Review: Counter Strike: Global Offensive
It's been eight years since Counter Strike: Source launched and attempted to better the mighty CS 1.6, and what happened there was a split in community of old school and new school. Now, it's time for an upgrade, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive is the answer to that. Does it do the job?
- Worth The Time?Obviously, and for this price you'd be mad to pass it up, even if you prefer the original 1.6 or Source.
- Things LovedThe price, the new look, everything that makes Counter Strike great has been preserved, the new weapons, the new radial menu for buying gear, the guns, the HUD is great, the visuals are clean and attractive and fresh, the new Demolition game mode, the performance of the game is excellent.
- Things HatedThere are some little features missing such as spray painting logos and the free cam when you die, CS: GO isn't as content-packed as its predecessors because it will take time for old and new features and maps to arrive, the Arms Race mode isn't that fun, console versions only support 10 players.
- RecommendationIf you like Counter Strike and you have a PC, there shouldn't be a moment's hesitation to get this especially at such an affordable price. You could maybe justify the PS3 version as it supports mouse and keyboard, but the console versions especially in community will be inferior. It's too difficult to determine how long their lifespans will be, or if they will even last until the end of the year. The PC version is where it's at, and it's a must-buy.
- Name: Counter Strike: Global Offensive
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Players: 1-32
- Multiplayer: Online (32 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Valve Corporation, Hidden Path Entertainment
- Publisher: Valve Corporation
- Price: $14.99 (about R125)
- Reviewed On: PC
It’s been eight years since Counter Strike: Source launched and attempted to better the mighty CS 1.6, and we know the story of what happened there. There was a split in community of old school and new school between the two games. Now, it’s time for an upgrade, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive is Valve’s and Hidden Path Entertainment’s answer to that. However, this time Valve has decided to take the series to consoles as well, which is completely new territory and in all honesty, not a move I have faith in. I don’t really recommend the console versions just yet, as it’s quite alien for the series and playing a game all about pin-point precision with a controller doesn’t sound as thrilling. The PS3 version supports mouse and keyboard as well as Move, but the console versions only support 10 player matches and you just won’t get the same awesome experience that you will on PC. Essentially, be wary of or avoid the console versions entirely for now, but the PC version is definitely a must-buy.
If you’ve played Counter Strike before, you’ll know exactly what to expect here, as it’s the same game at heart with nothing major changed. If you’re new, then this would be the perfect place to start. But you won’t really find an online shooter that challenges you as much as this one does. There are two teams, the Counter Terrorists and the Terrorists, and each team will simply be tasked with eliminating the other and with opposite objectives, whether it be the Terrorists planting a bomb or keeping hostages away from the Counter-Terrorists. You’ll buy weapons and equipment through a new and fantastic radial menu at the beginning of each round, and earn money for kills and winning rounds. Each round will last about two and a half minutes, and if you die you won’t respawn until it ends. This is a game all about tactics, precision, knowledge of the game and the maps and a damn steady hand. If you’re a newcomer, you’ll need a lot of practice before you dive into the deep end, and for long-time players, it will take a bit of time to adjust to the new feel of GO, but you’ll recognize the core of it like an old friend.
At purchase, you’ll get nine classic maps in CS: GO, in addition to eight new maps to compensate for the two new game modes, Demolition and Arms Race. The long-time player may notice a few minor differences to certain classic maps like Dust or Italy, but most maps are exactly as you love them and it won’t really force you to change up your play style. They certainly look fantastic. For newcomers, you’ll need to make sure you memorize these maps as best as you can, because you’ll need to watch your back and know where possible threats can come from. You’ll also need to be aware of the noise you make at all times, because someone with half-decent headphones will be out to listen for you. Yes, these sorts of things matter because not only is Counter Strike a highly tactical game, but it’s also a game where it only takes a few well placed shots, or just a good headshot, to bring you down.
The game wraps up its modes in two main offers, namely Casual Classic and Competitive Classic. The Casual mode allows for more than 5 players on a team, and makes things a bit simpler for players, as you’ll always have full armour equipped at the beginning of each round, Counter Terrorists will receive a free Defuse Kit, and it’s interesting to note that the kits are double the price in CS: GO, and things like Friendly Fire and Body Collision will be off, which means you can run through players and won’t be able to block each other. It can be useful, but it can also be quite lame because you won’t be able to boost your buddies onto boxes to get them to good vantage points. Competitive Classic, on the other hand, is quite different and encourages teamwork. It only allows for five-on-five match ups, and in this mode you obviously don’t get free armour and a free Defuse Kit. You can get blocked by teammates, Friendly Fire is on and one of the new weapons, the Tazer, is not available in this mode.
In addition to the standard Counter Strike modes that involve the bomb or hostages, and Gun Game, I mentioned that there are two new modes, Arms Race and Demolition. Both of them are variations of Gun Game, which you may recognise from recent Call of Duty titles, but in case you’re not in the know, Counter Strike’s Gun Game was where it started and it’s been around for years. Basically, you start out with a weak gun, and as you kill your gun upgrades. If you kill an enemy with a knife, they downgrade a level and you upgrade one. The idea is to get to the end of the arsenal and kill an enemy with the final weapon to win. Now the two new modes try to mix this up. Arms Race allows you to respawn, so you don’t stay dead for the remainder of a round when you die. It’s fast paced, and is a change from the norm. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel right, and there are only two maps available for it, so you probably won’t play this. But Demolition is a great addition, and a blast to play. It joins Gun Game with classic Bomb maps, and of course the weapon rules of Gun Game apply, except you stay dead until the end of the round and instead of killing your way until the final weapon the mode functions like a normal Bomb map. The six maps on offer are really great, and since they’re smaller and more central, featuring only one bomb site each, matches are usually more intense. Let’s hope more maps get added to this mode.
With regards to gameplay, players will definitely notice the new weapons, changes to existing weapons and removal of certain old weapons. For example, there is no longer the Colt M4A1 or Tactical USP with silencers, and on that note there aren’t any weapons with silencers at all. Counter Terrorists now get the M4A4, which is similar to the old weapon bar its feel and lack of silencer. But it must be said that the new weapons are pretty great, and they include a new shotgun, new grenades, new machine guns and pistols and the Tazer. The Tazer is only available in Casual modes, and it’s basically the new troll weapon. It’s quite useless in serious play since you literally have to be on top of someone to hit them with it, but if you do it’s an instant kill and it’s quite fun to try and get someone with it.
The new grenades are the best addition for me. There’s now the Incendiary Grenade for Counter Terrorists, Molotov Cocktail for Terrorists, and the Decoy grenade. The former splash an area with fire that quickly damages and slows any who touch it, and it works great for spitting your enemies, blocking off certain areas or stopping rushes. If there’s a common camping spot which you need to clear when entering a bomb site, these grenades are very useful as prolonged exposure will eliminate half the enemy’s health without asking questions or taking names. Lastly, the Decoy grenade is an interesting addition, and while it hasn’t really found its place yet, it has loads of potential. Especially if it’s a two on one situation. Basically this grenade, when deployed, will throw off “gun shots” which sound similar to that of the Desert Eagle pistol. It might be useful to throw to distract someone, thinking that their teammate is under fire. Of course with the new radar system, one can see when a teammate engages on an opponent, so it’s only really suited to trick new players into moving from one point to another. Until this finds a use on a more ‘professional’ level, it’s a somewhat pointless addition to the game.
The recoil on all weapons in GO has changed dramatically. The recoil is definitely a bit more realistic now, and it will take getting used to. Controlling your gun and getting your shots on target takes a bit more practice. For example, the AK-47 is tough to control when spraying, and the M4A4 is similarly inaccurate when in open fire. But as usual, the best thing you can do is fire bullets in bursts, three to five at a time, to get the most accuracy out of your gun, because unless you’re point blank, spraying bullets will make it very hard to be accurate due to the recoil. Also, CS: GO has pretty decent hit-boxes. Almost nine times out of ten, your bullet will go where you fire it and if you hit your target, you’ll hit it where you aimed. So, if you’re rightfully aiming for the head, there’s a great chance that it will hit the enemies head allowing for a quick and easy kill. This is relevant because the issue of hit-boxes and bullets not hitting where they should was a major problem with Counter-Strike: Source, especially when it first released. In Source you could opt to shoot in the general direction of enemies, and you could land a kill. In GO, you’ll need to be a lot more accurate. This goes ways in bringing back the accuracy factor players enjoyed in Counter-Strike 1.6. To be frank, Source made the game easier whereas GO attempts to make things more difficult with proper accuracy requirements, similar to that of 1.6.
Despite all the praise I’ve given CS: GO, there are some omissions from it that are a bit unfortunate. Firstly, you can’t spray paint logos and use the free look camera to survey the entire map when you die. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something you’d rather have in than not. The more relevant observation is that Counter Strike is a game modders build up over time and because GO has just released, older players may find it lacking features. While I don’t think it’s fair to bash the game for this, as it will take time for the modders to arrive and the community to grow, it is something worth mentioning, that there is a transitioning phase and GO needs time to get all those maps and exciting content back. Right now, you’ll also miss little spoils like detailed damage reports and server rankings.
Also, while a lot of the more ‘professional’ players aren’t entirely happy with CS: GO just yet, there’s a massive chance that a “Pro Mod” could be released for players who want to play more seriously. The professional players aren’t too convinced by the game for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it’s new and it isn’t 1.6. While the game is a bit more flashy, and perhaps a bit different speed-wise, it is still viable for professional play. The way the bullets hit and work first-time, makes it great. Like anything new, it takes a bit of getting used to and to settle, and to rule it out initially is unfair and silly. Valve asked for a lot of feedback from players, and as time goes by, they are changing the game to suit the players and what they want. The game has changed drastically from its Beta stage, to the point where it’s actually completely different. The future could see it being everything players wanted.
However, if that doesn’t happen, a Pro Mod might be the solution where the decals are toned down a bit. I highly doubt the play, or movement speed, will be made any quicker as it seems fine the way it is. It’s quicker than Source and somewhat on-par with 1.6. The maps will undergo a bit of change for competitive play, as they aren’t exactly suitable just yet. As you can guess, the idea of change is not what people wanted. However, despite that, GO is a game which will be played at the Electronic Sports World Cup later this year, so it’s up and coming. If professional play isn’t what you’re looking for, that’s alright. The will be a Zombie mod as well. As you’d guess, zombies are popular and it will require a bit of skill to get these guys down. Valve and Hidden Path has kept the true nature of Counter-Strike by allowing players to add and create various modifications. A Zombie mod is one of these.
Of course, it’s easy to notice the complete visual makeover GO has received, and I personally find it to be fantastic. The visuals are clean and crisp, the character models and guns are excellently detailed, and the classic maps look fresh despite remaining the same at heart, although they haven’t really received a major visual upgrade. On the note of character models, you don’t get to pick from a selection anymore, but rather there are different sets of models for each map, and it does enough for variety’s sake. Overall, the visuals are pleasing to look at and do enough justice to Counter Strike, but they won’t amaze you. But look, if you’re going to compare this to, say, Battlefield 3, you won’t exactly come away impressed, but if you look at it as Counter Strike, you’ll enjoy the visuals, and the game definitely deserves credit for its fantastic performance even with settings on the highest.
To go into detail about the feel of play of the console versions, as it’s a first for the series, even though I said avoid them, I have to say Valve and Hidden Path did a good job. The controller for GO, at least when connected to a PC, works quite well. You’re free to configure the buttons, but the standard setting has one of the bumper buttons spin you 180 degrees, meaning a reflex shot is possible. If someone is behind you, you can push the bumper button, aim and fire. So you don’t have to use the analogue to turn around. With the analogues, the walking and running is speed sensitive, meaning you can push it all the way up to run, and gently move it to walk. Essentially, you have more movement control than a keyboard where you can just run and walk. Buying guns is also easy, as the buy menu has been developed specifically for controllers. Simply move the analogue into the direction of the weapon category, or weapon, which you want and select it. Jump, crouch, scoreboard, change weapons, use and so on are all bound to the controller. It has everything you need. The only issue with the controller, for those from PC, will naturally be the aiming, although some may prefer this. Also just to note, no console version has split-screen play as originally noted. Perhaps this might come in a future update.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive offer players various sound options, with 5.1 surround, stereo and various speaker or headset options available. While each and every setting makes a difference to what and how things are transmitted over the audio channels, there seems to be a much larger problem here. Global Offensive seems to mix sound up quite a bit, where far footsteps sometimes sound really close or they are in the completely wrong direction. The point of 5.1 surround-sound becomes completely irrelevant as distant footsteps sound as if they are on top of you, meaning it’s unfortunately quite useless. Naturally, as players get closer it’s easier to hear and find which direction they’re coming from. Even with the standard stereo modes. However, coupled with a lot of action, distant and nearby footsteps are somewhat problematic. Valve has and are constantly working on this to improve the sound, as it’s not nearly ideal just yet. But I’m sure in time it will get fixed up and work the way it should.
In closing, Counter Strike: Global Offensive is faithful to what makes this series great. It’s a continuously growing project, and it will take quite some time to reach the heights of what came before it, but it has potential and in its current state it’s a really great experience and a very fun game, if not just lacking some content. It’s awesome to play, it’s cheap, and it’s an opportunity to attract newcomers, but naturally it’s at the mercy of its community, and we’ll have to see how it does as time goes by. Still, if you’re looking to get the PC version, for this price I’d say you’d be mad not to pick it up.