- Addictive gameplay still holds up
- New and more accessible game modes
- Effective matchmaking services
- Graphics are less than cutting-edge
- Still rough on newcomers
- Review Price: £11.99
Is Counter-Strike still relevant? We’re not asking the question of you, the hardcore CS fan, or of you, the would-be e-sports champion. You’re either going to tell us that it always is, always has been and always will be, or you’re going to waffle on about how it hasn’t been any good since the glory days of Counter-Strike 1.6. No. I’m asking the question on behalf of those who haven’t played Counter-Strike since Counter-Strike: Source hit in 2005 (or classic Counter-Strike 1.6 before that) or those who haven’t even played it ever before. In a world of Battlefield and Modern Warfare, is there still a place for the pioneering competitive FPS?
It’s a question worth asking, because Global Offensive isn’t so much a sequel as a remake. The basic gameplay – one team of terrorists vs. one team of counter-terrorists, fighting either over a bomb or over a bunch of dozy hostages – hasn’t changed. Indeed, play the game in its classic competitive or casual modes, and you’ll still find the same maps, albeit with the odd minor change for balance reasons. Matches are still divided into rounds, and dying puts you out of the current round, sitting, spectating from the sidelines until the next one begins. You still use money earned for kills and victories in one round at the start of the next to buy guns, grenades and/or armour, and the general look and feel hasn’t really changed. In fact, Global Offensive is arguably closer to classic Counter-Strike than Counter-Strike Source was.
The big change, of course, is in the graphics. Global Offensive has had its version of the Source engine upgraded to take in all the lighting and surfacing effects introduced through Half Life: Episode Two, Portal II and Left 4 Dead. Meanwhile, the maps, guns and character models have been upgraded to make a little more use of the power of modern consoles and PCs. We’re still not talking Crysis levels of detail. There’s more detail to the textures, the figures and the architecture, but it all looks suspiciously clean. While you’ll spot some beautiful little touches in the smoke trails, the shadows and the blood spatters, you’ll still note how vegetation doesn’t move or the water looks a bit old-hat. In a way, Global Offensive’s style is a good thing, cutting out distractions and allowing those with more modest PCs to enjoy the game. All the same, this is hardly a cutting-edge game.
The action remains, as ever, beautifully balanced but brutally difficult. While awards are doled out for kills in the form of achievements and cash rewards, there are no perks or kill streaks and no persistent advantages to levelling up. If you haven’t played for a while you’ll find yourself getting trashed by players who know the tricks and the maps better than you, and it takes a certain level of persistence not to give up and crawl back to the Battlefield or Modern Warfare threequels. Valve has implemented a new matchmaking system, designed to fit you with players of your own skill level, but while this gives you a fighting chance it doesn’t remove the steep difficulty curve entirely. You will get better, but it’s going to take some time, some practice, and some experience against other players.
Luckily, Global Offensive is replete with ways to get all three. First, you can practice against bots, using the time to get a feel for the controls and learn the maps, the choke-points and the sneaky routes to hostages and bomb sites without the humiliation of fighting against someone who’s happy to inform you how badly you suck.
Secondly, Global Offensive has two more accessible new modes of play. Arms Race, derived from the old Gun Game mod, is a simple team deathmatch variation. Killing other players earns you a new level and a new gun, and the winner is the first player to go through all the levels and use all the guns. The maps are smaller and designed specifically for fast-paced mindless violence, and this mode allows respawning, so noobs don’t have to spend all their time watching other players play. It’s a great way to get used to the basic look and feel.
Meanwhile Demolition combines classic Counter-Strike with Arms Race. There’s no respawning this time, but smaller, tighter maps and the same kill to get new guns mechanic make it faster and more action packed than standard Counter-Strike. Rounds have a nice, low time limit, and the great thing about both Arms Race and Demolition is that the guns you earn aren’t necessarily better. There’s some nice balancing when someone who has dominated the game through long-range fire suddenly has to fight with a pistol or a shotgun while weaker players are still fielding assault rifles and SMGs. Global Offensive remains a game of skill with little space for the spray-and-pray approach, but there’s now room for new players’ skills to grow.
Many of those new players will be experiencing Counter-Strike on a console. Having played the game years ago on PC, it’s a bit of a shock playing with an Xbox 360 controller, and with no auto-aim or iron-sights and less precision, even experienced Counter-Strike players may find the going tough. Still, while there’s no question that Counter-Strike feels and looks better and more natural on PC, it’s still a worthy buy for console gamers. It’s stripped-back, skill-focused approach and blistering pace give it a different feel to Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare.
On PC Global Offensive sees Counter-Strike return with better looks but the same feel that made it great back in 1999. New modes and options make it a bit more accessible to beginners, but for PC gamers of a certain generation this will be the most exciting comeback since The Stone Roses. Console gamers might miss the nostalgia factor, and analogue pads and killer accuracy don’t exactly go hand in hand. Yet Counter-Strike’s virtues still shine through. It’s challenging, addictive and – yes – still as relevant today as ever.
|Genre||First Person Shooter|