Multiplayer FPS has restored the king to his rightful throne. All hail!
Here it comes, the blurb. You know, that bit that tells you all about how Counter Strike started as a mod, and went on to become the biggest multiplayer game in yaddayaddayadda. But in truth, there’s only three reasons anyone is reading this – they are either confirming their belief that their favourite game has just gotten better, they are intrigued by reminiscent thoughts of summers lost to fast-paced team battles, or have always wanted to know about Counter-Strike but were afraid to dip their toe. Well, here’s the good news boys and girls – Valve didn’t screw it up, they didn’t change too much, and yet they did release the most accessible and varied flavour of Counter Strike there is. And all because of a need for a console version – don’t forget to thank the fanboys, guys.
So, to the first readers – you’ve already pre-bought the game, and you will swear it’s the greatest multiplayer title ever and have already racked up an obscene amount of hours in beta. Good for you, but this review isn’t for you. All I can say is, you are quite probably right. Thanks for taking the time, but feel free to skip down a couple of paragraphs to find out about the new modes now your blood has settled.
The returning heroes? Well, you know how when you play a game after some time, the sheen is a bit dulled? You know, Silent Hill 2 turned out to be clunky, or the original Medal of Honor wasn’t that innovative. Well, that simply isn’t the case here. CS:GO is a wonderful overhaul that has your favourite maps (yes, Dust and Dust_2 are here) buffed up to look bang tidy, whilst only slightly tweaking original layouts and nuances. You’ll feel very at home here – just be aware that you might need a bit of time to get back into the swing of things.
Newcomers, then – what is this Counter Strike of which we speak, and why does it carry such hushed tones of reverence? Well, simply put, it’s the big daddy of competitive online gaming – Classic mode (where most gamers will be living out the kind of gameplay lifespans normally attributed to MMOs) is a fast, furious gameplay treat which condenses all the nuances of such behemoths as COD multiplayer into two minute repeated rounds. Joining terrorists or counter-terrorists, the aim is simple – move fast, shoot faster, work together and watch your back. No respawns, no classes, and only a rudimentary levelling system – every match starts with a round of pistols only, and kills and wins give you money to spend on gear for the next round. Nothing carries over, and the objective is always the same; score an objective (plant/defuse a bomb, or rescue the hostages), or simply kill the entire opposing team.
If all you have ever experienced is Call of Honor 3: Bad Company, hold on to your butt, cos CS is the faster, sleeker, tricksier older champion that your big brother forgot to mention to you.
It’s flipping brilliant, and CS:GO has really honed the gameplay to a fine point – each level has its nooks, crannies and deliberate shortcuts to create a map where it’s very hard to get too far from the action, and yet the no-respawn gameplay means that every move is tense and fraught with nerves. And yet, each round is so quick, you aren’t out of the action too long, and the added intelligence of being able to watch the seasoned players duke it out means every moment is spent learning how to catch up. And you will need to learn a lot – CS has one of the most seasoned and fervent communities in gaming, and with such simple rules it really is all about skill. It’s also worth dropping in a line about the matchmaking – Valve’s typically brilliant matchmaking means you’ll never be far form a game, whether you want to hook p with mates or simply drop into whatevers going.Just try going back to your yearly franchises after a couple of hours on this bad boy
So, what’s new? Well, firstly, the graphics are up there with the best Source games out (Left 4 Dead 2, or even pushing towards Portal 2). Everything looks really good – perhaps not Crysis good, but still nicely shiny and clear. Team models mean that it’s easy to spot whether that bloke in the distance is yours or theirs, and the levels now have a lived-in feel, thanks to the classic Valve care and attention. Strangely, it looks and feels like you remember, and yet also looks fully up to date. 3D mode is great too, looking as sharp and clear as any other recent Source title – fantastic. The sounds are also more of the same, and add some excellent punch to weapons and areas. Have a firefight in a corridor and your ears will really ring.
More new stuff includes a decent training course (for those who have never played at all), controller support (sacrilege!), radial in-game weapon menus (which are actually much better than the old lists) and some additional game modes. First up is Classic Casual, which is more of the same gameplay but with the edges sanded down – a little more health, cheaper weapons, generous cash handouts and the newbs have a little more time to settle in. In fact, it’s worth really spending a good amount of time here, learning maps, working out gameplay rules and generally swotting up on how to survive. You’ll want it when you are ready to step up to the big boys game.
Other new modes are Arms Race and Demolititon – in arms race, each kill gives you a new weapon, and the aim of the game is to get a kill with every last one. The final kill is a knife kill, meaning that the mode is a lot of fun – more than once I have seen a match end up with a race to be the first to stab a newb, and it’s great fun to watch (I’m not good enough to manage a win, yet). Demolition takes the classic bomb defusal mode and adds the weapon switching twist – kills give you better guns for the next level. The new modes are fun, but in truth, feel a little flabby – sometimes it’s fun to dip in, but the real meat is in Classic modes, and you’ll quickly be jumping back before you know it. However, for now they are also the only place where old timers will find new maps too – fair enough, I suppose, considering the ludicrously low entry price.
CS:GO is yet another Valve Classic (do they ever make anything other than classics?) – tight, seasoned gameplay which manages to be fun when you are losing and thrilling when you are winning. There is no greater example of yet-another-go gameplay – short rounds and small improvements mean you’ll never get tonked with a skilful grenade launcher, but will smile when you get sniped in the same spot three times. CS:GO forces you to learn, to improve, and every kill feels fantastic. Don’t be put off by the 13-year community – they don’t tolerate ragey kids or stupid behaviour, but if you are prepared to join in properly, you’ll never run short of people teaching you how to improve without realising. Just try going back to your yearly franchises after a couple of hours on this bad boy – you’ll realise why the whole FPS multiplayer market got so popular in the first place.
And if, like me, it’s been some time since you played, oh man, you’ll never feel a nostalgia rush like it. See you in Nuke – I’ll be hiding in the crates by the bombsites……
The Good: Classic gameplay, tweaked to the point of perfection; all your favourite maps tidied up to become awesome; new game modes and menu structures; insanely cheap price for such a brilliant slice of gaming; low requirements means it runs on nearly anythingThe Bad: If you never liked it before, you probably still won’t; although better looking, still not really up to today’s AA titles.
Gold Y Award