Review: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (PS3)

Title: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.3 GB)
Release Date: August 21, 2012 (US), TBA (EU)
Publisher: Valve
Developer: Valve & Hidden Path
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: M
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is also available on Steam and Xbox Live Arcade<. The PlayStation Network version was used for this review.

When compared to the manic nature of the modern console FPS, you could definitely say Counter-Strike is one for the purists. Call of Duty players will be in for a massive culture shock – there’s a distinct lack of “n00b pwning” due to the absence of crazy killstreaks. That’s right; this is a shooter with no dog maulings, no RC cars strapped to a bomb, and certainly no nukes. Strangely enough, this shooter is all about…shooting.

Gameplay:
The basic premise of Counter-Strike is to pit terrorists against counter-terrorists in a series of rounds, rather than one overall game dictated by a clock or a score. It makes for a much colder, more calculated approach; a pleasant change from the usual run-and-gun online mayhem that this generation has been famous for. There’s no respawning, which also adds to the tactical thought you need to put into each round. Survive a round and you’ll not only improve your K/D, but you’ll also retain whatever weapon you currently hold for the next round, instead of being given the default pistol.

It makes for a game that is somewhat akin to the ‘hardcore search and destroy’ mode in Call of Duty – more tension than your average shooter, but not so much that is stops being fun. However, in Counter-Strike this is the full extent of your mode selection. It’s all objective-based and comes in two flavours – hostage situation and bomb defusal/detonation – so it can get a little samey. There is an option of playing either casually or competitively (which affects your opposition and your loadout), but the gameplay style remains the same throughout. Having said that, for this latest iteration Valve have attempted to slightly mix things up by adding a bonus mode – Arms Race, which follows the increasingly popular mechanic of receiving a better gun with each kill.

The game offers a rather generous 16 maps, which provides real bang for your buck. Half of these maps are brand new, while the others are old fan favourites. They’re instantly recognisable (complete with chickens!) and have had a new lick of paint applied, as well as various little refinements. In terms of weapons, CS:GO has a decent selection of familiar guns, although there is no customisation through attachments.

In order to test out these armaments and learn the basics of the game, Valve have included a ‘weapons course’ to put you through your paces. It’s pretty similar to what you encounter at the beginning of the first two Modern Warfare titles, with a variety of lessons followed by a timed challenge. The course is slightly lengthy, but offers some useful tips such as quick turns to avoid flashbangs, which can be useful.

Speaking of the markedly minute single-player portion of CS:GO, it is actually possible to play matches offline with bots. Unlike the cannon fodder seen in the likes of Black Ops though, the AI here is a lot better. Each bot’s ability can be altered to suit your preference, and they do act somewhat realistically on the battlefield. I think it’s a worthwhile addition, but the best AI use is online. In any game where the full 5v5 quota is not filled, the remainder of each team will be computer controlled until a new human joins. If you die during a round though, you can take control of a bot. However, while this is obviously useful for that particular round, any kills accumulated while controlling a bot will not contribute towards your own personal statistics.

Other features of the game include a link to your Steam account, which will already be recognised if you’ve previously played Portal 2. CS:GO also supports two additional control methods on top of the trusty DualShockPlayStation Move and USB keyboard & mouse. The latter is obviously the way the game (and indeed the genre) was originally intended to be played. If you’re a hardcore FPS nut who always looks to the nth degree of responsiveness, this is the only way you’ll play. The Move implementation isn’t great, especially considering this is an online-only FPS, where accuracy is key. It comes across as a gimmick that wasn’t required in this situation. One nice feature that takes into account your control method is the leaderboards; where the scores can be toggled depending on the controller input.

Overall, the gameplay is at a standard where there are staggeringly few grievances you could realistically level at it – it’s just that good. CS:GO nails some important nuances that makes it stand out in this most oversaturated of markets. The way you go into every match feeling the majority of players are of an equal standard, is almost unparalleled; there is rarely the sense you’re guaranteed to lose. Infuriatingly merciless it may be, but that only emphasises the unbridled satisfaction of every single kill. Lastly, we come to the fast paced nature of Counter-Strike. Each round is finished swiftly, which at first gives the impression of a game you can easily hop in and out of thanks to these short matches. That doesn’t account for the pure addictiveness of this stellar FPS though. It absolutely nails the magnificent ‘just one more go’ feeling that distinguishes any great online shooter. In respects of where this resides within the franchise, I can safely say CS:GO is my personal favourite.

Visuals:
CS:GO is aesthetically very impressive in a variety of departments. The frame rate seems to be consistently high, with the entire game playing phenomenally smoothly. Just like in the gameplay and online segments of Counter-Strike, the visual side has been polished to the hilt; you’d be hard pressed to find any glitches or technical hiccups that degrade the visual experience. The environments are somewhat varied, with a definite attempt to alter the colour palette for each map. Lighting is terrific for the most part and the textures look brilliant throughout, especially when compared to CS: Source. All in all, it just looks fantastic and I don’t really have any gripes with it.

Audio:
A rival to Battlefield 3, this certainly is not. With it only being a PSN title, criticising the more arcadey feel to the sound is a little harsh; but it’s testament to how good the game is that this is one of only a few downfalls. The gun sounds seem to lack a bit of punch, being quite tinny. Also, the noises on every gun are extremely similar, as well as being pretty unrealistic on the whole – you can tell the budget for weapon firing audio was not high on Valve’s list of priorities. Elsewhere, the voice of your officer in the weapons course is as stereotypical as you’ll ever hear, whilst the soldiers in general play are uninspired. Occasionally though, they do shout out some useful information on the location of your enemies.

Online/Multiplayer:
Even though this is a relatively cheap downloadable title, I have to say this is the most robust online FPS I’ve experienced on PS3. CS:GO offers an outstanding, completely lag-free game, that outperforms any of the big retail releases. I genuinely haven’t encountered a single stutter in the gameplay and definitely nothing as bad as a connection error mid-game. This is now the gold standard for online play over PSN, and every other developer needs to strive to minimise lag in their titles to this extent. I’m still floored by just how reliable the online play is. The system for inviting friends seems to be decent, while the CS community as a whole is a welcome change to the norm. If you’re one of the growing number that are completely fed up of abusive kids on Call of Duty, you’ll find this to be a pleasant step-up.

Conclusion:
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is, to all intents and purposes, the same price as a Call of Duty map pack. So to question whether it’s ‘worth’ the money or not is a bit of a non-issue; it offers great value when compared to the average PS3 shooter. However, the gameplay will not immediately be to everybody’s taste due to mechanics that most gamers are simply not accustomed to right now.

On the one hand, this can mean that the game will lose its allure on those who have no past affinity for the series. But as I spent more time with CS:GO, it struck me that may not be the case after all. This in many ways provides the perfect tonic for those gamers disillusioned with the hectic nature of the current EA and Activision offerings. Whether you’re a veteran Counter-Strike player or completely new to the franchise, there’s no denying this is a fantastic game, and a worthy finale to ‘PSN Play’ 2012.

Score:
9.0

Written by Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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