Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Review

Counter-Strike 1.6 defined a new breed of shooters, one that relied more on player skill and map knowledge compared to the twitchy fragfests of Quake and Unreal Tournament. Consistent kill-death ratios demanded team cooperation, burst fire, and snap reflexes while lone wolves died out once they probed the tactics needed for planting bombs or rescuing hostages. Death became a sign of humiliation, forcing gamers to wait out the remainder of the round by spectating their superior teammates.

CS: Source split the fanbase with Valve’s integration of the Source engine, even if the basics of the gameplay remained. Global Offensive, which began as a simple console port, grew into a revival of the classic series. The years have been kind to Counter-Strike’s success, and some would argue we never asked for an HD update. But current generation visuals stand as the only significant change, given the eight-year interval since CS: Source’s release. While Global Offensive may not leave the lasting impact of its predecessors, it puts everyone on even footing once again due to fresh maps, weapon spreads, and firearm selections.

Players still ally with the Counter-Terrorists or Terrorists, whose skins now change depending on the map’s climate. As the Terrorists work to annihilate the CTs or detonate a bomb at designated sites, the Counter-Terrorists coordinate to diffuse said bomb or rescue apathetic hostages. If either team should be eliminated, they lose the round. Players can purchase grenades, Kevlar, pistols, and rifles with the money they gain from kills to their increase survival chances, and fighting on the round’s winning side contributes more cash to virtual savings accounts.

 

You can tell he's a terrorist by the bandana. Terrorists love bandanas.  

 

My first gazes upon Dust, Office, and Italy after a five-year sojourn brought back heartwarming memories, but that reminiscence became short-lived. Each death by headshot awakened mental images of embarrassing no-kill matches. The skill requirements (still in full effect) erect a wall that only persistent amateurs will topple, with the lone series that has dared to emulate the formula well going by the name Call of Duty. Search & Destroy includes similar stipulations, but Infinity Ward and Treyarch diminished the gap between rookies and veterans with iron sights and forgiving hip fire accuracy.

That could not be farther from Counter-Strike’s message. From the vintage M4 and AK-47 to the M249 and AWP, which by every stretch remains the unchecked god weapon, Global Offensive sticks to its guns. The developers implement a few contemporary firearms to keep with modern military deployments. The SCAR-20 adds a semi-auto sniper rifle to the Counter-Terrorists’ arsenal while the Terrorists receive a short-range Sawed-Off shotgun. Molotovs, incendiary grenades, and the Zeus taser round out the new purchases. Although flaming munitions become an invaluable means for blocking corridors and halting enemy advances, the stun gun costs as much as a full Kevlar set and drops after one shot. Unless you belong to the class of montage makers, stay with the knife.

In fact, what got cut may surprise players even more. Free-look spectating, silencers, and custom sprays wait out this iteration for reasons unknown, perhaps for the better. I respect the people’s right to freedom of speech, but when your tag contains pornography, you have gone so far beyond being ironic or clever. These alterations probably mean little to the console crowd, but remember that Counter-Strike should be played on PCs. At the same retail price, you gain the advantages of mouse and keyboard precision, a diehard modding community, a server browser, larger skirmishes, and frequent patch support.

 

You have no business missing a target this close with an AWP. 

 

The massively popular Gun Game makes an official appearance under the title of Arms Race. Treyarch may have pulled the rug out from under Valve copying all but the maps in Black Ops’ Gun Game, though Arms Race paints a better picture of what the mode entails. Competitors race to kill their opponents with all 26 firearms first. Players start the round with an SMG, and every kill accrued switches their weapon to a deadlier, more accurate one instantly. That changes near the final set of armaments: the pistols. You’ll often need to steal handgun kills from teammates as the rival faction creeps up the ladder with assault rifles and shotguns. The tension builds until the game’s leader, regardless of team affiliation, earns a knife kill, a humiliating ending to an exhilarating match. 

Demolition enacts similar rules, combining the classic gameplay of Defusal with the weapon swapping of Arms Race. Terrorists still need to plant the explosives, but with just one bomb site, the CTs know where the action will unravel. Kill an adversary and you’ll spawn with a different weapon next round. Hardcore fans, however, should stick with the Classic Casual and Classic Competitive modes. The rounds to win and the existence of friendly fire and team collision remain the notable differences between the two.

Global Offensive includes eight classic maps – such as Dust, Dust II, Office, Nuke, and Italy – though Valve restricts the eight new maps – like a humble cabin surrounded by hills and a lake, an airport baggage terminal, and a shooting range – to Arms Race and Demolition. As an accompaniment, Global Offensive wraps itself in a nice HD coat of fur. The graphics show improvements in foliage, environment textures, character models, and lighting adjustments, all to live up to current player standards. Sadly, the Source engine's plastic surgery continues to fall apart. You can only modify an existing system so many times before the wear begins to show, and I fear Valve’s engine reached that limit years ago.

 

Only the luckiest of players can pull off kills on the move.  

 

As for me, I abstained from competitive CS: Source once I discovered the player-developed mods. The modding community hooked me with its addictive spinoffs on Counter-Strike’s twitch formula, as I logged hundreds of hours in Gun Game and Zombie Escape alone. Less than two weeks after Global Offensive’s release, both variants have entered testing phase on the community servers. If that counts as good news, I have more. Custom map downloads take place server-side instead of saving the files to your hard drive. This reduces the time between matches significantly, and removes the Internet speed variable from the equation.

Valve’s sanctioned anti-cheat servers grant a maximum of five-on-five battles with vacant slots being filled by bots, yet the community servers dispel the player limit, upping server capacities to thirty-two at least. However, these site-run maps open the doors for possible wallhackers and aimbots. Valve may step in to police the cheaters, but the responsibility of keeping order ultimately falls to the server admins. Still, I fell in love with these large-scale engagements. Twenty pairs of eyes judging the last men standing induces stress, but this makes clutch situations all the more exciting.

All told, Global Offensive’s biggest problem lies with its overwhelming familiarity: CS:GO is more Counter-Strike. True to traditions, characters run faster with their knives equipped, and pros still perform the AWP-pistol swap. If you tire of waiting to respawn more than actually playing the game, however, nothing here will alter your opinion. Additional/replacement weapons and some fresh HD visuals justify the price for many, but one cannot deny we all played this game before. Future mod support may raise Global Offensive to Source levels of popularity, and based on the franchise’s legacy, you will not regret your purchase. Just do the right thing and buy the PC version.

Publisher: Valve
Developer: Valve
Release Date: August 21, 2012
Number of Players: 2-32 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac 

Scumbagb3n's picture

Amazingly well written review.

I remember playing my sister years ago, she (and her team) always won. Why? Because she hung back and sniped when everyone else just ran in and died in the first few minutes. God I miss that game.

Mango's picture

I am a seasoned source player with over 2300 hours logged and counting enjoying every second of it but i can not say the same for cs:go while i enjoy a game of dust on cs:go i don't obtain the same fun factor i can get when i join my server on source with five of my buddy's and all our regulars. Also the admin commands are a bit broken on cs:go servers if your hosting your own making it a bit difficult to police the server and keep everything in order.

Josh Kowbel's picture

@Mango:

That's an insane amount of playtime, but I'm also not having hours of fun on CS:GO yet. Valve's five-on-five servers don't fill with me the same excitement, and like said in the review, I doubt Global Offensive will leave the lasting impact of Counter-Strike 1.6 or Source. The community servers are getting better each day though, and I cannot wait to play Zombie Escape with updated graphics and firearms. 

John Tarr's picture

Overall, I'm pretty disappointed with CSGO. To me, having Gun Game front and center is the only noteworthy addition to the game. I would love to see Valve make mods easier to access with a Starcraft 2 style custom games system. I would also love to see a ranked ladder, with solo and team queues, similar to LoL. To me, CSGO is a very minor improvement over any of the previous editions.

It is worth mentioning that CSGO is only $15 though. 

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