Close Combat: The Longest Day – PC Game Review
Close Combat: The Longest Day. PC Game. Matrix Games. Physical copy $49.99, digital download $39.99.
Passed Inspection: Plenty of battles to choose from, high replay value, strong strategic game
Failed Basic: Poor overall graphics, steep learning curve
The battles in CCTLD bring out the strength of using strategy and tactics wisely before making an all-out assault
Close Combat: The Longest Day (CCTLD) by Matrix Games, a follow-up to Close Combat V: Invasion Normandy, puts you in command of a squad during the invasion of Normandy on June 6th, 1944, and the following days. Matrix Games has improved upon where they left off and now place the entire invasion or defense of Normandy on your shoulders. It is a true strategy game that will make you think twice before attacking an enemy location.
The game starts off with an excellent short movie giving you a brief overview of the invasion of Normandy that gets you quickly into the mindset of the game. By allowing you to choose from Allied or German forces, you can relive those historical battles along the beaches and in the small towns of Normandy. Each mission has a "Victory Location" that you must capture for the mission to be considered a success. This won’t be as easy as grouping your troops together and making a mad dash for your point of interest, not with defenders entrenched in their positions and mortar fire raining down.
Before any battle begins you have multiple options of how to jump into the game. At the "Command Screen," you can select from over 30 battles, take part in various operations or test yourself in one of the campaigns. After selecting your favorite battle or campaign, your next step is to decide whether to follow the footsteps of the Allies or try to change history by playing as the Germans. The user is also able to select certain features such as giving the enemy hidden deployment, having limited ammunition or not always having your men obey orders. This will provide the gamer with a more realistic and stressful battle. By selecting the option disobeying orders, you will think twice before sending your men into position with commands such as "Move Fast." This directive can easily tire out your troops, which can have a huge impact on the battle. Once they are tired, your men will either stop moving toward their assigned location or move slowly even when they are being cut down by the enemy.
As any great general knows, preparation is crucial to victory. The BattleGroup Screen allows you to mix and match the units you want to use in action. If you are concerned that your troops will run into more tanks than machine guns, make sure you bring an extra bazooka team along or add an extra tank to support your infantry. If you really want to test your skills, remove some of your units and go in outnumbered.
Another nice feature is being able to rename your units to personalize each one. It doesn’t add an additional bonus to your side, but in your planning stages it’s fun to rename the squad and give the game a more role-playing style. Finally, the BattleGroup Screen will also give you an idea of what your units are carrying with them into battle. Some will have smoke grenades that can mask your movement on the battlefield, while others will be equipped with mortars and heavy machine guns. Keep an eye on your ammo supply when attacking or defending. It would be rather embarrassing to find yourself pinned down with no way to shoot back.
The battles in CCTLD bring out the strength of using strategy and tactics wisely before making an all-out assault. Before assaulting or defending begins, you may place your troops in an area that will best suit your needs. As the battle begins, moving a recon team to sniff out the enemy location may keep you from running into a trap. As you move your troops without meeting any resistance, you’ll see that your men are running, but once you make contact and the enemy begins to fire, your troops will drop to the ground and move ever-so-slowly on their bellies. It’s a nice touch to see the AI react to an encounter, and it gives you a better sense of what the battle was like.
With the overhead view, you get a great sense of what is happening and where everyone is moving. Using the hedges and houses as cover helps protect your men, but it also can work against you. You won’t be able to fire through hedges, which means you’ll need to establish a line of sight in order to make contact with the enemy. The game rewards the armchair general who adjusts his strategic mindset for each individual battle instead of taking a one-approach-fits-all mindset.
Like most Matrix Games, the graphics are subpar to what most companies are producing today. It’s an issue that isn’t likely to bother veterans of previous Matrix Games, but new players may find it a turn-off. With the capabilities of computers and processors that most people have today, a game should be visually as well as tactical stunning. In this case, Matrix has created a supreme tactical game that is lacking in the graphical details. Similarly, the background music is hardly impressive: the same tune is played over and over, which can get annoying, but it’s easy to turn off the music all together. The sound effects during the game are enjoyable though. Explosions are realistic, and the voices of the men responding to your commands provide an added experience to the battle.
Overall, Close Combat: The Longest Day is a fun game to play, but one that skimps on presentation. It holds up well in the pantheon of strategy first and graphics second, but improved graphics would provide the user with a more realistic gaming experience. Regardless, with the numerous battles, operations and campaigns you’ll find yourself immersed in the game once you get the hang of it. The learning curve is a bit steep to those who are unfamiliar with this style of game, but what a thrill when you finally win your first battle!
Armchair General Rating 84%