Counter-Strike: GO (PS3) Review
B.C. Johnson / Sep 3rd, 2012 2 Comments
Return to Dust, like the good book says, with Valve’s and Hidden Path Entertainment’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or Counter-Strike: GO if you like singing it to the “Teen Titans, GO!” song. Which I do. It’s been eight years since Counter-Strike: Source, the full remake of the original Counter-Strike mod, and twelve years since the original game. Now available for all consoles and computer platforms, can Counter-Strike survive in a post-Call-of-Duty world?
I’m going to be brutally honest here, and I’m going to have to duck the wrath of all the interwebs: I never really loved Counter-Strike.
Phew. It feels good to divulge that. Sort of like an A.A. meeting. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply respect the team that created the game as a mere Half-Life mod, the famed Gooseman and Cliffe. I also love the idea that Valve actually bought the mod and hired the guys on. That’s all a beautiful capitalist love story I can really get behind.
Counter-Strike always felt too fast for me. I know I’m literally aging in real time as I say this, like the end of The Last Crusade, but I never understood the whole “one bullet death,” “no respawn” that Counter-Strike espoused. Realism isn’t everything – give me rocket boots or space marine armor or gun that shoots a swarm of rabid squirrels.
Counter-Strike: GO is not a sequel. It’s not a new update. It’s Counter-Strike with shinier graphics and a few new maps and modes. You might ask what the distinction is, and I’d say it’s this: the dev team was clearly focused on recreating that Counter-Strike magic without really innovating in any way. The game feels like they did everything they could to keep long-term fanboys happy while doing nothing to bring in newcomers. It also seems to ignore modern innovations and do its best to feel “old school.”
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Running faster because you have the knife out is stupid – I’m just gonna say that. For a game based on realism, it’s a glaring throwback to a more innocent age of video games. It makes no sense – the amount of weight you’re carrying hasn’t changed, and no soldier in his right mind is going to put his gun away and run with a knife in front of him like a particularly self-destructive two-year-old.
No context-sensitive ability to climb over obstacles leads to a lot of futile, repetitive crouch-jumping while trying to get through a window or over a desk. I don’t feel like a soldier – I feel like a video game character. My terrorist/counter-terrorist has no ability to climb anything higher than waist-high. I know obesity is an epidemic, but come on.
The game also retains a painful reminder of a interfaces of old: you have to cycle through your weapons/grenades and fire them individually, like I imagine an aircraft carrier must. Putting your gun away to cycle through your knife, then finally to your grenades is an exercise in suicide. God help you if you also have the bomb on a defusal map: then you have knife, grenades, and bomb to cycle through. It’s an ancient practice that developers have done away with, and it’s painful in the modern age. It equates to buying a new car and finding out you have to go outside and crank the starter.
The lack of melee is the most shocking example, something I actually didn’t believe until I Googled it. There’s no pistol-whip, no smashing with the butt of your gun, no quick knife slice – nothing. You have to go outside in the cold and crank that starter until your knife appears in your hand, at which point your head has already been replaced with buckshot and warm daylight.
The purchasing of weapons and equipment before the game remains. There is a certain long-term rationing strategy I like about it, a risk-vs-reward element that lends a slightly strategic lean to the proceedings. However, nothing has been done to fix the most irritating side-effect of the system: no ability to save profiles. If I could create a profile (Buy Flashbang, Buy Galil) and activate it with the press of a button, it would really speed things up and minimize the amount of war time I spend browsing through menus. To be fair to the team, the radial-style menu is a huge improvement over the “list of guns” menu of old.
The shooting is relatively clean and easy, with a dynamic reticle that gives you a good idea of how wildly your spraying weapons fire and how much of it is going into the ceiling. Crouching is the order of the day, giving you an enormous boost in accuracy: this goes along way to establishing the game’s realism, and to its credit and vision. The guy who posts up, takes careful shots, finds cover, etc, is going to beat the jackass running through doorways blasting SMG fire every time.
Because of your fragility team-play is a must, something Counter-Strike: GO really shines with. Trying to do a Master Chief impression is going to get you shot to death by a corridor full of well-placed enemy team members with overlapping fields of fire. I never use the microphone, and in fact I mute everyone always as a matter of course, but the nice thing is in GO you really don’t need it. Most of the team members I rolled with had a good grip on tactics, and we could crouch-walk through hallways together, use leap-frog tactics to check rooms and hallways, and cover each other’s backs with little communication.
On the PS3, you’re given a few control options: USB keyboard and mouse, DualShock3, and Move controller. That’s also the order of how useful/accurate they are.
Counter-Strike:GO offers four different game types: Bomb Defusal, Hostage Rescue, Arms Race, and Demolition. Bomb Defusal is the classic Counter-Strike mode, and when you’re playing it on the Dust map you’ll feel like it’s 2000 again and wondering if that “X-Men” movie is going to good and if this “Hugh Jackman” guy is going to make a decent Wolverine. Hostage Rescue is still my favorite of the Counter-Strike modes, because it actually feels like a real combat situation and requires a modicum of precision and stealthiness. Arms Race, one of the new modes, is sort like a cheese sampler platter of death – the first player to get a kill with each of the predetermined weapons is the winner. Demolition is an interesting change, a mode that penalizes you for doing well by giving you progressively worse and worse weapons with each kill.
The game looks great. No complaints there. The guns are fully-realized and modeled after their real-world counterparts, and they smoothly display their full action every time they fire. Their metal surfaces are oiled and shiny, their wood surface grainy and well-used. The models for the players are excellent – some of the terrorist designs in particular are extremely versatile and realistic. The maps themselves falter a little in detail sometimes, but not so much that you’d notice. The game is too fast to notice the potted plants on the window sills anyway.
The gunfire punches you in the chest, the music is minimal and atmospheric, and the “Terrorists Win” cues haven’t changed in over twelve years. Whether you consider that a good thing or a bad thing depends on how nostalgic you feel.
Here’s the skinny: Counter-Strike:GO isn’t about giving you the experience of war, or in any way modeling the experience of a soldier. Counter-Strike:GO simulates playing Counter-Strike. The game has the feeling of a paintball match, like it always did, which isn’t bad if that’s what you’re looking for. The game is not about looking to the future, or even acknowledging the present – it’s a throwback, through-and-through. It’s the Final Fantasy VII remake of First-Person-Shooter games: wildly asked for, but inevitably unfulfilling.
If you never played Counter-Strike during its heyday, GO is going to feel clunky and old. If you spent eighty-percent of your junior high years in internet cafes blowing terrorists away with your bullpup on the streets of Venice, Counter-Strike:GO is going to feel like coming home. It’s a must-buy if you’re a Counter-Strike fan, and a probably-avoid for anyone else.
tags: counter strike global offensive , counter-strike , ps3 , review