Counter-Strike: Global Offensive PreviewPublisher: Valve Software
, Xbox 360
Counter-Strike is so popular that, like World of Warcraft, it's almost impossible you don't have an opinion on it, be it good or bad. It's therefore incredibly brave of Valve to tinker with the series again, as previous revisions have met mixed reception - Counter-Strike 1.6 still has more players than CS: Source and is considered a more taut, exacting experience by pro-gaming leagues.
Not that Valve would say this; they’ve publicly stated that CS:GO isn’t meant to replace either of the current games, merely complement them. Only the fact that pro-gamers have been involved in the development of the game suggests otherwise, with the hope being that CS:GO might offer the best of both worlds - the scope and splendour of a modern shooter and the unforgiving nature of CS 1.6. Professional gaming might suddenly be worth watching!
Unfortunately, getting hands on with the beta version of CS:GO reveals that Valve has a long way to go if that's what it's aiming for. While CS:GO captures the visual splendour of a modern shooter, with the Source engine still capable of delivering striking visuals even with CS:GO's more cartoony aesthetic, there's something subtle that's missing. Between the lovingly redesigned and rebalanced maps and weapons, CS:GO fails to deliver the tension we'd expect of Counter-Strike.
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While the levels that you stride around feel lifelike and real, few of the actions that you perform in them do. Guns are plasticky and inconsequential; movement feels so smooth as to be divorced from the terrain, like you’re floating through the level rather than pounding towards your objective. The version we played is a beta and Valve is already dropping patches as a result, but these are issues we hoped not to see at all.
Weapons look and sound strange too with a bizarre puffy edge to them, like they’re inflatable models filled with too much air. This, combined with weak sound effects, robs weapons of weight – they just don’t quite look like they’re made of metal. It's a design theme that extends to the player models too, each of whom look slightly caricatured - as if they've had one too many Christmas dinners before showing up for duty.
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It’s not all bad news, however. The new radial buying menu is excellent, and additions such as Molotov cocktails introduce a new tactical options to the mix, though they don’t do much damage. Moving while scoped with a sniper rifle now blurs your vision too, a move that makes the AWP more tricky to wield effectively. It'll be especially interesting to see how this effects the balancing of Valve's cross-platform support, which allows PC players to fight against Mac and PlayStation 3 gamers online.
CS:GO can’t simply be good, however. Its predecessors are polished to a mirror shine, going down in history as some of the most-loved and most-played games ever made even more than a decade later. If Valve wants to offer a reason for the seasoned veterans of 1.6 and Source to migrate to this new instalment then it'll need more than Molotov cocktails and game-pad toting foes; CS:GO needs to at least match CS 1.6, if not surpass it.
It's not an insurmountable task, especially for a studio of Valve's pedigree, but between too-floaty movements and guns that feel like peashooters, it's clear that there's still a lot of work which needs to be done before this latest CS is good to go, go, go.