Different ‘Source’, same flavour…
Every trend passes in time, no matter how much we fight against it. As an avid fan and player of Counter-Strike over the years, there’s been multiple iterations of the multiplayer phenomenon which we’ve haven’t been sold on straightaway. Be it CS 1.6, the forced implementation of Steam, or the ever controversial CS: Source. Across the video game landscape there isn’t a franchise that’s more fractious than Counter-Strike and while the previous iterative jump was largely a visual one, Global Offensive takes the tactical twitch-based shooter down a more focused 5-on-5 road.
Seeing as we’ve grown up with 10 vs 10, 20 vs 20, and even 32 vs 32 matches, it’s hard to go back down to a much smaller size, but Valve aren’t seeking to replace your Counter-Strike flavour of choice, instead they’re wisely trying to open it up to a wider audience by offering a much more welcoming experience. The hit-boxes have shrunken even closer to the character models’ forms, the weapons for the most part are the same, but functionally everything has been given a spruce up from the weapon purchase menu to matchmaking. There’s even a new medal-based reward infrastructure which offers pointless yet shiny gifs to recognise good team-play.
The premise is still the same, with matches pitting terrorists against counter-terrorists. The latter has to eliminate the former either by bullets, preventing a bomb from exploding or freeing captured hostages. In addition to traditional matches on CS_Office, DE_Dust and other classics, there’s also Arms Race, a kill for weapon mode which functions a lot like Gun Game, and Demolition which still consists of one team stopping another from planting explosives, but matches take place on much smaller maps; which leads to rounds rarely lasting more than a ninety seconds.
Couple those modes with a some new rifles and pistols, as well as a new one-hit kill taser – pretty redundant when the AWP rifle does the same thing from much longer range – and you have a slightly modified game which feels different enough from its forebears. There’s also two new grenades, a decoy variety which simulates gunfire and the Molotov Cocktail which unsurprisingly can set groups of enemies on fire and coats the floor in liquid flame, allowing players to stop a rush attempt for a few precious seconds.
When playing CS: GO it’s hard not to get the impression that its primary focus has been the console crowd. The menu interface is chunky, the ability to join servers based on IP or return to your favourite is buried deeper than the ubiquitous quick match option, and overall the pace of competitive play seems quicker, thanks to some map layouts being changed to offer a fairer challenge to both teams. These alterations to the core formula will inevitably lead to complaints, but Valve has plenty of time to remedy them as this semi-sequel is still in closed beta. Where they falter, we suspect the community will pitch in to re-create classic maps authentically and offer up the litany of plug-ins necessary to make this vanilla version of Counter-Strike hold-up to its modern counterpart. Custom skins, betting mechanics, sounds ripped from Quake; all of these things will be added in good time. Besides CS: GO is more likely to capture a new audience in 2012 than CS: Source and for a community that has been on a downward spiral for the past few years that can only be a good thing.
We have loved Counter-Strike ever since 1.4 blew our collective minds back in college, and due to the everpresent prejudice against the new it’s easy to dismiss CS: GO as ‘CS: Lite’. However that doesn’t detract from the fact that even at this stage, Global Offensive is a very good multiplayer experience. Besides it isn’t like Valve are taking the previous games off digital shelves or anything, so there isn’t really any need to complain.
Sure it isn’t quite the same series that we remember, but as inevitable as change is, sometimes it can be a good thing.
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