Where were you…?
Every generation faces a monumental event that defines it and spawns a question as ancient and constant as time itself: “Where were you…”. For the 70’s it was “… when JFK was assassinated.” For the 90’s it was “… when the Berlin wall fell”. For us, it is “Where were you, when 9/11 happened?” I can answer that question because I remember vividly. I was a college sophomore, sitting in my dorm room in up state New York, an hour prior to my first class for the day. And I was playing Counter-Strike.
The original Counter-Strike, a mod for the rabidly popular Half-Life, was released on June 19, 1999, well over 13 years ago. From humble beginnings it grew exponentially to a global phenomenon. I doubt there are many gamers in their 20s and 30s who have not played Counter-Strike at one point or another. It was, is and will likely remain a phenomenon for a long time. It is a tremendous achievement, the mother of online shooters, the title that paved the way for Call of Duty and Battlefield. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a resounding reminder that there is only one, true king of the online shooter throne. And it just got a whole lot better.
Back to the Basics
The key thing to know about Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (or CS:GO for short) is that it takes a winning, successful formula, tweaks it with a wide variety of minor adjustments, adds smoother interface elements, revamps the maps, guns and skins, and then dares you to plant that bomb. But the updated look, and smoother gameplay, at its core, this is the same Counter-Strike that Gooseman and Cliffe released in 1999. It is the penultimate battle between the good guys and the bad guys. At its core, there is simplicity in this design, an unsung song effortlessly embedded into every match, every round, every firefight, and every bullet. It is a poetic juxtaposition between good and evil, saint and sinner, black and white, yin and yang, terrorists vs. counter-terrorists.
Modern shooters tend to veer away from competitive team play, instead focusing on the individual achievement, bombarding them with levels and perks and abilities and special weapons. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, true to its nature, instead aims for, and thoroughly nails, the team aspect of a contemporary shooter. There are no respawns in the same round. There are no foolishly imbalanced abilities like controlling a UAV to precise-fire homing rockets on your opponents. You don’t level up, you don’t get better perks. As a player, if you picked up the game today, and went up against a decade-old player, you would have an even playing field. This is the true beauty of Counter-Strike. All players, irrespective of which team they are on, or how long they have been playing, are treated as equals. The only thing that goes in your favor is your individual skill, and how well your team executes your plan of action.
Mixing the old with the new
I am obligated to mention that there is an offline mode with bots, and if you are interested, you should get your sissy ass back to your sissy single-player games, you sissy. Moving on.
The classic maps such as Dust and Inferno are back, complete with their respective modes such as bomb defusal. But there are some interesting new elements to spice things up. The Arms Race awards you better weapons for each successive kill, and the round ends when player on either side cycles through all available guns. Demolition is another new mode, a diametric opposite of Arms Race in terms of rewards. You are given worse weapons every time you win a round, therefore making the game increasingly difficult for the winning side. These new modes, novel in their approach to the Counter-Strike formula, yet meticulously polished and furbished with their own sets of maps, add a new dimension to the experience.
Optimized experience, better visuals, added modes, innovation without abomination
Shoddy initial matchmaking, lack of prominent impact animations