Valve certainly has no shortage of gamers still coming back for Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike: Source, which attracts both casual players and those who want to try and etch their name into the still-active professional gaming scene. Now, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive aims to bring a streamlined and graphically-enhanced edition of the game to players around the globe – but does this latest iteration also manage to stay true to the core successes of the sacred franchise?
While the launch version of the game contained more than a few bugs, Valve was able to quickly deliver patches to bring what is now a very smooth experience to both PC and console gamers. Global Offensive offers an updated graphics engine to the Counter-Strike series, attempting to attract a new generation of gamers with a more accessible title for both console and computers – and the fact that it was designed for both during production has its own pros and cons.
Global Offensive brings in fresh versions of well-known maps, weapons and game-modes that older players will certainly remember. Bundled with 17 maps total (including 9 classics), there’s plenty of room for nostalgia when exploring a now exceedingly-detailed de_dust or admiring the new cracked window physics in cs_office. While fan-favorites like cs_militia and cs_assault are curiously absent (impending DLC, anyone?), Valve has done a tremendous job in regards to updating the maps – while retaining the vibrancy and atmosphere that helped them stand out. The new bomb defusal and hostage rescue maps are nicely designed and feature a lot of tactically-heavy areas, despite their comparatively short size.
Valve and developers Hidden Path also made the decision to include gungame, a fan-favorite custom gamemode, as an official feature of CS:Go entitled Arms Race. The idea behind this mode is that to win, gamers must get a kill with every single weapon in the game – and finish with the infamous knife kill. Valve made a few official maps to compliment this mode, but they just don’t capture the atmosphere of the fan-made maps – perhaps because Valve decided that players should spawn relatively spaced out over the map, instead of in a team-specific centered spawn zone. There’s also Demolition, which is essentially gun-game without respawns, and as the name implies, involves planting/defusing the bomb. It’s a simple twist to Arms Race, but carries over the same faults its predecessor included.
Speaking of weapons, Global Offensive brings a recognizable palette for veterans – with some very minor changes to the line-up (the TMP is now an MP9, the M4 can’t have a suppressor, etc). Molotovs and decoy grenades offer more tactics to throwable weaponry – with the ability to block paths with flames that make new strategies viable. The majority of the weapons remain unmodified, allowing for returning players to jump in the game and find their usual rhythm. The addition of custom voices to go along with the usual commands adds a nice touch of personality to each team, who have brand new skins to match the graphics of the game (sadly, the Leet Krew skin is completely absent from Global Offensive).
While actually playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is very close to the Source experience, it’s just different enough to force gamers into making some mental adjustments. Matches can still be over in 30 seconds, and each bullet truly counts. Communication between team members can make or break matches, whether it’s calling for cover fire or organizing a rush to Bombsite B. While there are no modified servers online, regular servers (with set map rotations, unfortunately) can be found in abundance. Also, it’s easier than ever to join a party of online friends. While it wasn’t hard before, the ability to join a lobby with a select group allows for much more organization when playing with friends. The scoring system is now much more functional as well, with a much cleaner design and scoreboard.
The bots of CS:GO seem to have lost the edge of the Source bots, consistently getting clogged in hallways and generally providing less of a fight on higher difficulties than their predecessors. However, Go has the handy feature of allowing players who have been killed to control a bot, which makes gameplay go by much faster and prevents people from getting bored waiting for a new round. It’s a fantastic addition to the game, and tremendously improves both online and offline play in regards to bot-populated servers.
The radial buy menu will feel like a compromise between PC and console gamers. It evidently makes things easier with a controller, but is still very nested and awkward on the computer. Granted, most avid Counter-Strike players will be using numbered shortcuts anyway, but it’s a good example of one of the game’s biggest challenges – making the game work on consoles, but still retaining the playstyle of the PC edition. The drawback here is that despite Valve’s previous efforts, Counter-Strike was never a series that could be properly played on consoles – the speed of mice-based players allowed for gameplay that an Xbox controller could never hope to match. Still, Hidden Path has done a great job in retaining the spirit of the originals, and Global Offensive proves to be entertaining for both veteran gamers and newbies to the franchise, regardless of what platform they choose.
The bottom line is that Global Offensive is a breath of fresh air for an aging franchise – but still capably emulates the quintessential Counter-Strike experience. It brings many last-gasp moments to the table, and within this it retains the satisfying and addictive gameplay that made the series so prominent in the first place. Some might have mixed feelings about the title, which is less-customizable in relation to the previous games from the series, but it should still strike a chord with gamers looking for a well-balanced and entertaining multiplayer experience.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is available now for Mac, PC, PS3, and XBox 360. Game Rant played the PC version for this review.
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