Close Combat III: The Russian Front

aka: Close Combat 3: The Russian Front, Close Combat III: Le Front Russe
Moby ID: 328

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 77% (based on 15 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 17 ratings with 3 reviews)

Worst of the series

The Good
All CC games are great. They might have a few problems here or there, but in general they're all fully researched, wonderful to look at, and easy and fun to play. But it's important to keep in mind that the engine is really about a handful of units, and that's all it's good at.

The Bad
So what the heck was Keith thinking when he decided to use this engine to drive a game about the entire Soviet front? This is a war that took four years and killed millions of people, and you're going to represent that in a unit based game? Come on! It's worse, there's only what, 13 maps, each about a mile by a mile? So 13 square miles out of millions and millions of them is supposed to be reasonable?

Then add to this that the "plotline" is the same every time. My units wiped out legions of the enemy every battle (once they get good at their jobs), yet it still ends up in the same place every time no matter what.

Artillery, included after endless excuses about why they couldn't possibly put it in the game, finally appeared. However it was completely hard wired into the mission - not on call - and thus largely useless. Perhaps 1 in 5 missions RT would end up hitting something, typically it was aimed where nobody was. The game was better off without it.

Like the earlier versions, the game also included a system of replacements and upgrades to your units. You win points by doing well in combat.

However they then ruined this too. At the end of every campaign you'll have some damage, but you start the next scenario with only 10 points - enough typically to fix one bit of damage (like a frozen engine). Now this normally wouldn't be too much of a problem, but in later parts of the game if you do really well you'll win the entire scenario in one mission, and never get any of those points. As a result by the end of the game you have almost nothing left, unless you deliberately lose missions!

By the end of the game the entire thing is decided entirely by the armor. There is no balance here. No matter city or fields, infantry quickly gets cut apart and the armor slugs it out and that's that.

But by FAR the biggest problem is the handling of the armor itself. Basically the guns appear to have strengths exactly equal to the calibre, so the huge guns on the Soviet tanks blow away anything the Germans field. In reality these guns had very low velocities and thus weren't all that tough, but not so in this game. Another example is that the German 75 on the Panther was just as good as the 88 on the Tiger, due to its faster shot. Yet in this game the Panther has perhaps one or two missions where it can survive, and after that the Soviet armor blows it away every time. This simply isn't right.

The Bottom Line
CC is one of the greatest series ever, but this is not the one to get!

Windows · by Maury Markowitz (266) · 2001

Cyrillic: The Russian Font

The Good
This was the third of the Close Combat games and in my opinion it ties with CCV as the best of the series. It covers the entire Eastern front from 1941 to 1945 and is much larger in scope than the other Close Combat titles. The graphics, sounds and interface are better than the first two games, and they still do the job well enough today. Some of the tanks are just boxes, but the landscapes are attractive. The graphics would be improved further in CCIV, which was an otherwise inferior game.

The campaign is represented as a series of mini-campaigns consisting of a handful of battles across several maps in similar terrain - there is snow, tundra, mud, grasslands, some small-scale urban environments and later on the ruins of Berlin. You can play as either the Russians or the Germans, although you cannot alter the historical outcome of the war; the game ends up with you fighting a last battle for the ruins of the Reichstag. As you win battles you gain points which you can use to replace your troops and equipment with better equipment, historically correct for the period, and thus each time you play the game you can enter the battle with a different set of units; if the enemy has Tigers you might decide to counter them with an SU-85, or perhaps a couple of anti-tank guns, or a clutch of lend-lease Shermans. This kind of flexibility was a great leap forward from the previous games and was sadly ditched in CCIV and CCV, the final two games in the series.

In general, the action in the Close Combat games is less complex and hardcore than the slightly later Combat Mission games but is considerably deeper than Command and Conquer; it is quickly accessible and has a simple mouse-driven interface. The attention to detail is impressive if you are a casual military enthusiast and the game places an emphasis on the morale and well-being of your troops. Indeed, the very first Close Combat game was an attempt to combine the soldier-level combat of action games with the depth and detailed unit modelling of a table-top wargame, although CCIII strays from the blueprint by placing a great emphasis on armoured vehicles, more of which later. You can win battles by breaking the enemy's will. Often the enemy will flee rather than die to a man. The equipment is all generally realistic and the atmosphere of fighting in snowy wasteland is well done.

Although there are only a couple of dozen maps they are designed in such a way that you can play them from either direction successfully, and they mix open and closed terrain well. The big limitation of the engine is the fact that you are playing on a map that is much larger than the screen, and the computer is better at working out angles and long range gunnery than you are; but generally this is not a problem, because the maps are simple enough to memorise and the few urban areas tend to be quite small. Later games were exceedingly frustrating in this respect - you would move your tank forwards slightly, and a distant enemy gun would spot it through a minuscule crack in some houses and blow it away.

There is a level maker that seems as fully-featured as that which the designers used to make the game; it was not included in the later Close Combat games but it is easy to use and great fun if you want to pit a Josef Stalin III heavy tank against a mass of German conscripts in a kind of twilight of the footsoldiers.

The Bad
The tank movement AI is very poor. The impression I get is that the programmers had trouble writing vehicle AI that could cope with traversing turrets, such that the turret and the hull might point in different directions in a sensible way. Furthermore, because you do not have a 'reverse' command - instead, the game tries to work out from the context of your clicks whether you want your tanks to back up - it does not seem to understand that tanks should not reverse towards the enemy. This is a problem that dogged the entire Close Combat series, and must have been hard-wired deep into the code because it is terribly and conspicuously flawed. The tanks move from place to place well enough, but you can never simply let them do their thing; you have to keep an eye on them. Frequently, you will order a tank to move forwards, and it will instead start to spin around, the turret rotating in one direction and the hull in the other direction, as if the gunner and driver were fighting each other. Often tanks will spin all the way around and reverse into combat; I have lost games because, instead of presenting their solid frontal armour to the enemy, my tanks have advanced backwards into battle. Even when they are not approaching the enemy arse-first, the tanks are hyperactive. Order them to change course and they will instead stop and rotate slightly in the wrong direction, whilst the turret tries to match the hull's bearing; then the hull will rotate back to the correct heading, whilst the turret will try to catch up. Frequently your tanks will zig-zag into battle, or do so in little jerks. It is often hilarious and frustrating and is a problem that did not seem to affect Combat Mission or any real-time wargame I have played.

The game does not model air attacks and although there is artillery, it is hard-wired into a couple of the scenarios and then only for the Germans. The enemy AI is not very smart but usually makes up for it in weight of numbers. The game does not really model the kind of shortages and supply difficulties faced by the Germans - at the end of the game you will probably have an unstoppable team of King Tigers, and you will wonder how the Germans could have lost - and it doesn't really model the weight of Soviet numbers. Playing as the Russians you have the same amount of teams as the Germans, although the infantry squads tend to be slightly larger. However the equipment is such that both sides match each other, so it is not as irritating or problematic as the tank AI (which, if anything, got worse in the next game). The game has what seems to be an unrealistically negative view of Russian morale, and does not model the NKVD, the feared Russian political officers who ensured that their soldiers did not desert or flee; the Russian troops in CCIII frequently surrender or run away, even later in the war when they are winning.

There is no strategic map. The epic confrontation between Germany and Russia is modelled as a series of battle that consist of three or four maps at the most. You cannot direct your forces strategically. Subsequent games in the Close Combat series modelled this, although without much depth. This is not a great drawback if you assume that your in-game avatar is a relatively low-level officer (you are a character in the game and you can be killed!).

Some of the sound effects are silly. The early tank guns sound like Champagne corks popping. The German/Russian voices are probably hilarious if you are German or Russian. It helps if you know a bit about the military technology of the time; if you don't know that a 10.5cm L/28 is a less powerful anti-tank weapon than an 88mm L/56 you might end up buying the wrong equipment.

The real strength of the Close Combat series was its modelling of infantry combat; morale and unit cohesion were the first game's selling points. In this and subsequent games, however, the tanks become the deciding factors on the battlefield and the infantry turns into scouts for the armour, which plays against the engine's strengths. If you have a lot of tanks, you will probably win. The last game, CCV, rectified this by emphasising airborne operations with paratroops, but there are perhaps only one or two maps in CCIII where the infantry have a purpose other than as a means of determining the position of the enemy's anti-tank guns and armour.

As with the other Close Combat games, CCIII has a top-down map. It models elevation and multi-storey houses, but it can often be tricky to tell if your tanks are safely behind a hill or, instead, if they are out in the open.

The Bottom Line
The above might sound damning. However, the biggest problem is the tank AI, which can be worked with if you are patient and do not expect too much. To be fair, it must have been very hard to drive and command a tank in the real world, and the soldiers were probably under a lot of stress; perhaps they were drinking.

In general this is still an entertaining wargame. More modern titles tend to use a 3D game engine that lets you spin and zoom around, but the top-down map in CCIII is practical enough (there is a handy mini-map in the corner of the screen that makes things a lot easier). It is fun to fire up the game for a ten-minute blast, certainly more so than the aforementioned Combat Mission, which models the anguish and stress of combat rather too well at times.

Sadly the online Close Combat community seems moribund nowadays; the game is quite old, and wargames are not as popular on the PC as they once were.

As far as I am aware this game is still available new, from Microsoft. Later games were published by SSI, and might be quite hard to get hold of (CCV is on budget, and is worth buying; CCIV is not, and is not worth buying).

Windows · by Ashley Pomeroy (225) · 2005

WWII gamer: you want realism and a new setting? Look here.

The Good
Close Combat 3 is a dream. Finally, a game that takes place on the Eastern Front! There have been so many WWII computer games made, but virtually all of them take place in the Pacific, or in the Western Front in Europe. The war between Germany and Russia is full of gaming possibilities: it lasted 4 years, it featured the largest tank battle in history, hundreds-of-miles long fronts, involved millions of people, and it was an epic struggle between two horrific regimes. It's about time a game company realized this.

The amount of realism and detail is just unprecedented. Every gun makes the sound the real gun made. Your soldiers act as real soldiers would. They even speak in their native language!

The sheer amount of units available blows me away, and each one is historically researched and modeled.

The graphics are absolute top-quality.

The Bad
Where are the aircraft?! For example, the Ju-87 Stuka, modified with gigantic tank-busting cannons, was a key factor in the actual war. This game only centers around the ground battle. It would be really great if you could call for aerial attacks.

Also, even though the maps are really big, it would be better if they were even bigger!

The Bottom Line
If you are at all interested in WWII or historical gaming, you must get this game. An epic game that is worthy of the epic war that it portrays...

Windows · by Raphael (1245) · 1999

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Jeanne, Crawly, PCGamer77, Cantillon, Tomas Pettersson, chirinea, Tim Janssen, Cavalary, Patrick Bregger, Wizo, Alsy.