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Close Combat: Invasion: Normandy - Utah Beach to Cherbourg (Windows)

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.7
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Ashley Pomeroy (233)
Written on  :  Apr 23, 2006
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars

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Summary

We hardly knew you

The Good

This was the fifth and last in the original Close Combat series of games. The first two were mostly based around infantry small-unit tactics and they look very old-fashioned today. The third game tried and failed to expand the series into a large-scale strategic wargame, although in my opinion it remains one of the best games in the series.

At the time of release Close Combat V received mostly favourable reviews, although it was often opined that the game was not a great advance on the previous titles. This is a fair assessment. Close Combat V is very similar to its immediate predecessor, Close Combat IV, but it is a far superior game. Whereas CCIV had disastrously botched AI and tank movement, CCV is playable and entertaining.

The emphasis on parachute units - it takes place on the left flank of the Normandy assault, at Utah beach, the Cotentin peninsula and Cherbourg - and the initial difficulty in bringing American tanks ashore helps to return the game to its roots as an infantry simulation. Unlike CCIV you have some flexibility when it comes to selecting your units.

In essence you get two games. As the Americans you can hardly lose, and the game becomes one of minimising casualties. You have overwhelming tank superiority and your reinforcements keep coming, but you can be ground into meat by the Germans. Playing as the Germans it becomes more interesting; you have a small number of old French tanks - titchy little things like the Renault R-35 and Panzer II, and the fascinatingly retro Char B1 - and some anti-tank guns, and a variety of infantry units. Either way the maps have lots of cover, with the famous "bocage" hedgerows in abundance, and there are bunkers and houses etc. There is plenty of cover and the two-dozen or so maps can be played in several directions.

The graphics are top-down but they are still attractive today. Some of the maps are based on real-world locations and are based on photographs in war books, which is a nice touch. The sound effects are meaty and the voice acting is jolly. The violence is abstract enough to be cartoonish but not so cartoonish as to be a joke.

The Bad

Tank AI was always a problem with the Close Combat games and it is a problem here, more so if you play as the Americans (they have tanks, whereas the German generally do not). The tank AI is noticeably better than that of CCIV, but your tanks still spend a lot of time wheeling around and going into battle backwards.

Both sides have anti-tank guns. These tend to be spotted easily and destroyed by the other side's mortars in a split-second. In CCIII it was harder to see anti-tank guns and they were harder to destroy. In this game they are too vulnerable to use. You have to rely on bazooka or panzerfaust units and explosive charges, which makes the game a spooky forwards echo of Iraq War 2: The Occupation. Thankfully the maps are geared so that the enemy can't simply dominate the terrain with a distant tank. There's an emphasis on close-in fighting, and you can usually sneak up on the enemy armour and flamethrow it to pieces. The flamethrowers are probably not realistic - they are utterly lethal against everything, sealed-up tanks included - but am I bothered?

One thing the reviews picked up on is valid. Although the game simulates a beach assault and parachute landings (albeit that you do not see the landings - they happen off screen), there is no sense that your troops are going up a beach or milling around in confusion after jumping out of a C47. They move slower if they are scaling a cliff but that is that.

The Bottom Line

Joint-best of the series, along with CCIII. It didn't really get a proper release - the developers split up and the publishers went bust shortly after it came out - but you can pick it up on budget. It's fun for quick blasts, despite being in 2D, and you can use it to brush up on your German phraseology.