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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Global Star Software
DEVELOPER:
Destineer
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
April 18, 2005
ESRB RATING:
Teen
 Written by Troy Matsumiya  on September 21, 2004

First Impressions: ?The driving force of all action in war is the human will.? United States Marine Corps Warfighting Manual


Military shooters have enjoyed a surge in the marketplace, no doubt due in part to current world events. Especially popular are squad-based shooters that emphasize realistic tactics and teamwork, like Pandemic's Army-training-tool-turned-consumer-video-game, Full Spectrum Warrior. Destineer and Atomic's upcoming squad-based tactical military FPS, Close Combat: First to Fight, is promising to take the next step in providing the most realistic military experience you can get without the hassle of basic training and drill sergeants yelling in your nose.


First to Fight is the latest in the long and respected history of Atomic's Close Combat series of military strategy games. In fact, the US Marines commissioned Atomic to jointly create Close Combat: Marine, which is used as an actual training tool in addition to being released to the general public for their gaming enjoyment (similar to the US Army's development and release of America's Army). First to Fight is based on this training game, and was developed in consultation with over 40 active duty Marines, ranging in rank from Privates to Colonels, many of whom were fresh off the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. That little tidbit alone should tell you that Destineer is pretty darn serious about making this game as true to form as possible.


First to Fight follows actual Marine doctrine and builds it into the AI of your three computer controlled teammates. As the squad leader, it is your responsibility to command your squad through the treacherous streets of Beirut in 2006, battling trouble-making Militants and Radicals, along with Iranian and Syrian troops. Needless to say, danger is everywhere, but fortunately, your squad will be intelligent enough to automatically and appropriately react to attacks (unlike the occasionally dumb and frustrating AI of your teammates in games like Rainbow Six 3).


Your team does this by practicing the standard "Ready-Team-Fire-Assist" Marine tactics which provides 360 degrees of cover. The "Ready" rifleman carries the M16-A4 and always keeps his eye open for threats. The "Team" is you, the leader, who makes the tactical decisions and also carries the M16-A4 with the M203 grenade launcher. "Fire" is the heavy weapons man, who is armed with the potent SAW M249 light machinegun. "Assist" carries extra ammo for the SAW along with his M16-A4. As you move down a street, your team members automatically assume their roles, providing complete coverage and always paying attention to the position of everyone in the squad.


When the bullets start flying, you don't have to worry about giving your squad commands to move and fight back. Your teammates' AI is smart enough to make them find cover, return fire, and even spread out to attack from different angles, all without a single command from you. The goal was to make your teammates so intelligent that 80% of the time, you don't have to tell them what to do. Naturally, if you don't like what your team is doing, you can tell them where to go and what to do, but issuing stupid orders will have its consequences.


The most unique feature of First to Fight is the emphasis on how the "human will" affects fighting ability. The morale of both your squad and the enemy will be constantly calculated as a battle progresses. Morale affects the accuracy, agility, speed and will of both sides, so needless to say, it is vitally important to keep the morale of your squad up. This is accomplished by winning a battle, keeping your teammates in close proximity to each other (a teammate who is separated from your squad too long will begin to lose morale ? after all, who wants to be left all alone when people are shooting at you?), when there are additional Marines and armored vehicles around, and when no one on your squad is wounded or killed. Yes, your teammates can die, something you definitely want to prevent from happening. Making bad decisions will also cause your squad's morale to drop (in addition to getting you and your team killed), so say goodbye to that idea of running down the street in gung ho Rambo style.


You must also do your best to suppress the enemy's morale because they too will be intelligent attackers who will also seek cover and try to outflank you. Kill the enemy leader and you create confusion in their ranks, which breaks down discipline and disrupts their fighting effectiveness. Call on the assets of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, like helicopter gunships, tanks, armored personnel carriers, snipers and mortar teams, to help you out and make the enemy start popping anti-depression pills. Perform a brilliant flanking maneuver and you might reduce their will to the point where they surrender.


The AI and "human will" features are so central to the game that these are probably the reasons why First to Fight has been pushed back from its original October release to December ? or maybe February. There has been no official word as to what the new release date is ? all we know is that it is being delayed. No doubt they will be using that time to tweak the AI and ensure it works as advertised.


Destineer has also been frustratingly tight-lipped about First to Fight's multiplayer component over System Link and Xbox Live. As of this writing, no information has been released on how many players will be supported or even what gametypes will be available. It is likely that a deathmatch mode will be included, but considering the game is heavily squad-based and emphasizes teamwork, it is anticipated a cooperative mode will be included as well.


On the positive side, the game looks fantastic. Destineer is using its own proprietary graphics and rag doll physics engines, and the results are very impressive, with characters that look and move realistically. The game currently runs at 30 frames per second, and will support 480p widescreen and Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound.

Final Thoughts
At first glance, First to Fight has the potential to unseat Full Spectrum Warrior as the leader in the realistic squad-based military tactical shooter niche. The big key will be the AI of both your squad and the enemy, and how the ?human will? feature will actually work. If Destineer can pull it off, this could be the game for military gaming enthusiasts everywhere ? whenever it is released.


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