentive offered to make you want to play through it again. Multiplayer is where the real longevity is offered in FTF with three different modes offered. Cooperative, Modified Cooperative and Fire Team Arena can all be great entertainment if you have like minded friends to play them with. The Co-op mode is a nice change to those offered in other FPS’s such as Halo or TimeSplitters as it forces gamers to think, plan and strategise their way through the level, although enemy AI is still of the less than stellar variety. The inclusion of 8 player per team deathmatchs is also a welcome addition and should add a few more hours to your enjoyment of the game.

Overall

All in all FTF was very close to being a welcome and respectable addition to the squad based genre but the game has so many flaws; each of them chipping away at what could have been something special and thus leaving it feeling barren and as a result extremely underwhelming. At times there is lots of fun to be had most of which is available in its trio of multiplayer mode but it could have been so much more. There is the potential for something special in this series but it did not materialise this time.

7.5 out of 10

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