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SummaryThe remake of the classic FPS.
The GoodUnforgiving in all the good ways.
Retro feel, but with modern visuals.
Arms Race is really cool.
Earning money to buy weapons works.
The BadLacks a regular death-match.
Online games are always lacking due to lag.
No story at all.
Only a handful of maps.
Spawn-points are random.
The Bottom LineStory
Counter-strike: Global Offensive is the latest entry in a series of online first-person shooters. The series is built around a very simple goal: Terrorists kill police-officers & police-officers kill terrorists. There is very little story surrounding the details of this conflict, but I suppose a tale about terrorists trying to plant bombs writes itself. I have nothing against simplicity, but Counter-strike really puts in too little effort. There are plenty of online FPS-games, but almost all of them have a single-player mode that serves to explain the overhanging plot. Admittedly most of these aren’t too spectacular and a lot of game-designers seem to have a grudge against Russia lately, but not having any plot at all removes the context from a game, thus leaving the player without a reason to care about the conflict. The only reason to play this game is for the fun of logging in and shooting a few lads before logging off again, there is literally nothing plot-wise to keep you interested in the action you are partaking in.
Despite what my review might be suggesting so far, CS:GO is far from a conventional shooter. Unlike some of the other games in the genre (Call of Duty, Battlefield and etc.), this game stands out for been very unforgiving. You don’t have a fancy aiming-mode for one thing, so no Red Dot sight or Holographic sight to make shooting easier for you. You also can’t just select what weapons you want, you have to buy each weapon with the money you earned by making kills, if you don’t have any money, then it’s the starting pistol for you. One point that goes too far however is that 50% of the game-modes are elimination games, meaning you don’t respawn when killed. It’s a good way to encourage you to get better and it allows you to observe other players through the spectator-camera, but it’s more likely that people will get pissed off and shut down the game instead.
One thing I dislike about these online games though is that my internet connection renders them unplayable. There is just something infuriating about sitting through five minutes of matchmaking, then wait till the game ends and you can actually play, THEN half a minute of warming-up and all that just to play for ten minutes before the game freaks out and you start bouncing around like basketball in a wind-tunnel. To the game’s credit though, the official servers are fairly stable and if you really can’t play online, then there is the option to play against bots. I freaking love bots and these are very good, they almost completely resemble real players, but without screaming into microphones. There is also an alternative for the elimination-games too, namely “Arms Race”. In this mode you start with a basic SMG, but as you make kills you climb up a metaphorical ladder and unlock the next weapon. You respawn instantly and the game ends when a player makes a kill with the last weapon on the scale, namely the knife.
It’s no secret the Counter-Strike isn’t the most breathtaking game in terms of graphics and for an online shooter that already cut corners on the story, that’s a pretty big deal. These games sell almost exclusively on the prospect of having more pixels and more detail than other games in the genre. That doesn’t mean the game looks bad, not at all in fact, but it just doesn’t look as fantastic as some other titles out there. To balance out for this problem the game provides a good variety of maps to play in and the design of these areas really is ingenious at times. The tactical diversity these maps allow and the fact that you can actually conceal yourself in scenery like plants is really worth noting. However, the game may strike a lot of people as generic, despite of the fact that it was this series that invented a lot of the trends it continues to use to this day. I am not affected by this too much, but I think the game would have benefited from deviating from the old formula a bit, seeing as how soldiers yelling: “Stay frosty” and generic action-music playing in the menu is going to get old after a while. Why not play something slow and emotional instead? That could be really interesting.
Counter-Strike is meant to be played in short bursts and since it can’t really be finished, you can play it until you are absolutely sick of it. This will vary per person, a true fan might be able to play this for another twelve years, but somebody else might get tired of it after a week. However, you can always come right back to the game whenever you want and thanks to the bots you can get a feel for the game again before diving back into the online community. In fact, a lot of the content is created in such a way that makes it easy to come back into the game after stopping for a while. The weapons for example are all different in feel, but not necessarily in power. All the characters wear armor and are pretty durable, so killing them is based more around making headshots than who fired the stronger weapon. This means your choice of weapons is purely personal, I was good at making headshots with the pistols, but not so much with the shotgun, so I often use pistols.
Some people would argue that all online shooters can be played like this, but I have to disagree. I have played Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield 3 myself, but I never continue playing them for more than a month and sometimes they disappear from my system for many months. The reason is because the studios behind these games are very sequel-happy and since MW2 we have seen Black Ops and now MW3 and Blacks Ops 2 are apparently on their way. Why should I continue to play these games when a few months from now I’ll be asked to put down cash for the next graphics update and all my progress will be reset. Counter-Strike and more specifically Valve doesn’t do this (except for maybe once if you’re still pissed about Left 4 Dead) and thus CS is more enjoyable to continue playing, seeing as how you’ll be able to show off your achievements for a much longer time.
Talking about achievements, there are plenty of those to collect. A total of 167 are present in the game at this point and future updates may bring in even more. Just like with Team Fortress 2, these achievements are done very well. There are easy ones that you will gather like crazy once you start playing, then things slow down and you can focus on getting a few special ones. Eventually the time you invested in the game will be rewarded with some time-sink achievements like “defuse a 100 bombs” and if you get really far, then you can spend the remainder of your time getting some really tough ones. A very satisfying feature that is part of Steam is been able to compare your achievements with the rest of the people who own the game, so when you finally get that special achievement you’ve been hunting for weeks, then it’s double as satisfying because it clearly shows that only less than 8% of the world has it too.
Besides that though, there is very little in terms of extras for you to collect. Perhaps future updates will add something new, maybe something like… hats? Who knows?! If Valve stays true to their reputation, then we can at least expect this title to receive additional content for quite some time.
Counter-Strike definitely stands out as been a very different addition to the FPS-genre and oddly enough it does so by succumbing to old habits. We have gotten used to all the modern novelties like minor aim-bots, vehicles, low enemy health and kill-streak rewards, not having any of that fancy stuff suddenly makes an online shooter much more intense. More so than in any other title, it really feels like it’s either you or your enemy that bites the dust. There is no perk like Last Resort that allows you to stay alive for a while after been shot down, if you get killed then you stay killed. That’s not to say that Global Offensive is without any faults, essentially it’s just a graphic overhaul of a game from twelve years ago and Valve could have done a lot more polishing than they did. Personally I would have liked better spawns (I lost count of how many times an enemy spawned in my back during Arms Race), better hit-zones (a headshot is always an instant-kill, but hit anywhere else and it does barely any damage) and more than four different modes to play in.
Veteran Counter-Strike fans will get the game they have been hoping for, but besides the obvious, there is also room for shooter-fans who think the other modern shooters are getting too easy. Because the game is just 14 euros, it’s also great to play with a few buddies if the paycheck is still a week away (as was my case).