Counter-Strike is one of the world’s most popular games. You can go just about anywhere and find a PC installed with Valve’s tactical shooter.
But with every updated version of a classic game, there are bound to be naysayers that can’t wait to tell you how the new game is inferior. Is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive a rearmed classic or just a PC relic?
Disclosure: I played Counter-Strike: Global Offensive primarily on the Xbox 360 and somewhat on the PC. Although content on the two platforms differs, this review reflects the general experience across both platforms.
Counter-Strike is a hardcore shooter at its very essence with its steep learning curve and satisfying gunplay. There aren’t any tutorials or single player campaigns to slow things down. CS:GO is a straight sprint into the unforgiving depths of competitive multiplayer.
The best place to begin is with the maps and modes available for play. The basic package includes four modes: Arms Race, Demolition, Casual and Competitive.
Arms Race is Counter-Strike’s take on the “Gun Game” mode made popular by Call of Duty. Players begin with a gun, which they have to get a kill with in order to move onto the next gun. When someone reaches 26 kills, they win the game. Unlike other modes, players instantly respawn back into the action making Arms Race the most frantic game type included.
Demolition works in a similar vein to Arms Race except the match is broken into rounds and there’s still a bombing objective. The biggest twist is that players don’t buy weapons; they unlock new weapons by getting a kill within a round. Each unlocked weapon isn’t better than the last, meaning that the most versatile fighters triumph most often.
Finally, the two modes that Counter-Strike became best known for: Classic Casual and Classic Competitive. Like previous versions, the counter-terrorists and terrorists are aiming for an objective of either setting an explosive on a bomb site or saving hostages. Players can buy the weapons of their choice with money they earn from completing objectives such as killing an enemy, planting the bomb and winning a round. This is easily the most fine-tuned and fun mode available.
Each mode has its individual maps, aside from the Casual and Competitive modes which share, for a total of over a dozen maps to play on. There’s the classic maps that just about every shooter fan will recognize, like Dust and Dust 2, that have been polished up for HD. I’d argue that this isn’t enough content for $15 as we’ve seen some shooters packed to the brim, but I’m sure Valve has plans to add more into the game at a later date.
While I’ve heard complaints that the game handles a little differently in comparison to CS:1.6 and CS: Source due to the new engine, I’m not familiar enough to address any of those claims. Instead, I’ll focus on what an adrenaline pumping experience Counter-Strike: Global Offensive can be when it’s competitive. I did find that most games on 360 and PC were imbalanced because of poor balancing. In spite of this, the basic Counter-Strike gameplay of running, crouching and taking cover remain very entertaining. The game is built around player accuracy, reflex, stability and patience, making it very much an optimal title to play on PC. However, console players shouldn’t be turned off by this because it’s still a hell of a lot of fun on consoles.
There are over 40 weapons to use in CS:GO ranging from pistols to submachine guns and rifles. Everyone’s favorites are back, like the Deagle, AK-47, M4 and AWP, and while I wouldn’t say the arsenal has been upgraded much, the team at Valve has modernized inventory to include more well recognized weapons and made sure a wide selection is available for both teams. The modeling is very well done, adding higher detail to every inch of the guns.
The graphical look of CS:GO is far better than Source. I really enjoyed the detail of the visuals, like bullet holes and blood splatter, which really added to overall immersion. With new lighting, textures and visual effects, Counter-Strike has been officially pulled into the new age of gaming.
Sound is perhaps one of the most important elements in Counter-Strike that might be frequently overlooked by newer players. Veterans will understand to listen for the muffled footsteps on different surfaces to give away locations and keep an ear out for gunshots that will give away how well equipped an enemy is that particular round. The guns themselves still have the quintessential pop that has made Counter-Strike famous. I want to make special note of the fantastic main theme that CS:GO has. On most occasions, you’ll only hear it briefly, but it’s a catchy song that will get you pumped up to play.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is another very fine product from Valve. While it does have some flaws and should have had more content included in the package, CS:GO is still a blast to play as long as you aren’t completely intimidated by your online competition.
GO Rating: 4/5
Available now for PS3, 360 and PC for $14.99. Screenshots taken from the Xbox 360 version.