Counter-Strike Global Offensive Review
22nd Aug 2012 | 12:11
This is it, then - the next chapter in one of the greatest first-person multiplayer shooter franchises the PC has to offer, now with added console support.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tries to emerge from the meteor-sized shadows of the original 2000 Counter-Strike and the 2004 Source follow-up. It aims to satisfy the (often vocal) CS community, while also pulling in as many casual players as possible.
It's fair to say that developers Hidden Path and Valve have, to some extent, have succumbed to peer pressure in trying to fulfil these goals.
This could have been an altogether new experience in the Counter-Strike collection. It is not. Global Offensive is the same step-up that Counter-Strike Source was from the original 1.6 version. This is not a fully fledged sequel with oodles of new content and dozens of never-seen-before elements. This is Counter-Strike: Source with new visuals and gameplay tweaks.
Not that everyone will find this worthy of complaint. This is, after all, exactly what many CS enthusiasts wanted; the result of Valve expertly observing calls from its community and acting on them. The result, ultimately, should be more fittingly named Counter-Strike: Source Redux. It is mash-up of everything that CS has always stood for, but with additional elements that allow new players to enter the fray with less fear of being manhandled by veteran players.
If you are such a potential new player, Counter-Strike in a nutshell is this: Two teams vie for control of an enclosed game space. The terrorists will seek to plant a bomb in designated areas, while the counter-terrorists seek to thwart such plans. This is all done with guns and grenades.
If you're a big Call of Duty fan, it is likely that Counter-Strike will not sit well with you as much as you expect - at least at first. This is a famously merciless, harsh environment where you can be assassinated before you've even had time to fire off your weapon. Fire fights are usually over within seconds, and the old 'spray and pray' tactic simply does not work.
Counter-Strike makes you work to enjoy the content, and you'll have to put many hours of play into it before enjoying the feeling of conquering it.
Weapons are a huge part of the series too, with CS:GO not an exception. Each round provides a cash sum based on your previous performance, and with this you can purchase armour, projectiles and weapons. Firearms range from standard assault rifles to shotguns and sniper rifles, and you'll want to experiment with each one to see which works best.
What makes Counter-Strike such a popular series - and what will no doubt make CS:GO the next big PC shooter - is the thrill of the ego chase. As you die, often continuously, the frustration is outweighed by an aspiration to do better. In a game where success is pinned on attention to detail, death often triggers an internal failure analysis that the player will mull over while waiting for a new session to load. It becomes a spiral of egging yourself on to do better - and if you become a good player, the game becomes a stage for you to parade your skills.
Global Offensive builds on the CS series by going through a significant checklist presented by its community and marking off as many points as possible. Gun game as its own separate mode? Check. Competitive capabilities built in? Check. Map balancing here and there? Check, check, check.
As a result, there are numerous upgrades that will adjust gameplay while also making accessibility far better. The wide range of grenades, for example, will likely make play more tactical - laying down incendiary grenades will thwart rushes, while decoys, which fake gunfire and fool radar points, are brilliant tools for messing with the minds of established players.
The actual core shooting will be a huge talking point for many months to come. It has been tinkered slightly and gives weapons a noticeably floaty feel, which doesn't sit well to begin with. We eventually found ourselves enamoured by it, and the impact of hits add a real tactile distinction to play.
It's what doesn't work, however, that is most notable. Regular mode has no new maps added to it, while all the new guns seem somewhat cosmetic. Global Offensive has also removed some of its middling weapons such as the MP5, essentially pushing even more players to stick with the AK and the M4. Sometimes it gives the impression that there is in fact less valuable content than in previous CS releases.
If one assumed this was Counter-Strike Source with a visual mod installed, there would often be little to shake that impression.
There's also now a split between casual and competitive servers - however, many players aren't yet aware of the differences, mainly because the distinction isn't made obvious enough. It becomes even more confusing if you join a community server with all hosts of mods installed on it, which have perhaps taken casual mode, turned friendly fire on and essentially made it as close to Source as possible.
At times, arranging games in Competitive Mode feels like a chore. Joining a five-on-five war is simple enough, but attempt to lobby up with a group of friends and join a game, and you'll often hit a snag. Myself and a few others tried to find a competitive game with no luck, simply being told that no servers were currently available.
When you finally do join, it works fine, but the wait and work required to find a game seems like a drawback. We eventually gave up and resorted to using IRC to find matches, as we would with Source.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is not the key evolution point that we were hoping for, and the response from the community often reflects this view. On many occasions, other players used phrases such as "same old" to us.
This is elementally Counter-Strike Source with some fine-tuning under the bonnet, and Valve appears to have acknowledged this with the reasonable RRP attached to it.
And yet the core DNA of the game has not lost its appeal. This is still a glorious experience that sets a benchmark for all multiplayer shooters. Valve's objective with Global Offensive was to draw together the active communities of both the Source and trusty 1.6 edition. It clearly has a good chance.