Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Developer: Valve Corp. & Hidden Path Entertainment Release Date: August 21, 2012
Publisher: Valve Corporation ESRB Rating: M
Platforms: PC, Mac OS X, PS3, & Xbox 360 MSRP: $14.99

In 1999, an independent mod came out using the same engine as the popular Half-Life title from a year earlier. This mod, Counter Strike, was soon purchased by Valve and they, along with its original creators, turned it into a full-fledged game. The mod was harsh, punishing, and so much fun that it was gaining a massive fan base. Counter Strike was a revolutionary leap for first person shooters, multiplayer games, and one step closer to making games something much more like sports. This mod, with humble beginnings, became a phenomenon to all in the industry, developers and consumers alike; it had left its mark on history as one of the greatest multiplayer FPS’s of its time. Now, after roughly six patches, a console version, and a sequel, Counter Strike has again been given another installment: Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

I started with the series well after Counter Strike had been on the market for some time. I played a little bit of the original and spent more time with CS: Source when that was released. I was always a fan of CS: S, I would play for a time, stop, play some more, and stop again. The largest barrier of entry was often the massive difficulty curve. Each game tended to go something on the lines of: you either know what you are doing or you are dead. For the majority of us, watching other players run around, trying to kill each other was what most of our time was devoted to in CS games. To get a kill, or a score of at least one, you had to quickly learn how the guns worked, how the maps were laid out, and what each and every sound represented. It was not even a general understanding; you had to memorize every specific detail. One wrong step, one single mistake, or a lack of attention and you may as well be prepared to sit back and watch your enemies and your team go at it for the next three to five minutes. CS: GO does not differ much from this formula and in many ways that is what makes this series so original, and popular.

The dual berettas are back, and now everyone can use them.

This has all of the look and feel of a Counter Strike game, there is no doubt about that. The Source engine is prominent and has been heavily improved to boost the visuals. Lighting in particular has become much more dynamic. Shadows are cast much more effectively and the differences between dark and bright areas are much more realistic. The weapons take on a bulkier look; they seem powerful and heavy with the weight of a real firearm. Hard-hitting gunfire is heard all over the maps and each gun has an identifiable sound. Sounds in general are just as important in this version as they ever have been before; footsteps echo all over the map as players run through each hallway and alleyway. Between this and gunfire you must always be listening for even the subtlest of cues that an enemy is nearby; missing even one of these can often end in your demise.

Like every other Counter Strike game before this, come prepared for a very specific experience while playing. This game was partly created in an attempt to get more gamers interested in the CS series, but that does not mean they have tweaked the formula at all. On the contrary, everything is just about the same. For the standard game modes, Hostage Rescue and Defuse, everyone gets one life per round; when you die you stay dead until the next round – no respawns. At the beginning of each round you still purchase your armor and weapons. Iron sites are never an option; the only guns that can zoom are auto-snipers and sniper rifles. There is no sprinting, no prone, and certainly no kill streaks, perks, etc.; this is a very cut and dry game. Weapons do not always hit your target; details like bullet spread can make all of the difference in a firefight, and many of the firearms take a lot of practice to have just a basic understanding of them. If you are nervous about playing a match, it is understandable; the game is difficult and never once does it tell you otherwise.

The M4A4, replacing the M4A1 from previous games, will be used by veterans and new-comers alike. It is easy to use but difficult to master.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive is not just a reskinning of the older games. Many additions have been made to CS: GO, and many more are promised by Valve for the near future. The most obvious are new game modes: Arms Race and Demolitions, mods from CS and CS: S that were given their very own place in CS: GO. They both add new features to the series that have never been a staple: respawns and a tiered weapon system. When you get a kill you advance a weapon position, get a knife kill and the player you stabbed loses a weapon tier, whoever gets a kill with each weapon first wins. Various guns have been modified or outright changed, but overall the various types stay the same. The new weapons are mostly situated in the gear and grenades parts of the new radial buy menu. The newest sidearm is the Taser, a weapon that can one-shot kill any enemy, but it only has one charge and a very short range of fire. The second new piece of equipment is the Firebomb, basically a Molotov cocktail or an incendiary grenade. When thrown it covers a radius in fire and deals damage to all who are standing on it. This tool is great to push enemies away from areas, reroute them completely, or to cook friend and foe alike. The new gear along with the minor tweaks to weaponry makes for a very balanced competitive Counter Strike game.

Valve knows their maps are good and tend not to forget that the fans have connected with these levels, they know how to play them and tend to not want too much deviation from these classic maps. Dust, Dust 2, Office, and Aztec are among the returning levels in CS: GO. There is even a selectable mode completely devoted to Dust, which is a great idea considering it has been the most popular competitive map since Counter Strike was released. Eight new maps have been introduced, all built for the two new aforementioned game modes. These include Baggage, the internal workings of an airport baggage claim area, and Lake, an ominous two story waterfront house complete with docked boats and a complete kitchen to tear the enemy apart in. The new maps, unfortunately, may not get as much attention as they should; CS fans are not well known for their variety, and the majority will end up playing Office and Dust until mods come out offering up new user created maps. But each map offers a variety of fighting conditions and obstacles to overcome, that make tackling the opposing force that much more fun.

 

AWPs. AWPs everywhere.

The only issue I have with the game is from the problematic lag, which can easily break the game for any player. At the start of each match is the worst, players jumping all over the place and spikes occurring every few seconds. As a match runs for a few minutes it dies down but is never completely gone. A lag spike may occur every now and again, which can be terrible if you are facing down an opponent at the time. Sometimes it is a player with a high ping; the record I have seen so far was roughly 530, and other times it is just the game hiccupping. Hopefully future patches and updates will fix this very simple and only slightly annoying problem.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive is another Counter Strike game, but you know what? That is a damn great thing. It is a polished game, with plenty of replay value, and some heavy hitting combat. CS:GO is not an easy game, but if you push through the hardcore veterans, no-mercy play style, and lack of more modern shooter features, you will see an amazing FPS experience to be had. This is classic PC gaming at its finest, and Valve has pulled off another wonderful and highly addicting game.

Story: [N/A]
Graphics: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Gameplay: ★★★★★★★★★★
Audio: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Balance/Difficulty: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
Intangibles: ★★★★★★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★★★★★½

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