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Combat in Context

June 20th, 2007

Combat in Context
by Nick Montfort

What follows is a critical consideration of Combat, the cartridge originally included with the Atari Video Computer System. Atari introduced the VCS in late 1977. The system retailed in the United States for about US$200, the equivalent of about US$650 today. The console, model number CX2600 [1], came with two joystick controllers, two paddle controllers, a TV/ game switch box and a cartridge bearing product number CX2601 [2]. The cartridge was Combat, a “game program” with 27 games, which were according to the included manual: variants of tank, tank-pong, invisible tank, invisible tank-pong, bi-plane and jet (Atari 1977). In the tank games, the two players move their joysticks left or right to turn their iconic tanks. Moving the joystick up causes the tank to go forward, while pressing the button fires a missile. Obstacles appear in some of the tank playfields and there are other variations in play. The two plane games are similar, but there are no obstacles in any of them -” only blocky, obscuring clouds in some versions -” and the planes always move forward. They are steered by moving the joystick up or down and go faster or slower if the joystick is moved right or left. The player whose tank or plane is hit the fewest times during a game, which lasts two minutes and 16 seconds, is the winner.
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