Matrix Games–Slitherine Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog Review

Close Combat:

Panthers in the Fog

Review

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Available from Matrix Games

Download Edition $39.95

Boxed Edition $49.95 (includes free download)

The latest version of the game in the famous Close Combat series is “Panthers in the Fog”. The series began back in the mid-nineties with the introduction of “Close Combat”. The series became an instant success, which lead to the issue of four additional titles. The titles in the original series of these games were:

  • Close Combat
  • Close Combat: A Bridge to Far
  • Close Combat: The Russian Front
  • Close Combat: The Battle of the Bulge
  • Close Combat: Invasion Normandy

This new version from Matrix Games covers the battles between the German Army and General Patton’s Third Army, during the breakout from the Normandy beachhead.

This game consists of 37 individual Battles, 7 multiple day Operations and 5 Multi-operation Campaigns. There is also a five level Bootcamp. If you are an experienced Close Combat gamer and have played the previous generations of this game system, you will have little problem learning the ins-and-outs of this version. However, even previous players will benefit from the completion of the five Bootcamp scenarios.

There are a number of new changes in this version of Close Combat. The first thing, you will notice are the updated graphics. Graphics that take advantage of the new video hardware in today’s computers. They also use the capabilities of the 32-bit color graphics. The User Interface has also been extensively redesigned to give the players a new look and feel to the game play.

A new Battle Group system simplifies the way the player selects his units, providing a more realistic representation of the units involved in the historically based scenarios. This system displays and tracks the statistics of every soldier in the Battle group making it easier to keep track of some twenty-odd units under your command in a battle.

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At the tactical level, mortar usage has been changed to reflect how these units are historically used and react in combat situations. Mortar fire begins slowly and steps its rate up when a target area is confirmed. You also have the ability to transport Infantry units on vehicles, as well as moving towed artillery pieces. At the Strategic level, possession of the “high ground” gives enhanced spotting ability for calling in artillery and air attacks on enemy positions.

When beginning the game the opening screen allows the player to select “Play Game” or “Multiplayer” versions of the game. There are also selections for the scenario editor and the “Options” for video, sound and game play. After selecting you method of play, in this case, single player against the computer, you move to the next screen. On this screen you select whether you are playing a single “Battle”, an “Operation”, or a “Campaign” scenario. You also, get to select which side you wish to command, Allied or Axis.

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Three additional selections are available “User Scenarios”, “Saved Games” and “Bootcamp”. “User Scenarios” are those created by the player, or by other players and uploaded to game. “Saved Games” is self-explanatory and are any games suspended before a conclusion is reached are stored here to be continued at a later date.

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After selecting your scenario, you move to the map itself. Most scenarios allow a certain amount of units to be moved at the discretion of the commanding officer (the Player) from the pre-selected positions at the beginning of the scenario. When you are satisfied with your dispositions, you click on the “Begin” button in the lower right hand corner which starts the timer and the action. Controlling your units is done by right-clicking the unit you want to give orders to. The right-click will bring up a menu with the following items:

  • Move
  • Move Fast
  • Sneak
  • Fire
  • Smoke
  • Defend
  • Ambush
  • Mount or Dismount

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The “Move” command will allow your unit to move in a cautious manner. “Move Fast” will permit the unit to move quickly from place to place, and maybe somewhat recklessly. “Sneak” allows the unit to move up on an enemy in a very slow and wary manner.

The “Fire” command, when issued to a unit will permit that unit to shoot at another unit, building or area, as long as they have a clear “Line of Sight” (LOS) and are within weapon range of the target. This is designated by the color of the line from the firing unit to the target. A green line means that the unit has a clear LOS and is well within range. A yellow line means the unit may have some obstruction to its firing, or range may be getting a little long reducing the chances of hitting anything. A red line means range is exceeded or there is terrain blocking the LOS negating seeing or hitting the target.

The display in the lower right hand corner shows the members of the particular chosen unit, their capabilities, fatigue, ammunition and morale. These factors will determine whether a unit will obey the order presently given them.  Fatigue and low morale will affect their desire to carry out any orders. Three additional boxes are attached to the side of this display that show the following items:

  • Availability of Air Strikes
  • Off-Board Artillery
  • Heavy Mortar Fire

When these weapons are available these boxes will be lit up. They have a finite availability and when used, cannot be re-used for the rest of the scenario.

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To the left of the screen is the Mini-Map, that shows the entire battlefield. Your units show up as blue dots on the map, while enemy units show up as red dots. The objectives held by both sides are also displayed on this map. To move from one place to another on the map the player can move his mouse to the edge of the map in which he wishes to move or simply click on the location on the Mini-Map, taking him to that selected place.

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The game itself affords the player with a high replay value, as no two actions necessarily result in the same outcome. As I said previously, fans of the Close Combat series will be able to step right in and begin playing, but the enhanced graphics and the new features players will have a whole new experience in this real-time strategy world. I highly recommend this game to those gamers who like to play against the clock, as well as those gamers who just like strategy games.

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