Review by Retro
Reviewed: 04/21/01 | Updated: 03/05/03
One of the essential classics to own for your Atari 2600.
Just like Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt was usually the pack-in game for the NES, Combat was the pack-in title for the Atari 2600. There couldn't have been a much better game to use to get the Atari 2600 rolling in the right direction than Combat.
Like you probably already guessed from the name of the game, in Combat, you will be doing some major combat against your opponent. The basic and most popular form of battle in the game is done with tanks. In the first option of tank battle, one person's tank will be on the left side of the screen and will be facing the right, and the other person's tank will be on the right part of the screen facing the left.
Combat is only a two-player game; there are not any computer-controlled players or a one player game included, unfortunately. The idea of this first variation is for you to move your tank around the area until you can sneak in a shot against your evil twin that your opponent is at the controls of. Every time you shoot your opponent, you will make your fiend dizzy, and you'll score a point. Each game lasts about four or five minutes at the most. When you see your scores flashing, that means the game is about to end. When the game winds up, the player with the most points wins.
What makes Combat one of the best and most memorable Atari 2600 classics is its variety of different games to play. For instance, in the first game that I just mentioned, all you have to do is move your tank around the open area and keep blasting your opponent into oblivion. However, there are many other variations you can choose from at any time.
To change what game you want to play in Combat, you just have to press Select on the Atari 2600 console. For easier scores, there are many games in which you can guide your shots right after you shoot them. Another fun variation is the one in which you have to bank your bullets off a wall before it can hit your opponent. If you just fire a shot at your opponent's tank, it will go right through them. But, if your bullet bounces off a wall and then hits your nemesis, it will score as a hit. There is also Invisible Tank, in which you can't see your tank or your opponent's tank, except for when someone takes a shot, when one of you gets hit, or when one of the tanks are touching a wall or each other.
But that's just the beginning. If you keep cycling through the multitude of games in Combat, you'll see that instead of a huge open area, a maze of barriers is included in some variations. The biggest standout of all the tank game alterations is one called Tank Pong, which is my personal favorite. In the Tank Pong games, every bullet that is shot bounces off the walls and disappears after a few seconds.
As fun as the tanks are, they're not the only vehicles that can be used to seek video game vengeance. There are also games involving airplanes and a few with small rockets. In the airplane and rocket games, there's not as many variations of games as there is with the tanks, but they're almost as much fun.
You can choose how many and what kind of airplanes you and your opponent can fly. You can pit one plane against one plane, two planes against one, or even three regular sized planes against one huge plane that has mega-sized bullets.
The rockets are the fastest vehicle in Combat and you can also choose how many of them you and your opponent will take the controls of, along with opting whether to battle with pixelized clouds in the background or to do carnage with clear skies.
In the tank levels there is always a wall on the outside of the level. This wall serves as the barrier and you can't go past it. On the other hand, the airplane and rocket screens don't any barriers at all, since both are played in the sky. Fly through one side of the screen and you'll end up on the other side right away.
There are a few hilarious glitches to keep both eyes out for in the tank levels. Even though there is a sturdy-looking wall around all four corners of the screen, it's possible to get from one side of the screen to the other. Also, when your tank gets hit by a bullet, it will be nudged forward a bit from the impact of getting hit. Sometimes if you're real close to a wall when getting shot, your tank might fly across the screen faster than a tank could ever think of moving. You have an even better chance of simply ending up on the other side of the wall during the game (yep, guess the barriers aren't as sturdy as they look!). Combat just wouldn't be the same without these classic glitches.
The graphics in Combat are just what you'd expect from a game that was made in the late 70's. The tanks, airplanes, and rockets don't look bad; you can at least tell what they are. The backgrounds in the tank levels are of a certain color with no background thrown in, and in the airplane and rocket levels, the backgrounds consist of either just a color with a blank background, or a single color with a cloud or two to serve as scenery.
I've always liked the sound f/x in Combat. Whether it's the sound of the tanks moving along, making your vehicle shoot, or the satisfying 'bang' that is heard when you land a hit against an enemy, the sound effects in Combat are basic, yet suiting. Just don't expect to hear any music, because there's not any.
The controls are simple and responsive, although it would've been nice to be able to turn a little faster in the tank levels. For the tanks, you have to move your joystick left or right to change direction, and push up to make it move in the direction it's facing. The airplanes always keep moving on their own, so you just have to move the joystick in the direction you want your airplane to fly. The rockets control a little bit like the tanks and the airplanes. The rockets fly automatically, just like the airplanes. Move your joystick left or right to make the rockets change direction, and hold up to make them dart ahead a little faster than normal. For all the games, you just have to press the firing button to shoot, of course.
The main reason Combat is one of my favorite games for the Atari 2600 is because I have a lot of fond memories of playing it while I was a kid, and these days, I'm still adding wrinkles to my brain that have Combat written all over them. Me and my older brothers used to play it more than any other multiplayer game by a long shot, and it's still on a soaring platform overlooking many close and not-so-close classics in playing time.
Using vehicles to go around the TV screen shooting an opponent to a spinning death just never gets old. That's all there is to Combat. Even after almost a generation of doing the same thing over and over and using all the tricks in the book of trash talking to unlucky opponents, Combat doesn't even have a bit of rust on it. It's an essential classic to own for your Atari 2600.
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