Preview

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Preview (PS3)

Format Played: PC

Counter-Strike is single-handedly responsible for both my addiction to online multiplayer gaming early last decade and the fact that I now hate competitive multiplayer. For a time, several years in fact, I couldn’t get enough of it. I played every night, had a good regular server, and while I wasn’t the best I wasn’t anywhere near the worst – I was in the comfortable middle. Then slowly and surely I came to a realisation: I wasn’t having fun anymore. The good players were far too good, teamwork was often non-existent, and I was getting more frustration than enjoyment out of it.

In the end I swore off competitive multiplayer entirely. Now here’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, showing up like an old girlfriend. Sure she looks prettier than ever and still has all those moves that drove you crazy, but she’s also got all the old flaws that made you cheat on her with those Call of Duty and Team Fortress tarts. Okay, enough about my love life, more game.

So, who wants a game of Battlefield 3? Wait…

I’m going to get right to the nub of CS: GO: it’s Counter-Strike. If you’re expecting some grand reinvention you’ll be sadly disappointed – it’s far less of an upgrade than Source or even the forgotten Condition Zero, and most definitely isn’t a ‘2’. Granted, yes, I only played the barest fraction of it, but enough to get shot in head from across the map by a crouching sniper moving in and out of cover plenty of times.

Since I think everyone in the entire world is au fait with Counter-Strike I’ll be brief with the explanation for the few who aren’t. As usual with MP games there are two teams, Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists in CS’s case, with objectives ranging from planting a bomb to recovering hostages (depending on your side), although taking out the opposing team counts too. What makes CS unique is its focus on realism: just a few bullets will kill you, and you’ll be out for the entire match. This fact alone really highlights teamwork, careful play, and individual player skill, and all together are what makes the game so addictively enduring. CS: GO is the latest push, and the first proper attempt by Valve to get the game on consoles. Not that I got to play that, as the Beta is PC-only for now.

The beta’s really light on features right now too. Two maps, 5 x 5 only, a couple of play modes, and either Quick Match or Create Match on the Play menu. The real basics. While I don’t expect to get everything in a beta meant to improve the game rather than satisfy customers, I still found it bizarre that the only maps on offer were Dust and Dust 2. What possible extra playtesting information could Valve gleam from them that they couldn’t do more effectively in Counter-Strike: Source? They could’ve at least tested one new map, to see how it ran against an old favourite.

But favourites these two Dusts most certainly are. Every major long-running multiplayer game has some stone-cold classic maps and these two are the CS mainstays. While personally I’m more partial to Office I certainly can’t deny the simple perfect balancing of the Dusts. No team has the advantage, there’s none of the funnelling (with the non-essential exception of a short area in Dust 2) that blights other FPSs such as Brink, and while knowledge of the map helps it certainly isn’t required. Just skill and hopefully good teammates. Hopefully.

90% of the screenshots I took were in camera view. I was dead, you see

Of course there’s the bots too, which were thankfully present to shore up the sides and dropping out smoothly as real players replaced them. They’re obviously going to be improved before release (right Valve? Hidden Path?) so I can forgive the occasional laser-point accuracy and psychic powers. Seriously, you know that high hole in the wall in Dust 2 by the bomb site that’s a good sniping spot? One time I saw the last Bot player on each side meet each other perfectly at the top of it. They’re occasionally hilariously stupid too, like throwing Molotov cocktails at their own feet or shooting at each other Naked Gun-like around the same crate.

There are currently Easy and Hard bots, the type you get being determined by one of the two Game Modes on offer. ‘Casual’ is for the less serious player or beginner to the world of Counter-Strike and features a longer match time, lots of starting cash and no friendly fire. ‘Competitive’ is of course for the more experienced Counter-Striker, with traditional rules, full realistic damage and plenty of glorious death. I’ve no idea if there’ll be more modes or the ability to customise matches in the final version… or whether really good players can join a Casual match and annihilate all within – but internet gaming’s full of nice, caring gamers with a sense of decency and fair play right? Still, at least there’s a Training mode for beginners.

What may annoy CS purists, and the reason why I highly suspect there’ll be a host of match customisation options, is that Armour is no longer purchasable. Instead, all players have 100 health and 100 armour right from the start. It certainly doesn’t make things easier, as usual even with armour a few bullets will still end you, but it does mean everyone has a bit more chance to keep playing even after a couple of lucky hits.

The weapon set was limited to a few basics (one assault rifle, one semi-automatic, a couple of pistols and snipers), so no shotguns or heavy machineguns to try out. There were a few grenades I didn’t recognise alongside the Flashbang, Smoke and Explosive kinds, like the aforementioned Molotovs and a rather fun Distraction grenade. Don’t expect any great advances in the controls though – I’ll be the last to cry out for Iron Sights, but with even Serious Sam 3 having them I admit it does feel really weird not being able to zoom in with a regular gun. Don’t expect much modernisation here folks.

That said, one area where you can expect a bit of updating is the graphics engine. Yes, it’s still Source and in the heat of battle it doesn’t look much different from the last CS game, but any comparison video on YouTube will quickly highlight just how better looking CS: GO is over regular CS: Source. Everywhere is just packed with a lot more believable detail, and I especially like the helicopter dropping off the CT team, which can look like Battlefield 3 when it happens.

Molotovs are quite useful at stopping opponents from immediately seeing me and shooting me

I don’t think slightly nicer graphics is enough of a reason to buy CS: GO if you already have Source however, and right now all the beta’s seemingly revelling in being exactly the same as it’s always been. Yes, there’s Casual and Training modes for beginners and the starting armour makes things a teensy little bit fairer on less skilful players, but for everyone else I think buying CS: GO will come down to price and new maps.

I haven’t seen any of those new maps yet, but I’ve got to admit that I’m eager to. Counter-Strike is an addiction that took me years to get out of my system, but with the right nudge I can easily see myself falling back in with Global Offensive. However, Valve and Hidden Path have to push themselves a bit more if they don’t want to just make CS: GO seem like a console port with a lick of paint. Let’s hope they deliver.

Most Anticipated Feature: Trying out the new maps. Make them damn good guys, ‘kay?

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