Close Combat: Cross of Iron

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Close Combat: Cross of Iron is a re-release of the classic Close Combat III: The Russian Front. With few changes made those who enjoyed the play of the still popular original will find themselves right at home in this new release which includes integration with the massive Close Combat online community.

Title: Close Combat: Cross of Iron
Publisher: Matrix Games
Developer: CSO Simtek
Availability: Digital download or CD-ROM
Price: $39.99

Graphics: 6/10
I find it hard to be so harsh on this game’s graphics. They are, after all, almost a decade old. The graphics in Close Combat are all bitmaps. This is well behind similar titles that are already considered classic such as Combat Mission. The view is locked to a perpendicular top-down camera, the only camera motions that are executable is scrolling around the map. The lack of camera control makes it difficult sometimes to ascertain the height of hills and terrain, in fact elevation does not appear to be very well represented at all in a fight. Since Close Combat is a very line-of-sight oriented game it can make for some very interesting encounters – what appears to be a flat plain is actually a hill, and you can’t see through to the other side of it after all. Simply put the game is old and it shows. Aside from that, soldiers are still little blobby four limbed shapes that ooze around the battlefield with boxlike tanks and pimple-like minefields. The quality of display is pretty basic.

Sound: 10/10
Close Combat does an excellent job of mimicking the sounds of war. Everything is loud, louder than your men can shout and there is no music to distract you. I jumped the first time a mortar landed near my men, a sudden explosion out of the quiet followed by the screams of the dying and wounded. Headphones are required to get the full effect but keep the volume cranked low, like I said, the sound effects are loud.

Controls: 7/10
The controls scheme in Close Combat: Cross of Iron hasn’t changed. It’s simple an dgets the job done but the publishers failed to incorporate many modern control functionalities that simply did not exist when the game was first published. For example, the mouse wheel does nothing when it could be used to zoom in and out. Keys aren’t mappable at all and the “escape” button dumps you out of the game completely instead of bringing up a menu as is now the norm.

Gameplay: 10/10
The great advantage of re-issuing a game is the return of time tested gameplay mechanics Close Combat was a strong game when it first came out and it is still a strong game. This re-issue expands a great deal on the morale system and fixes many of the problems that armor experienced in the first edition.

Command of troops is by a simple point and click interface. Select your troops and drag to tell them to move or right click for more advanced options such as “sneak” “move fast” “ambush” and “defend”. Soldiers will exhibit a degree of autonomy and will find cover on their own, or select targets of opportunity without your help. Individual soldiers will respond to being shot at, to losing their men and to overwhelming odds as anyone might expect them to – they panic. The morale system has been one of the hallmarks of the Close Combat series of games and CC: Cross of Iron has done nothing to besmirch the game’s reputation in that respect.

There are several modes of play – campaign, scenario and individual mission. A campaign is a series of scenarios and a scenario is a series of mission, it’s that simple. When running through a campaign or scenario players can keep track of individual soldier’s progress – medals one, acts of bravery, promotions, experience, injuries and survival, among other things. This combined with the sometimes difficult re-supply situation found in the game makes conserving one’s forces tantamount to success – pyrrhic victories are to be avoided at all costs.

Replay Value: 10/10

Included in Close Combat: Cross of Iron is a very powerful scenario editor. There already exists a very large database of custom missions and scenarios for players to download at CloseCombat.org. Combined with the addition of much more accessible online play makes Close Combat: Cross of Iron a title that will see many hours of use.

Overall: 8.6/10.0
Close Combat: Cross of Iron is a welcome update to a classic wargame. The weakest points are the still outdated graphics but the gameplay is still as solid as it was when Close Combat III: The Russian Front debuted almost a decade ago. The expanded multiplayer and level editing capability make this game an excellent value for the dollar.

System Requirements
Operating System: Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP
Processor: 133 MHz CPU (300 MHz rec.)
RAM: 32MB Free RAM (64 MB rec.)
Video Card: 1MB Video RAM (8MB rec.)
Soundcard: Any
Display: Display capable of 1024x768 resolution or higher

The game was reviewed on and tested on a machine with the following specifications:
Processor: P4 3.4 GhZ HT
Operating System: XP Professional SP2
RAM: 2GB PC2600 DDR
Graphics Card: 256MB ATI Radeon X800 XT
Hard Drive: Seagate SATA 300GB
Other: Lite-On DVD+/-RW