I’ve never been very good at Counter-Strike. Hold your gasps of shock, please. Maybe it’s just the ridiculous level of skill reached by everyone else on the servers I seem to jump on, but I always find myself with a kill-to-death ratio of about 0.2. I just don’t have the drive to invest the time and energy required to really improve my twitch shooting skills. I do know people who are good at shooting heads from halfway across the map, however, and the majority of them seem to agree on one very important issue. Have you guessed it yet? That’s right - Counter-Strike players across the globe are near unanimous in agreement that Counter-Strike 1.6 is a far superior game to Counter-Strike: Source. Shocking, I know. For the better part, 1.6 is still used for professional play. That’s where Counter-Strike: Global Offensive comes in. The almighty Valve seem to have realised that they missed the competition-play boat with Source, and have released this budget-priced update to do what Source should have done.
Global Offensive is just that – a second attempt at getting the community to migrate to a more recent title. There’s no revolutionary changes to the formula, as this is still a tough as nails arena shooter with no room for error, but there is still a number of small updates so as to successfully bring the ageing original into the 21st century. A number of new game types are introduced (one not-so-new, but we’ll get to that later) and Valve even show enough balls to alter classic maps such as de_dust. The primary motivation behind Global Offensive, it seems, is to appease elitist 1.6 players as well as those who started on Source - to bring both Counter-Strike camps and merge them into one.
With a game that’s essentially an update the most important thing to analyse is the changelist. Firstly, we have two new game types. “Arms Race” is, essentially, the old Gun Game mod from CS. For those of you unfamiliar, in Gun Game each player starts with the same weapon, and when they make a kill they instantly get a different weapon. This continues until a player has worked their way through the weapons available in the game. The other mode, Demolition, is similar to a “reverse” gun game mixed in with classic mode – what I mean by this is that every player starts with a powerful weapon and, as they make kills, their weapon becomes worse at the end of the round. Additionally, we have “Classic Casual” and “Classic Competitive” game modes – in the former, friendly fire and team collision are turned off and you start every round with kevlar and a helmet. The latter, of course, turns on those two features and forces you to buy your own armour. The classic modes are composed of both the gametype where the terrorists plant the bomb, and the gametype where they have to hold hostages – forgive me for not knowing the technical terms.
Don’t be afraid, battle-hardened CS players. Global Offensive is still 100% as brutal and hardcore as any Counter-Strike game. In short – if you miss the head, you’ll likely die. If you’re a second slower to react than an opponent, you’ll die. And if, God forbid, you empty a clip in the middle of a firefight, you’re fucked. Fire is another significant addition to the CS formula – sure, there’s a couple of extra guns available in GO, and the MP5 has been replaced by the MP7, but those sort of additions only really appeal to the experienced player. Molotov cocktails and incendiary grenades, on the other hand, can be appreciated by all levels of head-shooter, from the uninitiated to the hardcore. They have competitive potential beyond pretty flames, though, particularly as a group-disperser or a way of channelling an enemy’s path.
Graphically… meh. I mean, it’s obviously a huge improvement over 1.6, and a slightly less huge improvement over Source, but it couldn’t hold a candle to its spiritual competitors, specifically Battlefield 3. The crux of this issue is, of course, the Source engine. Yeah, Valve, it blew our fucking minds in 2004 in Half-Life 2, and I know you’ve been tweaking it since then, but the visuals here really have no comparison to other contemporary games. Of course, there’s a plus side to this – on my rather shit rig, I have trouble running Battlefield 3 on lowest graphical settings, yet I can run Global Offensive on top settings with seldom a hiccup or frame-drop. This is why, I suspect, Valve elected to reuse the Source engine rather than use the new engine they’re developing for Half-Life 3 (hah.), as a game as heavily reliant on twitch reflexes as Global Offensive really needs to run without any sort of trouble on even the lousiest machine. Hell, maybe this time round competitive gamers won’t even need to turn their settings all the way down.
There’s a few more changes to the Counter-Strike experience – next on the level of importance, as far as I’m concerned, is the new buy menu. Those of you who have played the game before know how important the buy menu is to the overall match. This time around, it’s a radial menu divided into the same sections we’re used to – you know, SMGs, rifles, pistols, equipment, etc – rather than a regular button-based menu as is featured in Source. This is, of course, to cater for the poor souls playing on consoles, but it seems very unintuitive for the PC side of things, especially given Valve’s track record with support for consoles. There’s still number key bindings for each of the options, however. It’s just jarring how much it makes it seem like a console-targeted game. One qualm I have is the lack of any sort of hit-registry when you’re shooting – it’s nice to know that my bullets are hitting their targets, particularly because I tend to shoot shoot shoot, and then once I’m shown my opponent’s health bar after they killed me, it still seems full. Again, I know, I know, classic CS had only the blood stains on the wall, but still, I’m a bit of a noob. Maybe they could just turn the hit-registering on in Casual mode?
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is an attempt to unify 1.6 and Source players, bringing every fan of the hardcore competitive shooter together. It’s not a revolutionary change in the Counter-Strike formula – instead, it stays as true to the beloved concept as possible while still retaining credence as a worthy entry in the series. Be you an experienced player or a newcomer with the time to hone their skills, or even if you don’t mind sporting a kill to death ratio far, far less than 1, Global Offensive maintains the series’ status as the best competitive multiplayer shooter available. Forget killstreaks. Forget unlocks. Forget custom classes. Perks can fuck the fuck off. Despite not offering much new, per se, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a fantastic update of its predecessors, providing the absolute purest, totally skill-dependent, multiplayer FPS. If it wasn’t so cheap, I’d be sceptical as to whether or not this game was even necessary, but Valve have cleverly released it as a budget-priced title, so as to avoid giving people those worries. Oh, and remember to run with your knife out, if only so you don’t seem like a noob.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive by Valve Corporation.