Close Combat: First to Fight Updated Impressions
We take a closer look at Destineer's impressive first-person shooter and learn new details regarding the game's setting.
Close Combat: First to Fight is the upcoming, realistic first-person shooter being developed by Destineer in conjunction and cooperation with the United States Marine Corps. The Corps is actively assisting development, and has dispatched dozens of decorated combat veterans fresh from the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan to provide input and advice. As such, First to Fight won't be a run-and-gun shooting game where you blast everything that moves, but rather a realistic, squad-based game along the lines of Full Spectrum Warrior, with the major difference being that you will play in first-person as a Marine Corps fireteam leader personally leading your men into action. While the Corps will use First to Fight to help train marines to make decisions on the battlefield, you'll be able to play First to Fight to experience what modern, urban combat feels like.
Destineer President Peter Tamte filled us in on some of the first details regarding the game's setting. We knew from previous meetings with Tamte that First to Fight would be set in a real Middle Eastern city outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. As it turns out, First to Fight takes place in Beirut, Lebanon, home to one of the darkest moments in the Corp's history. In 1983, a suicide bomber rammed a truck full of explosives into the marine barracks, killing 241 marines who had been dispatched by President Reagan as part as a UN peacekeeping force to that war-torn city. First to Fight is set 23 years after that incident, in 2006. After the prime minister of Lebanon is forced to leave the country to seek foreign medical treatment, intense factional fighting starts up again and NATO sends in military forces, including a US Marine Air Ground Task Force, to stabilize the situation.
Destineer demoed one of the early missions in the game. With the bulk of the NATO forces approaching, you're part of a group assigned to secure the El Karantina neighborhood of the city, which will serve as the base of operations for the Marine task force. At the beginning of the mission, your four-man fireteam starts with a fellow four-man fireteam of marines as you maneuver down the narrow streets and alleyways of the El Karantina neighborhood. Before too long, you encounter gunmen taking shots at you from doorways, rooftops and street corners, and the fight is on.
In these situations, the three other marines in your fireteam will act on their own initiative. In our demo, without any direction from the team leader--that is, the player--the rest of the fireteam reacted with proper tactics. Marine Corps doctrine is to target the enemy from multiple angles, so the rest of the team spread out, sought cover, and returned fire. Another gunman appeared in a hole blasted in the side of a nearby building, so the team leader ordered a marine to throw a grenade into the building, which flushed the gunman into the open where he was cut down. Meanwhile, a second gunman, sensing that he was going to be outmaneuvered and flanked, tried to break and run but was also taken down.
First to Fight will provide psychological models for each marine and enemy gunman, tracking all characters' morale and discipline. So you can sow confusion into enemy ranks if you separate enemy troops from their leaders (usually by planting a bullet in the leader's body), or you can break the enemy's will by simply overwhelming them with fire. Be careful, though, as your marines are also susceptible to combat stress, and though marines are elite warriors, they're still human.
Based on gameplay testing, Destineer has simplified the control scheme a bit. In the PC or Mac versions of the game, you'll use the left mouse button to fire your weapon and your right mouse button to access a context-sensitive radial menu. Point your cursor on the door and hit the right mouse button, and you'll be presented with four orders that you can issue to your squad, including enter and clear or grenade, enter, and clear. Place the cursor on an enemy and hit the right mouse button and you'll be presented with different options, such as lay down suppressing fire.
We're impressed with the AI for both your marines and the enemy. When told to enter and clear a room, your team will line up to the doorway, toss a grenade in the room, then storm in, clearing all corners. They'll then come up to any windows and doors, but without exposing themselves to enemy fire. That said, while your marines will fight effectively on your own, your role is to think of your feet, because your marines will depend on you to figure out how to use the team most effectively to overcome a challenge.
Destineer is using its own technology in First to Fight, from the custom-built graphics engine to the ragdoll physics engine that makes gunmen crumple to the ground convincingly. The physics extend into weapons effects, as we saw the explosion from a grenade launched from the M203 grenade launcher hurl gunmen into the air. (The M203 is particularly useful in clearing gunmen off of rooftops, as Tamte liked to demonstrate.) In some cases, you will be able to rely on support from other fire teams, or from other assets of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. You can call in sniper support, air support in the form of Cobra helicopters, tank and armored vehicle support, and artillery. Meanwhile, your team will have all the expected weapons that a marine fireteam carries, including M-16A2 assault rifles, an M249 squad automatic weapon, smoke grenades, fragmentation grenades, and more.
Publisher Gathering and Destineer still aren't talking much about the multiplayer support, but we're told that details should be available in the coming weeks. We do know that First to Fight will have Xbox Live support, and that the PC and Mac versions will also be playable online. It definitely sounds like deathmatch of some sort will be included, but we're hoping for some kind of cooperative mode, as the squad-based nature of the game makes coop attractive. We'll have more details in the coming weeks, as we're definitely keeping an eye on this game. First to Fight is shaping up quite nicely, and the game is reportedly on track to ship for the PC, Xbox, and Mac this autumn.
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