Counter-Strike set the bar high for the FPS titles that followed it, but is this new version enough to go toe to toe with the new kings of the genre? Find out what's old, what's new, and if Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is worth picking up in our review.
- Great improvement in graphics
- Weapons course is surprisingly fun
- New modes are highly enjoyable
- Where's the new stuff?
- Still no ironsights
- How long until the new rating system kicks in?
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Review:
In many ways, the original Counter-Strike is one of the progenitors of the modern FPS. It has had far-reaching effects on the entire genre, ever since it first appeared as a mod to Half-Life in 1999, with Valve officially acquiring it and turning it into a standalone game in 2000. Since then, the game has been ported to different platforms and saw new content with Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and a major update with Counter-Strike: Source, both in 2004. Even though Source has been continually updated (most recently in May of this year), there hasn’t been a current-gen version of the game until now.
Meet The New Boss, The Same As The Old Boss
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive brings back this beloved franchise but it is not a sequel to any of the other titles. Instead it’s a graphic update to the franchise, with the only new additions being a handful of maps (they’ve redesigned and tweaked the old ones as well), character models, and the new game modes Arsenal and Demolition. If you’re expecting a deep campaign or radically different gameplay here, you won’t find it. Instead you’ll be playing the game that millions came to love in the early 2000s with a new skin on it.
Otherwise, there are only a handful of new additions to the game, which are fairly minor. There’s an incendiary grenade that spreads fire across a patch of ground, dealing damage to those caught in it, a new shotgun, a new heavy machine gun, some new pistols, and flashbang grenades that behave like those in Counter-Strike 1.6 – namely they don’t blind you if you look away from them. Also carrying over from Counter-Strike is the no-ironsights on weapons, which can be frustrating in a time where we’re extremely used to sighting down our weapons. You can zoom in with scoped weapons, but that’s it. The more things change. . .
Party (Up) Like It’s 1999
It was hard not to just have this review read like this – “It’s Counter-Strike! But with much better graphics!” Because, that’s essentially what you’re getting here. Not that you should expect anything less, but we were expecting just a tad more. Probably because Valve has a history of providing compelling single-player narratives. We hoped that they might have tacked on some campaign-like elements here, but the closest thing you’ll get to that is the Weapons Course, which features an unseen drill sergeant barking orders and humorous dialogue at you.
Otherwise, you’ll be playing the same Hostage and Defuse games, where the objective is to rescue hostages or defend against their rescuers, and to blow up objective, or keep them from being blown up. Right now, the game menu is populated only with the two new mode, Arms Race, Demolition, and Classic Casual (friendly fire is off), and Classic Competitive, where FF is on, and armor and defuse kits can be purchased.
Thankfully, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive appears to have migrated the Counter-Strike community to this new game, at least on the PC, where you won’t be called a douchebag every 30 seconds if you keep dying. Part of that should be due to a new ranking system introduced by Hidden Path, although during our week with the game, we kept getting tossed into games with players who were ranked incredibly far above us. It might take a few matches for the ranking to actually make a difference, much like the ladder system in Starcraft 2.
What’s Old Is New
The two new modes added to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are Arms Race and Demolition, which are actually just official additions of classic mods from Counter-Strike’s past. Arms Race, which rewards you with a new weapon with each kill, comes from the Counter-Strike mod Gun Game, which was co-opted into Call of Duty: Black Ops, while Demolition which is similar to Arms Race in that you get a new weapon at the end of each round, which involves killing the entire opposing team or completing an objective, is a descendant of Reverse Gun Game.
There are sixteen maps in the game, with eight of them being brand-new. There are reworks of classic maps like fan-favorite Dust (adding a much-needed side at the underpass), and some impressive brand-new maps like Bank, which features S.W.A.T. models on the counter-terrorist side going up against baddies outfitted like the heist crew from Michael Mann’s Heat. Definitely one of the highlights of this new game, and each match in Demolition mode usually plays extremely fast, which is great for quick matches.
Keyboard and Mouse vs. Controller and Calluses
For a whole generation of gamers, Counter-Strike was the title that underscored the fact that a keyboard and mouse could run rings around a game controller, giving you a tactical advantage and lightning-quick response times. But once PC-quality FPS experiences started migrating to consoles, the game controllers slowly moved up the chain of command, and many tried and true keyboard + mousers slowly abandoning their beloved peripherals for new options.
This was heavily underscored during my first full day with CS: GO, where I played only with a keyboard and mouse. But despite having a fairly new keyboard and mouse, I just couldn’t get back into the groove established earlier in life. Those pathways in my brain have been paved over, and now the neurons are channeled into a game controller. Which caused me to do something I never thought I’d do: plugging a 360 controller into my PC in order to play Counter-Strike. I cringed internally as my game improved immensely. The end of an era.
Luckily CS: GO supports both modes of play on the PC, and the PlayStation 3 version actually gives you the most options, allowing you to play with a controller, a keyboard and mouse, or even with the PlayStation Move. While I’m not sure will become anyone’s go-to mode for CS:GO, it’s nice to have options.
Strike or Struck?
Counter-Strike was a very addictive game when it first came out, and maintained the top spot on many competitive online gaming lists for quite some time. Back in the early 2000s, it was nearly impossible to go into an internet café and not see people competing in the game. It helped usher in the world of eSports, and with Global Offensive, Valve hopes to bring it back.
But while CS: GO is a slick looking upgrade to a game that sorely needed it, it still uses the Counter-Strike Source engine (a sign that Half-Life 3 might be further away than we’d like to think), and feels dated despite the upgraded graphics. The game started being developed back in 2010 by Hidden Path as port of Source to the Xbox 360, but Valve wanted to take it further and make it a totally new game. Unfortunately, what we’re left with still feels like Source on many levels.
Which isn’t to say that it’s necessarily a bad thing. You’re not paying for a full game when you purchase this title, and for $15 you’re getting a lot of bang (literally) for your buck. The online matches are still just as addictive, and the new modes are very welcome and hopefully a precursor of more to come. There’s a whole generation of gamers out there who have never experienced Counter-Strike, and CS: GO is a perfect introduction.
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Editor's Note: CS: GO was reviewed using a PC copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 and 360 versions, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the PC edition and the PS3 and 360 editions of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.