Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ReviewPublisher: Valve
, Xbox 360, PS3
UK Price (as reviewed): £11.99 Incl. VAT
US Price (as reviewed): $15.99 Excl. Tax
It's Counter-Strike. It's back.
For the most part, that's all any of you will really need to know; that it's the exact same game you used to love but refashioned at a higher visual fidelity. There are a couple of additions and a couple of absences which we'll come to in time, but for the most part this is just Counter-Strike made prettier.
Counter-Strike too. The game is available for consoles as well as PC, but Valve hasn't let the controller change the game hardly at all. If you're playing on PC then the only concession to thumbsticks that you'll even notice is that the Buy Menu has been refashioned as a radial selector, rather than a list. That's hardly worth stressing about, is it?
Meanwhile, the rest of the game is perfectly preserved. It's two teams, evenly matched and with opposing objectives thrown into tightly designed arenas which demand conflict. The speed and feel of the original game has been captured perfectly, but what's better than just that is that the formula has been distilled even further.
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You see, Counter-Strike has always been about two things. In the short-term it's about the unrelenting speed of the violence and the enjoyable pressure that creates. Meanwhile, in the long-term it's about cultivating an intimate and strategic understanding of environments which are only superficially simple. Play enough of the old Counter-Strike and you'd naturally shift from one position to the other; what would start as twitch-shooting would eventually become strategic discussion.
The most fundamental improvement which Global Offensive makes is in increasing the level of granularity on this spectrum by presenting two flavours of experience; Casual and Competitive.
Casual modes are all about the short-game. When you start you're given Kevlar armour for free and you get only a few seconds to buy your weapons, with the implication being that you should stop planning and start fighting. Get out there and shoot that gun. When you die, you can watch the rest of the match from any position you want and soon enough you'll be funnelled on to the next map.
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On the other hand, Competitive modes are all about the long-game. You get nothing for free and when you die you're limited to watching only your team-members from a first person viewpoint. Matches are balanced to go on much longer too, with the implication this time being on encouraging a meticulous attention to detail. Here, it's not about the fastest finger, it's about the perfect sightline.
These differences between Competitive and Casual might sound subtle, but examined closely they're indicative of so much, both in terms of how the game was made and how it's played. Drop into any random Casual server and you'll find people running around, shooting each other and jumping on to voice comms only to swear or yell jokes. A Competitive server, on the other hand, has a completely different atmosphere; expect rebukes if you're anything less than focused on the task at hand.
Whichever you favour, the fact that you have the ability to more finely tune Counter-Strike to suit your needs is no bad thing whatsoever, especially when it's build onto Valve's typically robust multiplayer framework.