Review: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - Xbox 360 version tested
Hello again, old friend! Damn, it’s good to see another iteration of Counter-Strike – particularly one that is available on consoles. It’s been around for a while – as any nerd knows Counter-Strike started out as a mod for Half-Life in 1999, before being bought out by Valve Software in 2000.
Counter-Strike was eventually evolved up to version 1.6 on the PC and Mac (and original Xbox) before Counter-Strike: Source was released. This was a spruced-up version of the game, running on the new Source engine from Valve. Still, CS 1.6 didn’t go away – it racks up around 50,000 players every day at peak times – CS:Source racks up slightly less.
The premise was simple – pick a team, either Terrorists or Counter-Terrorists. Then fight! If you were on the Terrorist team you would have to either plant a bomb at a certain point on a map, or prevent your hostages being rescued. If you were on the Counter –Terrorist team, you would have to prevent a bomb from being planted, or rescue hostages.
A pretty simple idea, but that’s kind of what this shooter is about Counter-Strike: GO is more of the same – refined, developed, pure shooting action. Originally there were only eight maps – classic levels such as Office, Dust, Italy, Aztec and more. Valve have wisely retained these and added eight more. Over the years they have been ever so subtly refined and tweaked for the perfect challenge of trying to beat the opposing team to control sightlines and choke points. No one point on any of the maps is safe from all angles – it’s refined perfection.
There is a varied selection of weapons to use, from pistols, through assault rifles to light machine guns. Items such as flashbangs still have the tactical importance they’ve always had – they give a crucial edge in stunning players, particularly when indoors. There are new additions here with Molotovs and incendiary grenades – they not only damage enemies, but block off routes on the map. Use them to steer the enemy to your waiting team mates!
So a lot of choice – but all the weapons, armour, items are split up into clear and easy categories. Equally, there is a clear selection of game modes to choose from – only four. Classic Casual and Classic Competitive give the familiar Counter-Strike experience we know and love. Casual is slightly less tough – it’s a very entertaining mode. Here we have round-based gameplay with no respawns. Once you’re dead you have to spectate until the next round of the match.
The two additions are Arms Race and Demolition modes. Arms Race is much faster paced – it’s a recreation of Gun Game Mode from earlier versions of Counter-Strike – and recently also in COD Black Ops. Here – every player starts with a weedy machine pistol and is awarded a better weapon per kill. The winner is the one who kills an opponent with every weapon (all 26 of them). Respawning is instant, so it’s a short, intense blast of multiplayer action. It’s a very satisfying and exhilarating mode to play and it’s the perfect change after a few rounds of Classic.
Demolition Mode is round-based, with no respawns, but with the new-weapon-per kill mechanic from Arms Race. Here the objectives from the Classic modes remain – the weapon changing mechanic spices things up. It’s a good mix.
So it plays well – really well. It’s a narrow corridor to work in – the game play mechanic is more simple and stripped-back than other shooters, but this means the emphasis is on improving your own technique. Like the PC versions of old – no quarter is asked for or given. Be prepared to graduate from the school of hard knocks.
But the Classic Casual mode just ratchets the difficulty down a tad – it makes things more accessible, yet challenging enough to keep you coming back for more. The extra modes add real variety to the experience – they will at least double the longevity of the game.
It could be argued that the visuals aren’t quite cutting edge – the game looks about as good as Left 4 Dead 2, or Portal 2, some of Valve’s recent releases. But the graphics are clean and detailed – they do the job just fine.
It could also be argued that there is no single-player campaign, which is true. However it is possible to practice off-line with bots (computer controlled players) – the quality of their programming is extremely impressive. When playing online, if a player drops out or there are free spaces, these are filled by bots – it’s impossible to notice the difference. Another nice touch is that during round-based games, if you die then it is possible to control a bot on your team – keeping you off of the bench for a couple of minutes.
And finally, the game only costs £10-12 to download, depending on the version. For the sheer number of hours of top-level competitive gun play this gives, it’s an absolute bargain. Also, for the first time, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owners get to join in the fun as well – about time, too.
So it’s simple, tough, compelling, familiar yet fresh and cheap. And it’s my main game at the moment. I can’t stop playing it…
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is out now on PC, Mac and Xbox 360 – Playstation 3 version coming soon, release date TBC.