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  Close Combat: Battle of the Bulge
When Atomic Games and Microsoft released Close Combat, they took Real Time Strategy (RTS) to a new level. Here was an experience that gamers had craved for many years. Platoon based combat in a Command & Conquer style interface. It was a huge success and so were the following versions. SSI is now publishing the CC Series and is looking to the future with this game. From Normandy to Holland to Russia and now to Belgium- the Black Forest and Bastogne. Close Combat: Battle of the Bulge (CC: IV) is where you will make your stand.

Germany had been on the run from the Russians in the East and the Western Allies in the South and West. In a desperate political gamble, they struck into a weak part of the Allied lines with a secretly assembled army corp. Supplies were dear to the German Wehrmacht and essential to making this work. Make it all the way to a port and cut off the Northern Ally Sector and then maybe, they could force a truce and concentrate on pushing back the Russian advance. These were desperate days and the Germans were a desperate people.

CC: IV continues the history lesson of a world shaping event and gives you a birds eye view of war as it existed on December 15th, 1944.


"Close Combat: The Battle of the Bulge" continues the epic saga of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Close Combat series. Sneak attacks, stalwart defenders, spies and saboteurs are among the exciting surprises lurking on both sides of the battle. Whether you command American or German troops, you decide when and where they will be deployed. Launch air attacks against the enemy but keep your eyes on the skies; random weather patterns can wreak havoc on your offensives from above. Are you ready to rewrite history?

New Campaign system allows movement of multiple battle groups on a strategic map of the Ardennes.
Units may enter from different points on a battlemap based on their strategic movement.
Through advanced AI, stress, fatigue and morale have a direct impact on your troops and they react accordingly.

Strategic game battlemaker allows you to create your own Bulge campaigns.

True line-of-sight and line-of-fire gameplay; direct and indirect fire with limited ammunition.

Sound effects are top notch; each weapon has its own sound effect and voices are accented properly for the countries.

Continuity from battle to battle; player's tactical successes and failures will have a direct impact on the whole battle.

Dynamic weather effects.

Air strikes are affected by random weather.

2 players can play head-to-head via serial cable, IPX, dial-up and the Internet.

Internet players will be able to use online matchmaking services to find opponents and start games.

First off, on installing, you will be given options to install the small version (50Mbs) or the large (450Mbs). Larger means better run time overall and recommended if possible. Registering the game unlocks a new map for you to play.

CC: IV gives you many options to tweak the game to your (dis)advantage. Setting the basic constants like resolution, gamespeed and scrollspeed are all there. Turn Music, Videos or Sound on and off to your liking. Team status can indicate many things as well: ammo, suppression, command among a dozen others as well as Soldier Icons showing same to help you keep track of your squads. Turn on the Soldier Monitor, Inset Map or Team Data with the F5-7 keys to round out the info available. You can even have the Germans speak English so that you can understand them. Then you may change the difficulty (recruit, veteran and hero) for each side. There is "Always see enemy", "Never act on initiative", "Always have full enemy info", and "Always obey orders" to toggle for each side. Make it as hard or easy for yourself as you like.

Graphically, CC: IV has not changed much from the previous versions. The viewpoint is still at an angle from above and this works very well. Infantry entering buildings shows the roof removed so that you may position them appropriately. Battles leave behind damage and wrecked vehicles that you can use for cover or have to deal with during unit movement. Soldiers will dig trenches and gun pits when defending. Hand to hand combat is 'close' and you can hear the punch-out happening as they go toe to toe. I was able to distinguish when a unit hoisted up an anti-tank weapon, machine gun or tossed grenades. Armor turrets rotate and move about much like the real thing. And I should mention that the explosions work very well with a graphic effect that is really eye-catching. There are no tracks left behind vehicles, which I found strange since this is in winter and snow should reveal these. There are some problems with armor movement with the retail version of CC: IV out of the box but the patch deals with that somewhat.

The Sound and Music is pretty much the same as the series with some new additions. I turn down the music because it is too distracting and listen for audio cues. There are many sounds in this game and you will learn to recognize the sound of a MG42 or a 37mm as it pounds away at your positions. Men cry out in pain, tell you when a unit has been eliminated and announce completions of movements. Nature’s sounds are there and vehicles have secondary explosions after they have been destroyed. Rockets and mortars pound positions while tanks spray fields with machine guns and cannon. Scroll the screen and the battle noises diminish. I did notice that vehicles made no sound in their movement. This was a miss in my opinion from Atomic. But what sound is included is rich and colorful. The tension from all this helps the effect of being there.

Playing a game is a pretty simple affair. Click the "Play a Game" button and you will get the Command screen giving you many options. You have a choice of Battles, Operations or Campaigns. Battles are held to one sector over a couple of days, Operations are held over 3-5 sectors generally with a 5-8day timeline, and Campaigns range over 6 to entire map for some 3 weeks. Your next stop is the Strategy map where you will make choices on Battlegroup movement. Throw in Air Support, Artillery Support and Air Supply if available and you are set to start. The Battle Group screen follows and you can view the map and each unit. Pushing next will then load the map and tell you the conditions the battle is under. This may range from defending, attacking or a meeting engagement. Position your units and click "begin".

Anyone who has played previous versions of the game knows that 20th Century War was about combined forces. Infantry worked beside Armor with support by Air and Artillery. Try one alone and you were in a real mess. CC: IV is this at the basic level. Tanks start from hidden positions, clearing out enemy pockets from relative safety while infantry cleared out forward areas. When things got slowed down to a crawl, quite literally, the artillery and air came in to break ground. Moving a unit can be as simple as left clicking and dragging or right clicking and picking from Move, Move Fast or Sneak. The first two will put the unit into defense mode and the last will have you ambushing. You can also set waypoints to help avoid dangerous areas and get to positions in good time.

Each map has victory locations that increase the chances of your winning the map as well as attract enemy forces. Taking these and holding them is a priority. It can also be your death. Typical maps have towns in the center with forest or brush areas surrounding. Gaining the high ground can be a good advantage if you can manage to stay alive. Placing some units in ambush also increases the chances of successful engagements. But you will find that movement will preoccupy your strategy most of the time. Sometimes you will run like hell to grab a position that will give you good advantage. Other times you will sneak up to spots so that you may lure the enemy into a deadly crossfire. To win, you can set a time limit (15 minutes to 45), gain all Victory Locations (have to hold for 2 minutes) or when morale gets so low that everyone runs home to do their laundry.

There are generally four different kinds of battle groups. Infantry, Recon, Airborne and Armor. They travel at different speeds and may arrive quicker or slower at a battle site depending on their capabilities. Moving an Infantry Battle Group into a sector known to have enemy armor can be a bad decision. But moving Infantry against other types and especially for defense can be a checkmate. The enemy directly supplies some sectors and occupying them may be a long time affair. If you play any of the campaigns, you will realize that the Americans basically try to hold back the Germans and the Wehrmacht is try to roll over the Yanks as fast as they can. Hold a map and you can deny the enemy much needed supplies and reserves. Lose it and you may not even be able to retreat.

I found the Game AI adequate and made Singleplayer a lot of fun. Armor usually travels with infantry to flush out traps. The AI will even try to flank you at times and have more units on the move than you can always follow. There seem to be attacks in certain directions depending on the kind of enemy battlegroup and the map being played on. Nicely done.

The Scenario Editor is a very nice option in CC: IV. You can pick any map with any kind of battle group. Set the Battle Conditions-defense/offense, support and supply and save it. Create battles, operations or campaigns. Load up a previous scenario and tweak it anyway you like. Change around timelines and resupply dates. Very simple and sure to give replayability a big boost.

The manual is not bad. I found that the black & white images were hard to distinguish information from. Just lacking. But I do like color images to make out small detail. Overall, the manual contains enough to keep you clear of trouble.

Multiplayer is available over the Net via TCPIP, Mplayer, MSN Gaming Zone, LAN, Modem and serial. I tried the Zone but only a half dozen players were there and the connections were poor for me. I am going to give it a shot with my brother via TCPIP so that he can serve up that whooping he has been promising. It does look to be a whole new game against a human opponent and I really look forward to that.

I did find some strange things happening even after patching the game with Version 4.02. Sounds looped in heated battle, lagging soldiers would suddenly race to catch up at incredible speeds and I even saw a gun crew head literally in four directions and then return. These may mean an additional patch but this is not surprising. Since it only crashed a couple of times (before the patch), I felt that CC: IV was performing well enough.


CC: IV is patched to version 4.02 and is a hefty 15.7 Mbs.
Patch is here.


Windows 98 & Windows 95 Zip CC4Vehicles.ZIP 1.6 MB Notes:
Extract the file to the directory of your choosing, all of the subdirectories are handled for you. For best viewing open the vehmain page and follow the links to each vehicle.

In the End...

I really enjoyed CC: IV from the point of install. Playing the tutorial was slightly helpful but going to the "Play a Game">-"Battles" route was much more fun. I used the Scenario Editor to tweak battles to my advantage so that I could learn tactics and go back to play in the 'historical context'. Playing Campaigns is where CC: IV shines and I often found that playing 5-6 battles in a row was the norm before I quit. That is quite a workout. I avidly look forward to playing the game online via TCPIP, Mplayer and MSN Gaming Zone. CC: IV has become one of those solid dependable games, other than the bugs that patches have to resolve, that is eagerly anticipated. I know that Close Combat has only scraped the surface of a huge part of history and we will see it again. Atomic Games president Keith Zabalaoui says that the developer has signed a deal with Mattel for the fifth game in the Close Combat series. According to Zabalaoui, the war plan for the sequel includes the D-day, Utah Beach landings, and the battles that occurred on the Cotentin peninsula. If you want something that feels a little more grounded than Command & Conquer or enjoyed any of the other versions (which is likely for many people who read this), I highly recommend CC: IV in your collection.

Review ID Number: 202
  Product Details
Atomic Games
Review Date: 2001-04-19
Reviewer: Nick Sardy
Rating: 9 out of 10
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