As I stood by the side of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive area, waiting to interview Chet Faliszek, a writer at Valve (coming soon) and anticipating a quick go on the aforementioned game, two guys in their mid-20s were stood next to me, loudly ridiculing a game they had never played.
'The Counter-Strike I love is dead to me; they've brought this out on consoles' one dramatically exclaimed as his friend concurred gravely, before both deciding the game was not worth their while and venturing off. This is indicative of the obssessive and passionate community that has formed around Counter Strike, the former Half-Life modification, since its inception a decade ago. Highly protective of what is a game centred on community (as Chet emphasised), some feel it is a dampening-down (of sorts) to release the game on consoles (conveniently forgetting a version was released on the Xbox). They should not be so worried. Despite only playing the PS3 version, it can be assured that the game is coming along swimmingly.
Not really a sequel to the ever popular Counter-Strike: Source, it is more of a refinement, update and improvement rather than a brutal re-imagining. Why fix what isn't broken? It's still one life and you're out, unforgiving for new users and utterly, utterly addictive. Teamwork is still the name of the game; using tactics, bait and nifty screen-watching, our team was able to lure out a couple of enemies who had tried to trap and flank, and instead ended up trapping them in a pincer. When a plan works, it is as satisying as ever; individuals will not get far.
Graphics are nowehere near the standards set by Battlefield and the like, but that's never been the point of Counter-Strike, where gameplay has always been the focus. The option to buy weapons at the start returns, initiated using the right stick at the checkpoint, and the rifles are as trusty as ever (the clinical killer's weapon of choice). Patience as ever is a virtue; those who rush in headlessly will find themselves headless pretty quickly. Counter-Strikers are generally sharp players, and thus one must be methodical and sure at every point. Still, this is no Ghost Recon, and I spent my first life chasing people with my knife.
As fun as it was to play, the engine feels adequate but dated, and in need of some refinement. However, considering it is pre-beta, it runs impressively well, and feels fair to play, so is not really a cause for concern. Valve have emphasised that they want to encourage gamers of all abilities to be able to experience it, and not to feel that they will be easy prey to more experienced players, whilst the use of dedicated servers, ran by Valve, should go some way to relieving the threat of hackers which so blighted previous versions. Shooting is solid, although the duck and cover motions need working on a bit; too often my head kept popping up despite slamming down the duck button for dear life.
It's still early days yet, with a vague 2012 release date planned, so it is hard and perhaps unfair to make judgements at this point. Still, it plays well already, which can only mean it will get better. Valve believe it be the ultimate version of Counter-Strike; it would take a brave man to bet against that being the case.