Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Review

It’s very hard to describe what first-person-shooters would be like without the original Counter Strike. If the FPS was born out of Doom’s sprite-hell in the late 90’s, Counter-Strike defined what a FPS should be even before Halo: Combat Evolved demonstrated the pinnacle of FPS on consoles. CS was a massive stepping stone for anything that came after it. It was all about the competitive spirit, the careful calibration of weapons, the tactics needed in order to win. Above all, it was about a PC community taking it in, absorbing it into a massive collective of clans, lone-wolfs and noobs, and taking over the FPS genre in the wee years of the new millennium. If you were a nerd with a good PC and a strong internet connection, chances are you were a Counter-Strike player.

Of course, many different titles have come to take over the genre, so much so that every other FPS wants to be the next refinement of the FPS landscape. Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Halo, Battlefield, and so on and so on. Each brings a new wrinkle to the format, something that advances gameplay in some way. Everything today is trying to be an evolution from that one Half-Life mod that took over the world of online FPS.

Except, Valve’s new Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is anything but evolutionary. In other words, this is a nostalgic look at the franchise through a new coat of paint.

It’s Counter-Strike Under All That New Paint

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is not going to redefine or advance what we know as Counter-Strike one bit. You still have the same formula as before. Kill people, get money, buy better weapons in the next round. Repeat. It’s classic CS. Nothing has changed in a drastic or dramatic way. For the people full of romantic memories of a misspent youth, you’ve tread this path before. If anything, CS:GO is a history lesson of where the modern shooter came from.

You wont find iron sights, or kill streak rewards, or anything remotely akin to the coddling, pat-on-the-back progression of ranking up here. If a congratulatory reward is your motivation for playing, you will be sorely disappointed. The only reward is survival and the chance to keep your hard earned M4 for one more round. That’s it.

You aren’t supposed to be an individual. No high marks, or shinny skins for your guns. You are in a team-based game that caters to players that are part of a cog in a machine. Be a lone wolf and you’ll be sitting around waiting for the next round to start more often than not. Learn that lesson well; welcome to the hive, you drone.

Of course, there will be times when CS carries it’s most frustrating traits over its previous incarnation. The AWP is still ridiculously overpowered. One lone person can reduce a match to a frustrating game of peekaboo, overtaking the game with a snipefest that will keep you from exposing yourself for long, less you want to be erased. The fact that there is no penalty for using scopes on sniper rifles is a glaring flaw that newer games address. Using a heavy sniper rifle should refrain you from keeping a steady sight when looking through the scope. Yet CS:GO still keeps your sights buttery smooth even while standing up or running. Games like SOCOM and Call of Duty evened things out by causing your sniper rifle to sway depending on the weight of the gun. In CS, there is no disadvantage, other than the fact that it’s a single-shot, but for a one hit kill, it seems too convenient not to use.

In this regard, I’d wish that Valve would update CS’s weapon balance. It’s an aspect that still stuck in 2001.

Thankfully, I haven’t seen too many games with the AWP pwonage. Most games are assault riffles affairs. Is this part that elevates CS from other games, and truly shines when you consider that spray patterns matter here.

You wont succeed if you run-n-gun, you’ll die. You wont hit anyone if you pray-n-spray, you’ll die. Don’t run guns blazing in. You. Will. Die. It’s all about control, and crouching, popping off small bursts of fire at your enemy, and maintaining a cool demeanor. In other words, don’t be a hero. It will get you killed.

The gun selection is a mish-mash of old and new. You’ll have your standard M4A1 for the counter-terrorists, and the AK47 for the bad guys. It would be a crime if this changed. Although, the lineup is shaken up as there is no MP5 to be found, and aside from a few additions (Molotov and incendiary grenades) and subtractions (no silencer for the M4) here and there, you’ll be hard press to remember what was left out and added in.

The important thing here though is that playing CS is still a very fun time. You may begin a game as a small passtime, but then be immersed and end up spending hours on it. The sign of any good game, even an old one as this one, is that you’ll always want to play…just…one…more…round. At its best, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive does this with aplomb.

It doesn’t all stay the same this time around.

Visually speaking, it is a markedly improvement over Counter Strike : Source. Each classic map gets a revamp and a few added tweaks to the formula by adding new routes and removing a crate here or there. It’s not a striking game, but considering how long in the tooth Source was looking, this is a nice upgrade from what we knew before, thought it’s nothing special.

At this juncture, the formula is intact, and if stopping at this point of the review, those looking for a solid Counter-Strike upgrade would be happy with this alone. Truth be told, most will. However, Valve went ahead and added new modes and maps to the mix. And this is where things start getting…different.

A Counter-Strike For the Masses

Where Valve tweaked things a bit is in the added modes of play. You still have the classic Demolition. Just like before, terrorist try to plant the bomb, and CTs try to stop them from doing so. The menus now split between Competitive and casual, allowing the determined to mingle with serious folk and those passing by to mingle with the less than competitive. In this regard, nothing has changed.

Except, since now the masses require a more immediate form of entertainment, meaning waiting around for a round to end to get back into the action might be too demanding for the impatient, things have changed a bit. Now, if there are bots playing along side humans, the dead can take over and play as the bot. It’s a change made to cater those who have been bred on re-spawn multiplayer games.

Although, it takes away from the risk-reward aspect of a one life to live of Counter-Strike. The more you take care of your life, the better the chances are when the opposition starts to lose theirs. Yet, with bots as vessels for the dead, it means that taking out the best player on the other side isn’t as rewarding since he/she can easily take over a bot and keep contributing to the opposition. In that case, that strategy is a moot point.

Taking that re-spwan aspect to the next level, there are a few more modes to chew on for those looking for a quick fix or something that mimics Call of Duty multiplayer. CS:GO now has a mode called Arms Race (another mod contribution of CS) that has a player racing to go through 27 levels of armaments. Each kill changes the weapon, and each weapon is a level. Go through all the levels finishing with the trusty knife, and you win.

Arms Race is a very frantic mode. Maps are accordingly small to keep the action flowing, and the spawn times are kept to a bare minimum. This is for those looking for a twitch shooter. It’s fast and simple. No objectives to get in the way. Although, you only have two maps to choose from, and none of the classic maps can be played in this mode. Bummer.

Demolition follows the same concept of classic CS of yore, except with a smattering of Arms Race mechanics. Each round appropriates a gun that will change the next round as soon as you kill someone. As in Arms Race, the firefights are rapid, but you’ll want to be careful as there is no re-spawn. It’s this mode that melds both what’s classic about CS and what’s modern about current FPSs.

All this brings up a good question, which is to whom is CS:GO actually trying to attract? If the inclusion of Arms Race and Demolition is more condition to console players, those more used to a fast-paced game, then players with a pedigree of CS: Source might scoff at this offering. But, at the same time, there are those old folks that have moved onto the console space, and maybe have fine-tuned themselves to such a fancy.

This also holds true to the in-game menu system, which employs a circular structure that screams the use of a joystick, not unlike those on a 360’s gamepad. This structure even holds true when moving from console to PC, where the game’s layout is similar to that of the console edition.

In truth, it seemed that Valve, by looking at the new modes and maps, and the new layout of menus, catered more to a console minded player. It’s mostly these additions, too, that will probably appeal to 360 owners, which brings to question how aggressive Valve will be with their FPS offerings in the future on consoles.

Counter-Terrorists Win

When looking at the whole package, most of us who’ve been involved with Counter-Strike in one form or another throughout the years, will feel the familiarity of the classic shooter. It’s a game for the thoughtful player that requires a little more skill, a little more patience, and just enough wit to stay alive.

How Valve has added those new modes, Arms Race and Demolition, it questions how much the franchise will change in order to bring in new players accustomed to a gamepad instead of a mouse and keyboard.

The game mechanics still exist the way we knew roughly ten years ago, but now it’s being sparkled up with bells and whistles that speak to the console player. If Counter-Strike is moving in a more outward direction, the best aspects of this FPS at least stay intact. That, the essence of Counter-Strike, is what’s best about CS:GO; it doesn’t neglect its roots, and it does so for new followers to appreciate.

For $15, you can’t go wrong.