Valve have a habit of encouraging and embracing community mods and just over 12 years ago a mod for the popular Half Life title helped spawn one of the dominant PC shooters of all time Counter Strike. Up until now Valve have kept their flagship FPS firmly on the PC (and the Mac to a lesser extent), but with the release of Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) they have finally taken a punt in the console market.
To my Shame I have never played a Counter Strike title before so I decided to really test this title by playing it on its home format the PC. Firstly the download from steam was easy to use and quick to complete even for a novice like me. Although this is not a direct reflection of the title its ease of access is important in enticing new players into what can be a pretty hard core title. This is also helped by the price of the title at around a tenner to buy even if you do not like the game it’s not that much of a hit to the wallet.
Continuing with the ease of access theme the game is set up to be used with a traditional Mouse and Keyboard as well as with a Controller. As a PC FPS virgin I played my first few games with my controller and then moved on to utilise my keyboard and newly acquired Rat 3 gaming mouse. The level of control you get from the mouse is head and shoulders above the controller and this brought about a whole new gaming experience for me making the gameplay feel fresh and appealing.
The last point for the novices out there is the offline play mode. Map Knowledge is one of the key aspects in every FPS, if you know the lines of sight it can make both attack and defence that much easier. So Valve has added this mode so you can practice without the fear of getting owned in online play. You can control the difficulty of the bots allowing you to get acquainted with the maps and the way the guns handle in the easier modes. As you improve although it’s fun to own the bots it’s better to increase the difficulty to give you a better idea about the perils of online play. Also don’t forget weapons training to help integrate you with the basic controls of the game.
Counter Strike has always focused on gameplay as opposed to graphics and perks and this title is no different. Although the graphics are a step up from earlier versions they are still a step down from Call of Duty and Battlefield. The main reason to bring this up is after the first few rounds you forget about the graphics and concentrate on the gameplay. The tension created by the lack of respawns mixed with the high level of competition makes you focus on trying to win (or survive in my case) as opposed to the way the wind blows through the trees. The other point about the lower res graphics is that you do not need an expensive gaming rig to play. My PC is unable to run Battlefield 3 at its full resolution and this can create a disadvantage if you are engaging in a long distance sniper battle. Counter strike allows a more even playing field and the difference then becomes skill not finances.
There are three main games modes within the game each with their own play pattern and play list. The modes are;
- Arms Race
Arms Race is a take on Deathmatch where you are rewarded with a new gun for every kill you make. The idea is that you progress through various weapons of increasing handling difficulty until you have to make the final kill with a Golden knife. There are 27 levels in all and you always have a knife attached. If you get a kill with the blade you increase your rank as well as decreasing the victims rank, this should make Onlyusemeblade very happy. It’s a great mode similar to Gun master on BF3 and Gun game on COD.
Demolition puts you in the shoes of either a terrorist or counter terrorist. You level up by making kills and are rewarded at the start of the next round with a new weapon (you can also gain a grenade if you make more than one kill). There are slight variations on the weapons you are rewarded depending on what team you are playing for but the name of the game is balance. You win by making kills but can also be handicapped if get a weapon that you are not used to handling. That’s why practicing in offline mode with as many weapons as you can play dividends in the end. The name of the game is to either plant or prevent the detonation of a bomb depending on the faction you are playing for its best out of 20 rounds so a game can last quite a while.
Classic has two game types’ bomb defusal and hostage takedown split into two variations classic and casual. The game types are a variation on the same theme one side trying to complete an objective and the other trying to defend games can also be won by eliminating the opposition squad. It plays a lot like demolition the difference being at the start of the round you buy guns and equipment from the money you earned in the previous round by completing tasks such as kills and plants to name but two. The major change is the game variations with casual being just that less rounds with the removal of friendly fire and player collision and classic integrating the hardcore perils bak into the game as well as extra victories need for the win.
The longevity of the game comes from the tactical play as well as the community modding. For the game to remain successful it needs an active community producing interesting ways to play the game and these are already being produced and released. The creativity of the users is the making and breaking of titles like this but with 12 years of solid support I cannot see Counter Strike going anywhere.
Counter strike will not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you like tactical shooters that focus on gameplay and balance then this is the game for you. At this time all my experience is with the PC version but when it becomes available for PS3 in the UK I will be picking it up to do some comparisons and if the PS3 version is as good as the that on the PC i will have found my new partner for BF3.
Game available on PS3 (not in Europe at time of writing) PC and XBOX360
Buy It/Don’t Buy It = Buy
Will you play it 12 months later? = Yes due to its modding capabilities
Game received from Valve
Images from promotional material for the game.