aka: 01 Combat, Combate, Front Line, Tank-Plus
Moby ID: 8851
Atari 2600 Specs
Included in Original See Also

Description official descriptions

Combat is a two-player game where the players attempt to shoot each other's tanks or planes. Hitting the enemy vehicle pushes it back and gives the player one point. The game contains 27 levels, each of which has different rules and playing field layout. On the tank levels, the players have a selection of two different mazes or no walls at all, while on the plane levels, the players can choose to play with clouds that obscure part of the screen. The Atari 2600 difficulty settings can be used to change the range of a player's missiles, as well as the speed of one's airplanes in levels 15-27. All games have a time limit of 136 seconds.

The levels include:

  • 1-5: Tank levels. Levels 3 and 5 are "straight missile" levels where the players' projectiles simply fly forward. On the "guided missile" levels (1, 2, 4) the projectiles can be controlled with a joystick after firing.
  • 6-9: "Tank-pong" levels, where the players' missiles bounce off walls. In the "billiard hit" levels (8 and 9), there's an additional rule that a missile must bounce at least once before it can hit the enemy tank.
  • 10 and 11: Invisible tank levels, where the tanks only become briefly visible when they shoot, bump into a wall, or are hit by a missile. Both of these give the players guided missiles.
  • 12-14: Invisible "tank-pong" levels. Levels 13 and 14 use the "billiard hit" rule.
  • 15-20: Biplane levels, where the players fly planes that are constantly moving forward and wrap around to the other side when they fly off the screen. Levels 15 and 19 use guided missiles; 16 and 20 use straight missiles; on 17 and 18, the players use rapid-fire machine guns. Additionally, level 19 is a "2 vs. 2" level - both players have two planes each that move and shoot together - and level 20 is "1 vs. 3", where one player has three planes while the other has a single large plane.
  • 21-27: Jet fighter levels. The jet planes move faster than biplanes, but other than that gameplay remains similar. 22, 24, and 27 are straight missile levels, the rest are guided-missile levels. Additionally, 25 and 27 are "2 vs. 2" levels, while 26 is a "1 vs. 3" level.

Groups +


Credits (Atari 2600 version)

6 People

Conceived by
Scoring system and last-minute bug fixes
Cover Artwork



Average score: 77% (based on 12 ratings)


Average score: 3.2 out of 5 (based on 53 ratings with 5 reviews)

A classic, best when shared...

The Good
The Combat cartridge, like most of the early VCS games, included many games, giving the players a wide variety of options to choose from. So even if the tank games seem a little boring at first, the "pong" and invisible variations give some twist to the combat. And soon enough, you feel that the delight of blasting the opponent's tank grows on you. Interesting feature, you can fly your aircraft from to one side and reappear at the other, for some surprise shooting at the enemy's tail.

The Bad
You always need a partner to play Combat, so make sure to keep some friends around (and let them win once in a while). But it would have been nice to have some variations for a single player. Aiming is a little awkward when you dispose only of 8 possible angles. However from a tactical point of view, this limitation may prove not so negative. Please note that the tanks were probably very light at some time in history, because I've seen mine fly across a whole field when it got hit by the enemy. The graphics are quite simplistic. No use of music is made during the game, but the sound effects do their job.

The Bottom Line
Simple, yet effective. The game requires a little exploration, but once you find suitable variations, and an interesting partner, you can play for hours once you've developed some tactics. Ain't bad considering how early it got published!

Atari 2600 · by RobinHud (68) · 2005

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.

Atari 2600 · by lasttoblame (414) · 2007

Tanks for the memories...

The Good
Playing this game with a friend could yield hours of entertainment, as it is a shoot-'em-up at its most visceral. This ranks second only to Space Invaders as the best early 2600 game, and can be enjoyed even today.

The Bad
If you didn't have two players, it was a very dull game. The sound was primitive, even by the standards of the day, and there was no music.

The Bottom Line
This is a basic action shooter, Atari 2600 style, consisting of a pair of tanks, jet planes, or biplanes trying to shoot each other.

Atari 2600 · by Foom (5) · 2004

[ View all 5 player reviews ]


1001 Video Games

Combat appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


Combat was one of the nine games available for the launch of the Atari 2600 in 1977. It was supplied with the 2600 game console and even came with the Sears branded VCS.

References to the game

A copy of this game is visible on top of the lead character's television in the 1983 David Cronenberg film Videodrome.


  • FLUX
    • Issue #4 - #48 in the "Top 100 Video Games of All-Time" list
  • Retro Gamer
    • Issue #46 - #24 in the “Top 25 Atari 2600 Games" poll

Information also contributed by Big John WV, Depeche Mike, PCGamer77, Scott Monster and FatherJack


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by wanax.

Plex Arcade added by firefang9212. Windows, Xbox 360 added by Alaka. Antstream added by lights out party.

Additional contributors: RKL, Servo, chirinea, LepricahnsGold, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack.

Game added April 11, 2003. Last modified May 11, 2024.