CS:GO builds off of the base gameplay that its predecessors perfected. There’s still no perk system, no leveling, no sprinting, no healing, and no aiming down iron sights; CS:GO eschews gameplay features that many gamers have come to associate with FPS’s in favor of pure, streamlined shooting mayhem. CS:GO, like its predecessors, is based off of one main skill: how quickly you can aim your crosshairs at an opponent’s head. Body shots with all but the most powerful of weapons are a hugely inefficient way to take down enemy players, but one or two shots to the head is all it takes to bring death upon your enemies. Shots become wildly inaccurate if the player is running or jumping as well as if an automatic weapon’s trigger is held down, while crouching and walking (achieved by holding shift, which may initially throw off some gamers) help reduce recoil. These details should come as no surprise to previous Counter-Strike players, but they’re important details to note for those less familiar with the ways of Counter-Strike.
While both CS 1.6 (the final patch for the original Counter-Strike) and CS:S had players find games through a (what seems positively archaic by modern standards) server browser, CS:GO changes things up by providing an actual matchmaking option. This is a great change for players who just want to hop in and shoot others as fast as possible without having to browse through hundreds of servers. There’s supposedly and ELO-based ranking system in CS:GO designed to match players with other players of similar rank, but it’s not yet clear how these ranks work at this point, perhaps due to the fact that most players haven’t played enough to form an accurate ELO rank. The ELO-based ranking system should definitely help keep CS:GO enjoyable for all skill levels; one of the most aggravating things in CS 1.6 and CS:S was joining a server with near-professional level players and never coming even close to getting a kill. Hopefully, this new ranking system will make matchmaking in CS:GO a huge step forward for the franchise and create more fair, enjoyable matches for everyone.Four game modes are officially supported in CS:GO: Arms Race, Demolition, Casual Classic, and Competitive Classic. Arms Race, which CS fans will quickly recognize as the ‘Gun Game’ mod from CS 1.6 and CS:S, has players kill members of the opposing to go through a progression of weapons, which are awarded immediately upon scoring a kill. This mode helps familiarize players with the different weapons in the game, making it a great choice for first-time players of CS. Respawn is instant in this mode, so dying isn’t as big a deal as it is the other three game modes. Demolition is somewhat similar to Arms Race in that killing opposing players will result in new weapons being awarded, but respawns are no longer instant and new weapons are awarded only at the beginning of each round. Teams fight to reach a certain number of round points, which are earned by either killing off all members of the opposing team or by fulfilling objectives specific to each team (planting and protecting a bomb until it explodes for Terrorists, defusing the bomb for Counter-Terrorists). It’s a well-implemented hybrid between the Classic and Arms Race game modes, and enables players to get a feel for a wide range of weapons while preparing for the sometimes brutal efficiency required for the Classic game mode. Casual Classic and Competitive Classic are both extremely similar to the base gameplay of previous CS titles: weapons and equipment are purchased at the beginning of each round, and deaths are permanent until the next round. Round points are awarded in the same manner as Demolition: either kill everyone on the opposing side, or carry out your side’s objective. Casual Classic turns off friendly fire, gives you more cash per round, and allows you to see the remaining health of the player who killed you, while Competitive Classic (as its name suggests) turns Classic into a hardcore mode by enabling friendly fire, making bombs, defuse kits, and armor purchasable items, and hides the health of your killer in the killcam. Although none of these game modes are much of an innovation for the Counter-Strike series, they don’t have to be; CS has built itself on streamlined, easy-to-pick-up-but-difficult-to-master gameplay, and it doesn’t stray from its successful formula with any of its new game modes. CS:GO features numerous UI improvements that simply blow away the sometimes overly minimal interfaces of previous CS titles. A mini-scoreboard at the top of the screen helps show who’s leading in the current round, allowing you to see who’s on top without having to press the Tab key. Pressing the Tab key is still useful for viewing detailed information, such as kills, deaths, assists (a stat that previous CS titles did not track), money earned, and score. The radar in CS:GO has been hugely revamped and now shows terrain and more detailed information about local engagements. CS:GO features a new graphical dial-based weapon selection menu as opposed to the text-based menu of previous CS titles, making comparing and selecting weapons a much more intuitive process. Ammo and health are still displayed in tucked-away corners of the in-game interface, keeping with the minimalistic interface traditions of CS 1.6 and CS:S. One area in which CS:GO markedly departs from its predecessors is graphics. CS:GO, unlike CS 1.6 and CS:S, looks like a modern game. Its graphics aren’t on par with graphical powerhouses like Battlefield 3 or Crysis, but CS:GO more than holds its own against the majority of modern first-person shooters. Textures are wonderfully clean and hi-res, making everything in the game look much nicer than in previous CS titles. Particle effects like dust and smoke add a small but noticeable touch of realism to CS:GO, the likes of which were decidedly absent in previous CS titles. Full HDR lighting gives a realistic sheen to all the textures and models in the game; long-time CS players, however, may not be happy with the change in lighting, as the lighting is nowhere near as bright as it was in previous iterations of CS, making it somewhat more difficult to distinguish enemies from the scenery in certain situations. Teams have more uniform compositions in comparison to CS 1.6 and CS:S; for example, all Terrorists on the map Inferno have French resistance outfits while all Counter-Terrorists on the same map have French special forces outfits. It’s no longer possible to select which Terrorist or Counter-Terrorist model you wish to use, which helps make distinguishing friend from foe at a glance much easier, especially for beginners.
Sound effects in CS:GO are, to say the least, incredible. Counter-Strike has always been a loud game with a ton of chaotic noise, but CS:GO takes it a step further by implementing directional audio cues to help players quickly sort out the direction of incoming gunfire. CS:GO has a sound algorithm to broadcast sound as though it were being produced from a specific location; this algorithm works even with stereo sound systems, helping narrow the hardware advantage that gamers with surround sound speakers had over gamers that relied on stereo sound. Being able to pinpoint where gunfire is coming from is a huge advantage in FPS’s like Counter-Strike, and not having to purchase expensive 5.1/7.1 surround sound speakers to fully experience the game is a huge bonus to budget-conscious gamers. CS:GO’s soundtrack doesn’t play all that often, since you’ll probably be in-game most of the time, but when it does, it sounds appropriately military-like and certainly does its part in adding to the atmosphere of the game.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive makes a lot of moves in the right direction. It keeps much of the core gameplay that has kept millions of gamers coming back for years (CS 1.6 and CS:S still consistently appear in the top ten on the “Top games by current player count” list on Steam) while refining a lot of the rough edges that detracted from previous Counter-Strike titles. CS:GO is a solid, well-thought out addition to the Counter-Strike series that appears to have all the makings of another insanely popular Counter-Strike title.