Field Of Fire For Atari & 64
James V. Trunzo
Requirements: Commodore 64 or an Atari 400/800, XL, or XE computer with at least 48K RAM. Both versions also require a disk drive and a joystick. The Atari version was reviewed.
Sarge, Freda, Billings, and Wild Bill are pinned down behind the seawall. The English Channel is at their backs and the buildings in front of them are full of Germans. Angry Germans. It's June 6, 1944—Omaha Beach—and the enemy machine gun and artillery fire is intense. Casualties mount. Finally Sarge, a veteran from the 1st Division's days in North Africa, remembers something he once heard. "What do you guys want, to live forever?" he shouts, and leads his rifle team over the wall.
The rest is history, or in the case of this World War II simulation, just part of the game. Field of Fire, written by Roger Damon, the creator of Broderbund's Operation Whirlwind, is an enthralling game of computer combat. Eight separate scenarios, ranging from the 1942 campaign in Tunisia to the spring 1945 crossing of the Roeher River, and every major battle in between, puts you in command of Easy Company, part of the 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One.
As the company commander, you give orders to the six-man teams armed with rifles, machine guns, bazookas, or mortars. Each team's abilities, such as weapon range and firepower, are based on true-life factors, and managing the various teams is a large part of a successful battle.
Separate game phases let you observe the battlefield, lay down fire, move, and assault nearby positions. All commands are selected by manipulating the joystick controller or pressing one of three keys on the keyboard. Three levels of difficulty, the eight scenarios, and an extended Campaign Game make Field of Fire a game you'll play more than once.
Stealth Makes Health
As in actual World War II battles, winning at Field of Fire requires attention to detail and a bit of luck. Maneuvering and firing—a phase in which some of your men move from one place of cover to another while others fire at suspected or known enemy positions—is a vital tactic to master. Charging blindly only brings immediate enemy response, pinning down your men. A few minutes of this could disintegrate your company. You have to make use of woods, ridges, hedgerows, streams, buildings, and roads. To be caught in the open is to risk annihilation.
Efficient use of your weapons teams is also important. Machine guns wreak havoc with enemy infantry, but against armor they'll merely force the tanks to "button up," just slightly restricting their movements. You must keep a few bazooka teams ready when the German panzers make an appearance. And your forward observers (when attached to your company) must be protected from all danger—placed at the tops of hills, their ability to call down artillery fire can turn the tide.
Field of Fire is quite good. You quickly get the flavor of combat and command. Some problems do crop up, however. Compared to the Germans in most scenarios, your men are just too good. Close assaults, in which your teams toss grenades and overrun a neighboring position, almost always result in a victory. Also, games sometimes seem to end abruptly. In one scenario, "Forever Road," you're supposed to move your company off the top of the map. But if you eliminate all the enemy units beforehand, the game ends with a less than acceptable victory level.
The bottom line is that Field of Fire is a sweaty palms kind of game. You won't smell the cordite or see the destruction, but your imagination fills that in quite sufficiently. Try it—but keep your eyes on that next treeline.
Field of Fire
Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Road, Building A-200
Mountain View, CA 94043