Combat (Atari 2600)

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Written by  :  lasttoblame (429)
Written on  :  Jul 13, 2007
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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The only thing missing are gallons and gallows of pixellated blood. And head shots.

The Good

I can't believe some of the other reviews of this game. No music? Bad graphics? Unrealistic physics? Were you alive when this game came out? Which Star Wars is the real Star Wars trilogy?

Please let grandpa sort you out. This game is twenty years old, and needs to be judged in that context. Everything was state of the art, because nothing like that had ever been done before. "A game system.. in my own home? Right... and in the future I will have my own portable telephone that stores a thousand songs on it... " (Apple, there's your endorsement so give me swag!!)

Combat is the original deathmatch. This is the game that will have you cussing and swearing at your friends, so yes, Counterstrike is the spiritual heir to this game. To commemorate the importance of their humble roots at every Quakecon they should have a 32-player LAN set up for a ladder tourney of Atari 2600 Combat, replete with the tacky faux wood paneling seen in every basement of the early 80's. You got skillz? You got pwned!

It works because it is so simple. Teach granny how to hold the joystick, tell her which way is up and how to kill and you have a frag buddy. And because it was so easy, every one had a chance for success.. or at least believed they did.

As this was this first deathmatch, it also had the first cheap shots, or "campers". Once you shot up your best buddy, if he flew away from you in your direct sights, you can continue to frag him again and again and again. This was 1977: no respawning or health or weapon pick-ups. Kickin it old skool. Ah, to be so cruel to your friends... just thinking of it now I feel like I'm in my "Field of Dreams"...

And if my memory serves me correctly, there were many variations available. Atari went so far as to boldly proclaim there were 27 games on this humble cartridge. There's the tank game, the tank game where you can ricochets bullets off walls (I do believe this was an inspiration for the Wachowski siblings), invisible tank game, jets, biplanes, three jets against a bomber.. it beggars the imagination. Mods! Mods that shipped with the original game!

Please let me put this into perspective. Combat was one of the many Atari 2600 killer apps. You'd see this at Kmart and go, "Look at those astounding graphics! You mean I can control that yellow block and shoot smaller yellow blocks at my mortal enemy! To whom do I give my 599$? I don't want a PS3 anymore!" Okay, maybe not that last part, but people went gaga over this as they would for the later killer app, the terrible 2600 version of Pac-Man.

Truly revolutionary for its time. This has had a lasting effect upon games because folks, you've been playing essentially what is the very same game. Kill the other guy before he kills you. The fact that you do it now in 3D with amazing weapons and pixellated blood doesn't change the fact that this type of game is thirty years old. 30. Yikes. I am your grandfather.

The Bad

You say:

"No team death match. No capture the flag mode. No online play. No online chat. No weapon or health pick ups. No bump mapping or dynamic lighting. No customization of tattoos. No story, no voice acting, no cutscenes. Most importantly, you can't get out of your tank and carjack another tank."


Folks, this is old school gaming at its very finest. No, you couldn't do any of those things, and you know what? We liked it. We preferred it. We all hollered and yelled when the jump was made to 16-bit. "More colors? What do with all these colors? We don’t want better graphics, we want better game play! We want our games to be fun!”

Thirty years have passed, and have game developers listened? The game industry crashed once before at a time it was making money hand over fist. A series of bad decisions and a lofty sense of self-importance led to that crash.

There’s no reason why it can’t happen again. Bring back my eight-way one button controller.

The Bottom Line

A must-have for every Quake frag-head and Counter-Strike kill-joy only for you to see how little games have progressed over a long period of time.