Lunchtimes in our household have become a lot more pleasurable lately thanks to two products: Innocent’s banana, pineapple and coconut smoothie, and Sean O’Connor’s WWII skirmish simulation Firefight.
Neither the drink or the game look all that appetizing. The smoothie is the color and consistency of baby puke; Firefight is all gaudy top-down countryside and miniscule misshapen sprites. Fortunately once you’ve gulped your first mouthful/assaulted your first hill, you forget all about appearances.
Firefight is reminiscent of Atomic’s classic military RTS Close Combat, but has a cleaner, more refreshing edge. Unlike CC or CC’s slower, smarter 3D cousin Combat Mission, Firefight doesn’t bother with any fancy order types. Basically you just click a squad or vehicle, grab the blue arrow that appears and place it where you want the unit to go. There is a separate fire command, but most of the time you can rely on your pocket-sized soldiery and tanks to pick their own targets.
The closest thing to a complication is the radio net concept. Sometimes you’ll select a squad and see a black rather than a blue arrow. These units won’t respond to orders until you move your HQ closer or shift it onto higher ground. Actually, they might not respond even then. As in Close Combat, grunts are sensitive souls: under fire they can freeze, flee or throw in the towel. The positive side of this instinct for self-preservation can be seen every time a tank backs out of trouble or a group of grunts fidget around to take full advantage of a hedge or wall - the negative each time a pinned-down platoon refuses to move and gets clobbered by an inevitable artillery salvo.
The AI has its foibles, but overall we’d say it’s slightly superior to Close Combat’s. We’ve yet to encounter a poorly positioned AT gun or see impatient defenders crawl forward to meet an attack. Of course, it’s possible the reason we haven’t seen these things is because Firefight keeps so much hidden from view. Enemy soldiers are incredibly difficult to spot. Most of the time your men are just blazing away at muzzle flashes. In the Libyan Desert the tough spotting rules seem a little incongruous. In Normandy’s bocage country, the rugged hills of Italy and the jungles of the Pacific, they are perfect, generating tension by the truckload.
Firefight’s globetrotting campaigns and single scenarios utilize a clever map generator meaning you never see the same battlefield twice. If we could add just a few more terrain and building types then scrap sequences would be even more appealing. Some extra battle styles would also not go amiss (currently there are only assaults and defenses).
If you're interested in checking out the game, just click here.