"Counter Strike" strikes back

By Jay Krieger

Screen shot from Counter Strike: Global Offensive (photo by Nicole Rollo)

“Counter Strike” remains one of the most notoriously difficult first -person shooters to have ever been created, due to a steep learning curve and realistic weapon mechanics. Reckless shooting and a lone wolf approach to encounters will get you nowhere, as success in Counter Strike relies on pure muscle twitch, precision aiming, and logical and tactical approach to combat. The latest iteration, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, manages to retain the classic counter strike play and feel while introducing several new features, though overall these additions and minor changes don’t really do a lot to drastically change the overall counter strike experience.  And even warrants the question, that eight years later do we really need another Counter Strike title?
Originally created as a mod for Valve Software’s groundbreaking 1999 PC title Half-Life, Counter Strike paved the way for online competitive shooters. Thirteen years after its initial release, three versions and countless keyboards destroyed by infuriated players later, Counter Strike Global Offensive has been released and certainly lives up to the Counter Strike name. Counter Strike isn’t the most accessible game for those coming from more modern shooter stints. For the unfamiliar, Counter Strike is a round based team first person shooter that has players attempting to either complete objectives or to eliminate the other team. Money is earned each round from kills or completing objectives and is spent on new weapons and equipment at the beginning of each round. Global Offensives game modes come in two classic flavors, such as Bomb Site, where terrorist attempt to plant a bomb and counter terrorists attempt to defuse it, or Hostage Situation, where terrorists attempt to stop counter terrorists from rescuing hostages. These are the core game modes that represent and retain the Counter Strike feel of frantic and incredibly stressful rounds. It also incorporates the notion that circumstances can change in a matter of seconds. Players have the option of playing these game modes in competitive or casual modes, a new feature to Global Offensive. Casual mode has player’s auto purchase body armor and defuse kits every round, and friendly fire is off. Competitive mode is the opposite of casual mode. Also did I mention there’s no re-spawning until the next round? Might want to rethink charging ahead of your team with that machine gun. No spawning in-between rounds really puts an emphasis on team work and playing smart or else you’d better get used to watching the spectator camera.
The difficulty spike is painstaking obvious as most will discover that going “Rambo” all the time is never the best course of action. Taking time to realize all the variables of a situation, calculating the range of your target, “Should I shoot a single shot or burst fire? Am I crouching?” Even at point blank, full auto will sometimes not kill an enemy, and most defiantly not if they are wearing body armor. This is how CS differentiates its self from most shooters, as the game relies more on tactical planning of each encounter rather than a guns blazing approach.
As a way to make Global Offensive perhaps more approachable for the unfamiliar, two new game variants are Arms Race, which is an official version of Gun Game where you gain a new weapon instantly after every kill, there is no wait to re-spawn and first to 26 kills wins. And also Demolition, where you gain a new predetermined weapon every round for getting kills, which is similar to the plant/defuse (casual competitor) game mode. In addition to new modes, two brand new maps are included, giving players some variation in the locations that they wage digital warfare on. All these additions aside though, many of Global Offensives maps are recycled. All of the maps for Casual and Competitive modes are from previous CS iterations. For a sequel eight years later, new maps for these game modes would have been nice, instead of four new maps exclusively for these two new game modes.
In addition to new game modes and maps, new weapons and equipment have been included such as new pistols, shotguns, sub machine gun, and an instant kill Taser. But it’s the Molotov cocktail and incendiary grenade that have the biggest impact on combat. By throwing said grenade, players can now engulf entire areas of the map in fire, barring enemy advancement which can be used to counter any flanking attempts. This fundamentally changes the approach to encounters as a team’s advance can be brought to a staggering halt, and as veterans of Counter Strike know, slowing down a momentous charge can make a coordinated team rush fail.
In addition to these new features the game has gotten a graphical bump that is apparent from the moment you boot the game up, though it isn’t the prettiest of games. You’d think after eight years we’d have a nicer looking game than this, but let’s be honest, no one plays Counter Strike for its graphics. Now are these additions welcome? Hell yes, if it hadn’t have been for Global Offensives release, I wouldn’t have an excuses to get back into the franchise. Though does this addition to the series feel absolutely necessary? Simply put, no. At $15 bucks this is an amazing value as the game is just as fun as ever and the new content is nice, but I’d have rather had Valve include even more content than a few new maps and a few changes to combat that only vets will notice. That being said, I think Counter Strike Global Offensive is a more friendly version of Counter Strike as the fast and frantic Arms Race will appeal to a wider audience and the slower, if only so slightly, casual mode is a better starting off point for those new to the series. It’s a fantastic game on its own merit and if it’s to your play style, one you’ll be playing for years. Though when it comes down to it, there isn’t a terrible amount of new content here.
Rating: 8/10