Counter-Strike was originally a user-build modification of Valve’s Half-Life that saw its first public debut in 1999. Although just a rough beta, the mod caught on like wildfire. Through each new iteration of the title, the game became bigger and better. Eventually, it caught the eye of Valve who stepped in to help development as well as release a boxed version of the popular modification. Shortly after the release of Half-Life 2 in 2004, Valve upgraded Counter-Strike to the source engine, calling it Counter-Strike: Source. And now several years later, we have Counter-Strike: Global Offensive developed by Hidden Path Entertainment. They were already helping with Counter-Strike: Source, so going with them for this new edition was a no brainer. Over the years, Counter-Strike has become one of the most played online games and has helped shape the first-person shooter genre as we know it today. The original game is still being played by tens of thousands of people each day, consistently besting even the more recent Source version. Can Global Offensive maintain the high quality and fun that Counter-Strike is known for and get players of the original to finally upgrade?
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a first-person shooter that pits terrorists against counter-terrorists in a couple of traditional and new scenarios. The classic modes still are the bread and butter of the franchise. The classic mode has now been split into two slight variations, Classic Competitive and Classic Casual. The competitive variation is the exact mode from the original whereas casual helps dull the difficulty a bit. In casual mode, everyone always starts with full armor and counter-terrorists always possess defuse kits. The first of two classic scenarios is hostage rescue. Terrorists start with hostages and it is up to the opposing forces to rescue them. In the other scenario, the terrorists must arm a bomb at one of two locations and defend it until it until it detonates.
The core classic gameplay is still great but there are two minor issues. First off, there are no new maps for them bundled in this package. Most of the classics return and look fantastic but they are all over 10 years old. The other issue is that most games devolve into simply killing the other team, hostage rescue most particularly. But overall the gameplay still works great and the casual mode smoothes out the difficulty and money management to be more accessible and fun to others.
The new mode to this franchise is called Arsenal Mode and within it there are two gametypes. The first gametype is called Arms Race. This mode is essentially team deathmatch with a twist. Each kill immediately nets you the next gun in a list of 27 weapons. Once someone has made it through the entire list, the game is over and they’re crowned the winner. The next gametype is called Demolition. It’s a fast-paced defusal gametype with smaller maps and only a single bomb site on each. Just like in Arms Race, each kill nets you a new gun but instead of immediately getting it, you wait until the next round. Unlike Arms Race though, the winner is tied to victories on the map rather than progressing through the entire list of weapons. These two new gametypes are definitely interesting additions and are fun but are no real competition for the classic modes. At best, they can help add some additional fun on the side. At worst, I feel they distract thematically from the core franchise.
The gameplay still depends on a healthy dose of skill and luck. If you hit an enemy in a perfect location, you have yourself a kill. If your aim is off slightly, you can find your enemy gets out of the battle relatively unscathed. This is what Counter-Strike is all about though. When you’re on fire, you feel like you’re on top of the world. When you’re getting dominated, you feel like the game is cheap. Despite that feeling, you still crave to get back onto the high horse and dominate others. The game also works seamlessly with the Xbox 360 controller and while on PC it definitely puts you at a disadvantage, you would be surprised at how competent you can be with it. Overall, this is Counter-Strike. Some may squabble over some minor changes here or there but whether you started from the initial release or jumped in somewhere thereafter, the core gameplay still holds up surprisingly well.
The power of the Source engine is definitely showing its age but Counter-Strike: Global Offensive still looks quite good. The best part is the clean, uncluttered look of the game. It makes the enemies easier to see and the levels easier to navigate. Even the flash grenades use this philosophy and feel perfectly blinding without resorting to odd distortion effects that muddle the look of other contemporary games. The player models and weapons look great. The fire effects are what you come to expect from the Source engine, which is great. While it’s definitely showing a little age, the clean look makes for a pleasant experience anytime.
Counter-Strike is one of the few multiplayer titles where it is almost more important to use your ears than use your eyes. Managing and manipulating your sound output can provide a great advantage over a player than does not do so. This has to be supported by a solid sound design and the developers here have done a good job. It has been fleshed out a bit more from the original with some small pieces of forgettable music to provide a more cinematic flair but it is easily turned off in the options if you choose for it to not interfere with listening in the game. Overall, for a lot of games the sound design is there to enhance the experience but few can say that sound is a decent portion of the gameplay. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the few and it does it quite well.
While the familiarity makes you feel at home, the new subtle touches keep the game fresh. The addition of new modes is nice but they feel at odds thematically when put up against the classic modes. And while the game feature 16 maps, all the new ones are for the new arsenal maps and the rest are remakes for classic mode. I would’ve rather had new modes along the counter-strike theme. At a bare minimum it would have been nice to have a straight-up team deathmatch mode since that is how a lot of casual players seem to play the game. Despite this, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive feels surprisingly good for what is essentially feels like a remake of a mod from over 10 years ago. People who played the original may feel a little too at home considering all the classic maps are simply remakes but the prices helps to mitigate that significantly. If you want your Counter-Strike fix, this is your avenue.