Counter-Strike had its humble beginnings as a Half-Life mod, pitting terrorists against counter-terrorists - a modern day iteration of the classic cops and robbers/cowboys and Indians game re-interpreted for a global setting. Getting its own retail release in 2000, Counter-Strike quickly became one of the most popular shooters of all time, with its anti-terrorism sentiment reaping the benefits of the post-9/11 landscape, and it no doubt helped shape the current modern shooter market dominated by Call of Duty and Battlefield. Valve updated the title in 2004, but left behind the original so that fans could choose for themselves, actively keeping both versions updated throughout the years. Now, Valve has given CS fans a third choice with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, featuring new weapons, modes, maps, and a graphical overhaul. Is this new iteration of Counter-Strike worth your time, or is it merely just a new coat of paint?
This largely depends in which machine you choose to play Counter-Strike on. Counter-Strike is and always will be a PC beast, and Global Offensive is no different. That being said, it’s the PS3 version that was played for this review, so it will be judged on its own merits alone here. Still, if you have the option, the PC version is the way to go, given the PS3 and Xbox 360 version’s comparatively limited options. However, should you elect for the console version, you’re still getting the classic Counter-Strike experience, for better or for worse.
For newcomers to the franchise, Counter-Strike offers a completely different experience from its modern day contemporaries. For one: no iron-sights. While modern shooter fans may lament this as being "unrealistic", it is fundamentally tied to the Counter-Strike experience, with increased accuracy instead coming from patience and taking the time to crouch and line up your shots. Second, death is permanent. No coming back until the next round, adding dramatic weight to each kill earned and forcing you to really think about your strategy and work with your teammates. Long-time Counter-Strike players may be godly on their own, but proper teamwork can overcome even the best individual players.
The main draw of Counter-Strike is its two classic modes: Bomb Defusal and Hostage Rescue. Both modes pit terrorists against counter-terrorists in teams of five. Prior to each round, you are given a limited amount of funds to buy weapons and gear, forcing you to think about the financial repercussions of your load-out. Bomb Defusal tasks terrorists with planting a bomb at one of two pre-determined locations, while the counter-terrorists must either eliminate the enemy team or defuse the bomb. Hostage Rescue, on the other hand, tasks the counter-terrorists with extracting four hostages. Should the hostages die, counter-terrorists lose the round.
Unfortunately, these classic competitive modes don’t feature any new maps, meaning longtime Counter-Strike fans will be experiencing the same maps they’ve been playing for years. However, the maps have been slightly altered for the sake of balance, the most notable of which being a staircase added under Dust’s overpass. Still, there’s a reason that Counter-Strike’s maps have endured for over a decade, and their designs remain as classic as ever. Also, the addition of incendiary grenades greatly changes things, cutting off passageways and completely altering classic strategies.
Global Offensive does include new maps for its new modes, however. Arms Race is essentially an official version of the Gun Game mod from Counter-Strike: Source, where the first person to get a kill with each of the game's 26 weapons wins the round. Demolition serves as a combination of Arms Race and Bomb Defusal, rewarding each kill with a new weapon while tasking the terrorist team with getting the bomb planted on a location at the center of the map. Both modes feature smaller maps, resulting in a more fast-paced style of gameplay that appeals to both newcomers and veterans alike.
The PlayStation 3 is certainly more limited than its PC counterpart, but it has its merits. The PS3 version offers keyboard and mouse support for those who wish to emulate the classic PC experience, as well as PlayStation Move support for all you Sharpshooter owners out there. Move controls offer less accuracy and stability than the other control options, but the inclusion of the feature is still nice to have. The Xbox 360 version, on the other hand, only allows for gamepad controls. If you have the luxury of choosing between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Counter-Strike, the PS3 version is the way to go.
In terms of value, the PS3 version of Global Offensive is a mixed-bag. On one hand, you’re paying for the same classic, polished gameplay that has come to define the series. On the other hand, you’re getting a very limited version of the game, which features no mods or matchmaking options. With the PC version being the same price and packed with more features, it’s hard to justify opting for the PS3 version if you have a PC that can handle the game.
With new maps, modes, weapons and the same classic gameplay, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a great update to the greatest multiplayer shooter of all time (sorry, GoldenEye). But that’s what it feels like - an update. The new graphics, modes, and weapons are nice, but this is still fundamentally the same game it has always been. Plus, the lack of options on the console versions really prevents a full recommendation. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on the PS3 is a good representation of the Counter-Strike you know and love, but it is far from the best version available.