"Arm yourself against the ennemy with tanks, planes or jet fighters. Blast your opponent as many times as you can for the highest score. Heavy artillery includes missiles, rapid fire machine guns or single shots. Just keep in mind that the other guy has the same weapons you do. Good luck, soldier."
The Combat cartridge offers in fact three type of games, though there were all based on the same principle: Tank, Bi-plane and Jet-Fighter.
TANK Tank can be considered the official home version of the arcade hit Tank, released in 1974 by Kee Games which was in fact a kind of Atari's subsidiary.
The principle is simple: two tanks facing each other in a death match. You must hit your oppponent as many times as you can in a limited time period (2min 16s)
The game lack the mines of the arcade version, but introduce many interesting variations: - different playfields: open field, easy maze or complex maze - GUIDED MISSILES: missiles can be controlled after you shot by moving the joystick left or right - TANK-PONG: the mssile will bounce off the walls and barriers - INVISIBILITY: you and your opponent are invisible to each other, except when a missile is fired, a hit is made, or when a tank bump into wall or barrier
All these options are mixed with each others to give a total of 14 game variations!
BI-PLANE Bi-plane is also a death match but between two "old" bi-planes engaged in a dog-fight. The action is viewed from the side.
Options include : - clouds or open skies - straight or guided missiles, or machine guns - 1 plane vs 1 plane, 2 planes vs 2 planes or 1 bomber vs 3 planes
It was largely inspired by the arcade game Biplane. The main difference being that there is no ground to crash onto, you can fly all over the screen.
JET-FIGHTER Jet-fighter is the same game as Bi-plane but with jet-fighters and viewed from top. It was a direct adaptation of the Atari arcade game Jet Fighter.
Combat was a pack-in with Atari 2600 consoles up until 1983, when it was replaced by Pac-Man. It was one of the original nine titles at the same time as the first Atari VCS hit the store shelves.
In an interview, Joe Decuir (Combat programmer) says: "Steve Mayer and Ron Milner conceived of the VCS, and designed the first prototype of its ancestor. I was hired in December 1975 to move to Grass Valley CA and make it all work. That included the display engine for what eventually became Combat (we called it Tank at the time. Later we added little jets and little biplanes). Ron Milner and Steve Mayer conceived of what became Combat; I was an implementer. I worked on it mostly as a test case for the hardware; the biggest contributions I made were figuring out how to add gates to make software work better, or to add code to allow hardware to be easier. Larry Wagner, who hired most of the early VCS programmers (including the founders of Activision and Imagic), made the Combat display engine into a lot more fun. Larry Kaplan helped him finish it after he completed Air-Sea Battle."