Coming back to Counter-Strike after roughly a decade has been a bit of a bitter-sweet journey. On one hand, it feels so familiar and it’s the game that helped me hone my multiplayer skills, but on the flip side, it doesn’t feel like it’s evolved. At first, I admit I was a bit disappointed at the absence of something as trivial as the ADS option (aim down sights) and even found the transition from modern multiplayer shooters to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) a bit jarring. However, having played at it all weekend, I’m glad Valve and Hidden Path haven’t deviated from the formula. Retaining all its gameplay mechanics (which some may consider outdated) in today’s day and age has definitely helped CS: GO retain its unique personality. It is this very trait that defines the game, separating it from the multitude of competitive shooters crowding the market today.
But as much as I enjoy this game, there’s no doubt that CS: GO has a steep learning curve and is particularly punishing for newcomers. It’s fairly simple on paper, wherein it splits players up into two teams – Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists and is spread out across two distinct scenarios, Bomb Defusal and Hostage Rescue. Besides killing one another, successfully performing the objectives (depending on which side you’re on) can also win you the round. The better you perform in a given round, the more money you earn for the next, enabling the purchase of better, more powerful weapons.
However, unlike games like Battlefield 3, where you can enjoy the game even if you aren’t very good at it by performing supporting roles, CS is a cold hearted bitch. If you aren’t quick on the trigger finger, you’ll die before you can say “Fire in the hole” and will have to spend the rest of the round spectating your more capable teammates. You either play well on the field or spend your time on the sidelines, waiting patiently while the round ends. This really could prove daunting to newcomers so I hope the community helps them learn the ropes instead of kicking them off servers for being “noobs“.
Thankfully, CS: GO does ship with offline bots that can at least ease newcomers into the game. It gives them a chance to learn the map layouts and understand the recoil associated with most weapons. Besides Bomb Defusal and Hostage Rescue, CS: Go features two new modes – Arms Race and Demolition. Arms Race is similar to Black Ops’ Gun Game (yeah I know, it was introduced in CS first, blah blah), where you start off with a weak pistol, but automatically upgrade to a new weapon once you take an enemy out. This is one of the more fast-paced modes, where you respawn as soon as you die and is quite a bit of fun to play even though it’s not conventional Counter-Strike. Demolition is the polar opposite of Arms Race, where you receive a crappier weapon upon killing an enemy because that’s the mode’s way of challenging you. Unfortunately, most servers are too busy playing the old modes, ignoring the new ones in the process.
Besides Arms Race to a certain extent, CS: GO doesn’t really support the lone wolf mentality most Call of Duty players tend to adopt. Run around by yourself, and in all probability, you will come across a well coordinated team of enemies who will gun you down mercilessly in seconds. I say this for all multiplayer games, but in CS especially, it’s really important to be able to coordinate strategies with your team, so make sure you get yourself a mic ASAP. And please, don’t be that guy who only plays for himself, running to B while the whole team moves to A, unless of course, your plan all along is to be the decoy.
I hear a lot of people comparing CS: GO with Source and 1.6, but for me, it just feels like Counter-Strike. Period! The shooting, especially if you’re coming back after a break, takes some getting used to, but dying multiple times really speeds up that process as survival instinct kicks in. On the plus side, most of the old maps return, and while they have been cosmetically upgraded, they’re still the same ones you spent countless hours memorising. There have been a few tweaks made along the way to accommodate newer routes, but they aren’t too much of an issue. What I did find cumbersome was the poorly designed player skins, where I had a hard time differentiating between friend and foe on multiple occasions.
Another aspect of the game I absolutely despise is the ability for players to constantly throw up votes. Through most of the matches I played this weekend, the losing team always started voting on whether they should scramble teams, restart the match or change the level, just because they were getting their asses handed to them. It’s this kind of spoilsport mentality that put me off the game in the first place. But idiotic players are a part and parcel of every competitive game, for which you can’t really fault the game (although I do hope Valve removes the voting option ASAP).
All said and done, few games can emulate the excitement Counter-Strike brings to the table. The tension really is palpable, especially if you’re the last man standing, gently walking around the map (so your footsteps don’t attract unnecessary attention), cautiously looking at every nook and corner as the opposite team camps the fallen bomb and your dead comrades spectate your every move. Few games can emulate such intensity and CS definitely does it best.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive may not have evolved a whole lot and it is not without its faults, but if you’re a product of the early 2000s, it is like an awesome, heavy dose of nostalgia straight to the brain. Even if you’re a newcomer, I suggest you give it a shot. It may seem like an uphill battle initially, but once you get a hang of things, you’ll be playing it for a long, long time.
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