Valve has released their newest iteration of the wildly successful Counter-Strike (CS) series and this time gaming consoles have been invited to the firefight.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is now available for Xbox 360 and PS3 players through Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Store. Gamers familiar with the series should not consider CS:GO a unique sequel but instead as an update based on the positives of its predecessors. Although the same old-school CS goodies build the foundation for this game (bombs, terrorists, guns, a lot of player profanity), CS:GO delivers some commendable new additions and a polished look for this first-person shooter (FPS) series.
A side note for gamers intimidated by FPS games: CS:GO has an excellent tutorial and offline mode that’s wonderful for practice! Scroll below and read the details on those features before saying “no!” to CS:GO!
Like in the previous CS games two teams are matched against one another. You can choose to be either a terrorist (you jackass) or a counter-terrorist. Terrorists are going to do what they typically enjoy doing: planting bombs and holding hostages. Meanwhile, counter-terrorists are going to do what they do best: look sexy in riot gear while killing terrorists. Each team has an objective and you fight one another for multiple rounds until someone is declared the victor. That’s what CS is all about and CS:GO is not much different. Pick a side, pick a gun, and pick a frantically moving target. CS:GO challenges your personal skill, testing how accurately and quickly you can fixate your crosshairs onto someone’s head and blow it off. Newcomers to CS may find the gameplay simplistic with no aiming down sights, healing, leveling, or perks.
Now, none of that is to say CS:GO isn’t fun. It’s killer fun, especially considering this addition has been wonderfully refined. With improved graphics, sounds, a matchmaking system (thank God), a detailed radar, and new features like maps and equipment, CS:GO is definitely worth buying. The feature I appreciated most was the matchmaking. It seemed that I only entered games where I was among players of similar skill or players slightly better than myself. Before intelligent matching, I was stuck bouncing between servers being constantly pummeled by the near-perfect players and often dying before even firing a round. But now I can thoroughly enjoy playing among my equals, often leading the scoreboards and feeling like a real champ’! That is until I’m flash banged, of course. Once while in a desperately competitive match, I was flash banged at the most pivotal moment. Confused, scared, and totally blind, I piteously cried out “I’VE BEEN FLASH BONED.” This innocent, Freudian slip from my panicked tongue stuck and a new strategy was born: flash boning. Speaking of being flash boned, in CS:GO you can also get molotov-ed. You may notice I am inventing new verbs (flash boned, molotov-ed) but I assure you the acts themselves, while grammatically questionable, are real threats.
Molotov cocktails are newcomers to the CS series and are exclusive to the terrorists (dirty bastards). Depending on what team you’ve chosen weapons and equipment may vary. Instead of molotovs, counter-terrorists get incendiary grenades. Decoy grenades and the Zeus x27 are also fresh faces for the franchise. The Zeus x27 is a taser and is capable of killing an enemy in one hit. There are 8 new weapons in CS:GO and some returning weapons underwent changes to their capabilities (such as rate of fire and accuracy). CS:GO has a total of 16 maps evenly spit between classic maps and never-before-seen environments.
There are 4 modes in CS:GO: Classic Casual, Classic Competitive, Arms Race, and Demolition. Classic Casual enables players to buy new weapons each round with money they earn from kills and accomplishments. The round in this mode can be won by either eliminating the entire enemy team or completing your assigned objective. Friendly fire is off on this round making it more appealing for casual players. Classic Competitive raises the stakes in difficulty with friendly fire on. In this mode, armor and defuse kits are purchasable for the players. In the Demolition mode, players are awarded a new weapon for every kill they deliver. The round can be won by eliminating all the players or completing the assigned objective. In Arms Race, a mode reminiscent of “Gun Game” from earlier CS installments and arguably the most fun, players immediately respawn a new weapon after each kill and are themselves immediately respawned after each death. The round can only be won by one player. This player must be awarded each of the 27 weapons by killing everyone in sight. I personally enjoy this mode the most because of the urgency and immediacy of everything. Also, competing one-on-one with everyone really gets the blood pumping and bullets spraying. It’s the chaos in this mode that beckons most players. Demolition and Arms Race modes are recommended for players who want to familiarize themselves with all the available weapons. On top of being fun modes, they’re educational!
Depending on the mode, each match will show a mini-leaderboard at the top of the screen to let players know who is leading or what team is winning. This is helpful so you don’t have to mash “back” on your Xbox controller mid-game to see the scores. However, your formal scoreboard will still give detailed accounts for deaths, kills, scores, money, and medals awarded to players. The mini-map/radar has also been improved upon, showing more information about the terrain and the current game environment. CS:GO also makes it easier for players to compare and choose weapons thanks to their renovated, circular weapons selection menu.
For players intimidated by FPS games, this section may interest you!
There is an excellent tutorial and offline mode in CS:GO. If you’re just starting out with FPSs and feel fearful of online play with CS veterans, fear not! Your humble correspondent is no master of the match and frequently gets her ass handed to her. There is an excellent, informative tutorial you can work through as many times as you want in order to best hone your skill. It offers direction in controls and even helps you distinguish between bad and good guys (which is helpful considering I have shot and murdered many, many friends). There is also an offline, single player mode where you can practice against bots. Bots have names like BotPat and BotCarol and they’re usually pretty terrible shots. Better yet, you can practice each of the 4 modes through the single player and really learn map layouts and discover which weapon responds to you best! So don’t fear the FPS! In fact, jump online, test out the controls, and then send me a game invite!
The graphics of CS:GO are smooth, realistic, and tediously detailed. Character types, although repeated, have memorable and imaginative features. Maps have creative, impressive designs and really add to the quality of gameplay. Activity effects like dust, smoke, and blood being splashed through the air and matted onto walls brings a mature and realistic atmosphere to the game. As one gentleman pointed out to me, gun enthusiasts may be dissatisfied with the attention to weapon design (too generic, simplified, inaccurate). However, the rest of us may not care or notice and just pick the one that delivers the headshots. Overall I was really impressed with the art and presentation of CS:GO. For how aesthetically laudable the graphics are I’m surprised I did not experience lagged play or glitches (both of which I received so little of it was not worth reporting on).
The beat of battle music, the ricochet of a bullet, the sound a knife makes when some guy stabs me in the throat are all well done. Even the minimal voice acting from NPCs is believable. Better yet, when sound is produced from a specific location it travels realistically around the map, aiding the player in locating the position of pandemonium. My direction was constantly influenced by the distant or nearby sounds of war, always bringing me closer to the fight and preventing me from missing all the action.
Even when I am being dominated by every terrorist on the map, I love playing CS:GO. Hours go by before I realize I’ve played the same map for 4 hours or I haven’t eaten that day. There are enough maps, enough modes, enough gamers, and enough in-game accomplishments and achievements to acquire so that this game doesn’t get old. Besides, it’s no secret the desire to rule the scoreboards rests within each and every one of us. That desire cannot be satiated even after you’ve proven you are alpha match after match. It’s that sadistic streak in all of us that keeps us coming back for more.