This review is based upon the PC version of the game.

As my floating pair of arms spawns in the 11th round on the very familiar sands of “de_dust2,” I purchase a Kevlar, helm, flash grenade and an M4 with the funds I managed to muster up from the two (lucky) kills I made last round with my desert eagle. The timer ticks down to round start as I contemplate my plan of action, wallowing in the blissful anticipation of my imminent targets being blown away by my shiny new assault rifle.  The clock reaches zero and my teammates split off to the left; a squad of elite counter-terrorists ready to snap crosshairs to heads. Feeling confident – and stupid – I make the audacious decision to break away from the pack and head into the fray on my own, to the right. I set off, ready to kill, ready to obliterate, ready to revel in my own pride and, as I pass the slight gap in the large double doors that front a long, unobstructed path to my enemies’ spawn point, I hear the painful ‘boom!’ of an AWP sniper rifle, and my life is abruptly ended.

This is definitely a Counter-Strike game.

A series that started out life as a user-made mod for Half Life in 1999, Valve’s Counter-Strike is one of the most popular multiplayer shooters to ever exist with a highly dedicated fan-base, an international competitive scene and brilliantly twitchy shooting mechanics. The first iteration (known as 1.6) is still played to this day, as is the successor Counter-Strike: Source, which was released in 2004. For those who have never played, the game is very simple: there are two teams – Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists – and two game modes – bomb defusal and hostage rescue. The round is over when the counter-terrorists complete or fail their objectives, or all players on a team are dead, and rounds are replayed until the map time is up or the round limit is reached. Death is permanent until the next round starts, and players earn money from killing opponents and winning rounds, which they can then spend on guns and equipment at the start of the next round.

The front of ‘cs_office’ in brand new glorious detail!

Much like CS:S, Global Offensive does little to reinvent the game itself. It is better to think of it as more of an update to Source, as Source was to 1.6. It throws enough into the mix to make it feel fresh and challenging without completely alienating what the long-term players know and love. Most the old maps are there, but with a few differences to keep veterans on their toes and achieve a bit more balance. New guns and different spray patterns have been added, as well as Molotov cocktails and incendiary grenades. It takes a little getting used to, especially if you are a creature of habit with your old tactics, but you come to realise that the decisions were well made.

The shooting is still where the game shines. There is no sprint button, no regenerative health and no ‘perks.’ Fire fights are often quick and merciless, with every bullet that flies through the air having more than enough potential to end you or your opponent’s life in one hit to the head. The recoil model is what sets this game apart from other shooters, forcing you to learn how to shoot every gun if you want to be an effective killer. Spraying is an art form, and moving whilst shooting is something that you should definitely avoid if you are more than 5 feet away from your opponent and want your shots to actually be on target. The game rewards patience and accuracy over erratic gunplay, with the player who knows their weapon better coming out on top.

The graphics have been much improved, despite the source engine beginning to show its age. There is a lot more variety in what you see around you, with locations looking much more realistic. ‘Office,’ for example, now has an inaccessible reception area in the foyer and a blocked-off road in the side yard area so it no longer feels like it exists in a vacuum. The objects around the maps also feel much more organic than they did in source, fitting their environments much more realistically thanks to improved design, although the ability to shoot various objects such as barrels and filing cabinets across the world has been removed. Character models are now subject to location as well, adding to the sense of reality. Some of the terrorists look a little goofy, but at least we no longer see Metal Gear’s snowsuit-clad genome soldiers running about in the desert.

Other noteworthy additions include the new game modes. Arms Race and Demolition modes are instant-respawn team deathmatches that reward players who get kills with new guns; it is effectively the ‘gungame’ mod that was popular on source and 1.6. ‘Casual mode’ has also been added, which lowers the round limit, increases the kill rewards and gives everyone armour at the beginning of the round so they can spend all their cash on ordinance. They have also added a matchmaking service (that actually works!) for getting into a 5v5 game quickly (although you can still use the server browser if you prefer), a relatively unhelpful weapons course for new players and an offline mode. Bots that are still alive on your team, both online and offline, are also controllable in case you accidently walk in front of that pesky AWP wielder.

The new buy screen

A somewhat confused addition to the game is the greater reward scheme for killing with certain weapons. If a player kills an enemy with an SMG, for example, they get $900 as opposed to the $300 you would normally get for using a more powerful weapon. The idea works on paper; if a player is poor and continually dying, it gives them more of a chance of getting back up the ladder when they score a kill. However, the system doesn’t really make much sense as SMGs have their own advantages. An M4 assault rifle may have better first-shot accuracy and more power-per-bullet, but the P90 SMG has 50 bullets a clip, an insane rate of fire and comfortable accuracy yet rewards the player 3 times more for a kill. What also utterly confuses me is how they neglected to reward the player more for making kills with handguns, despite it being much more difficult than using any other weapon. At least they drastically lowered the kill reward for using the AWP sniper rifle – a weapon that is still horrendously over-powered with a single shot to the torso being fatal.

Something I have to bring up (because it irks me with all modern first person shooters) is the collection of tool tips that appear when a map is loading. I understand that Valve has to cater for all types of potential player, but in a game that is so unforgiving and relentlessly hardcore, do we really need to have a tool tip that tells us that shooting enemies in the head does more damage? It doesn’t stop there, either – it continues to tell us that this particular shot is ‘called a ‘headshot.’’ I had to laugh.

A new Terrorist model wielding the rage-inducing AWP

These strange decisions aside, this is still the same old Counter-Strike that players have come to know and love. It may not be a brand new game with a flurry of new maps and modes, but it adds enough subtle tweaks to make it feel refreshed and refined for the old player, and visually and aurally updated enough for the new player. It would have been nice to see some more maps included (such as cs_assault, which was one of my all-time favourites) and maybe a few more game modes, but these are an aside to a simply unmatched competitive shooter. It is also only £12 on Steam, which you certainly cannot argue with.

One last piece of advice: If you are new to the series, don’t give up playing because you get mercilessly decimated nearly every round; because it is hard to find a more satisfying game to be good at.



Author

Ciaran Fallon
Ciaran Fallon

Filmmaker and full-time gamer studying Film and Moving Image Production in Norwich. Lives for experiencing and creating worlds on the other side of a screen: falling in love with characters, stories and shooting people in the face. Deus Ex is the all time favourite game and American Psycho the all time favourite film.