Review by BigCj34

""Counter-Terrorists win!""

Counter-Strike itself was one of Half-Life's most successful mods since it's inititial release in 1998, created by Minhe Le and Jesse Cliffe, starting with the beta releases back in mid-1999 and the final official release finally in November 2000. Subsequent updates have followed, with version 1.6 the one you'd play when playing it through Steam, release in 2003. The successors were Condition Zero in 2004 and Counter-Strike: Source in late 2004, with source-engine graphics and physics. For many, Counter-Strike was the reason to get Half-Life, even if you didn't intend to play Half-Life (although I recommend that you do).

The concept of Counter-Stirke is relatively simple, there are two sides, terrorists and counter-terrorists, where the aim is for one team to kill everyone on the other, using a plethora of weapons available to buy. Aside from that, each individual map has it's own objectives, and as you improve, you'll gradually learn tips for many of the maps, where to stand for the ultimate snipe shot and how to use a grenade properly (and not run into one either).

One of the first things you'll notice about Counter-strike is the many maps available when you see the maps the many servers are hosting, official or fan-made alike. There's usually a large number of players playing, from the classic de_dust to fy_poolday, with set objectives, told by the letters at the start of the map name. Maps beginning with CS are hostage rescue maps, in which counter-terrorists must rescue hostages while terrorists stop them(but not kill the hostages!) and assassination maps (as) are when terrorists must kill the VIP counter-terrorist before he gets to his goal in the map. Fan made maps exist and play a huge part of the CS community, such as the aim maps where you have to shoot the other team accurately with a rifle; the closed-quarter fy maps with no objective mainly but shoot the other team (mainly good fun); surf maps where you are constantly moving forward and have to keep on the map plus many others to find out.

Counter-Strike has a decent selection of weapons, not so many that you'll be scratching your head to choose what weapon is best, but not so little where the game feels repetitive. The variety is great, ranging from the pistols to the shotguns, rifles and machine guns. Certain weapons have better accuracy than others, a high-firing P90 is certainly no match to a Magnum, while a Glock pistol will certainly be no match to a Leone auto-shotgun. What you pay for does matter more often than not, the cheaper Scout sniper rifle has to reload after every shot while the Magnum can fire 8 consequtively, but the price difference is very definitely steep. Opinions do vary however, newcomers (or n00bs for the more cynical) might say the AK47 is rubbish as it's inaccurate and the M249/ Leone auto-shotgun for the win, but with practise understanding which weapon is best to use when and where, it helps a lot. If you're feeling really cheeky, you can stab someone with the knife, but don't do it when you don't know how to use a gun yet!

Counter-strike is a very intimidating game right from the start (certainly not helped by the omission of the training level in the Steam port), and once you've selected a server to play you're right in there, be it with a mixed server of newbies and intermediates or stumbled across a server full of clan players, and either way you get owned. Playing counter-strike takes a lot of perserverance from the start, being killed lots of times and achieving 1:25 kills to deaths ratios is enough to think Counter-Strike doesn't have its place for newbies. Eventually though, by reading tutorials (your on the right site for them), discussing with your mates and taking their advice, watching how other players play through the player cams after you've died and thinking a little more strategically on what you've done wrong, you'll eventually get better and get more kills. Although there's always the single player Half-life game if you got CS through Half-life, the CS weapons are significantly different and the bots didn't appear until the later Condition Zero release, although 3rd party bots are available.

Counter-Strike is great in the sense that it's semi-realistic. Granted, the players run a little unrealistic when you analyse their motions carefully enough and the action is quite fast, but many of the weapons behave like their real-life counterparts to the extent while keeping the action is fast enough to keep a smooth flowing games. While on Unreal Tournament is more about fast paced shooting, CS is certainly more stealthy and while quick accurate shooting is key, minimising encounters with enemies by hiding in places, blinding enemies with flash bangs or finishing them off after pelting a grenade at them is certainly as important. You have to experiment through practise, and learn what to do when a grenade or more annoyingly a flash-bang is chucked at you, just don't carry on running!

The graphics on Counter-Strike use the same engine as Half-Life, being a mod an' all, and they are certainly nothing short of impressive, for when the game was released anyway, with crisp detailed environments, shadows and realistic looking people (although the movement is laughable, as the people react too well to mouse movement). The maps for the most part are quite simplistic, everything is very square but this hardly matters as many of the CS maps are based around square buildings and interiors, while the textures cover this up very well. The maps are significantly varied and with many of them to choose from, no session on CS feels like the last. Hardware-wise CS is certainly no challenge for any post-Millenium computer, an Nvidia TNT is certainly enough to run this at a high resolution and unless you're trying to run it on a 1999 computer with dodgy onboard graphics (I've done it) you shouldn't have to run this at 640x480.

The audio on CS is certainly no problem either. While it's no thrills radio commands of “OK, let's move out” and “Fire in the hole! BOOM!” the gun sounds sound very realistic, the explosions come out at you in all directions and the enemy footsteps can be fearsome when you're camping in the corner waiting for the headshot although out of all honesty, nothing sounds better than the knife when you've just slashed someone in the back. Many other sounds exist as well as the default ones, with many servers using Unreal Tournament clips (for a bit of Headshot! And Ultrakill!) to music clips, depending on the specific server.

Counter-strike is very definitely the game to play online, and if there's one game you'll ever play online, make it Counter-Strike 1.6. It's addictive, and once you've got over that VERY steep learning curve you can get addicted quite easily, have a chat with the other dead players, rant about the N00bs through the in-game messaging and convince everyone you are the ownage. CS has developed a cult through the video-game world, with the infamous leet (1337)-speak language, and using video game insults in real-life speech, to many LAN parties playing large amounts of Counter-Strike. Counter-Strike 1.6, the latest version, is obtainable through Steam by buying it through them or taking the much better value option of registering a Half-Life CD-key, where you have access to a generous back catalogue of Half-Life games also.

Graphics Simple drawn environments but detailed textures and realistic people, but laughable movement. 9/10
Sound Great explosion effects and radio commands are fine 8/10
Gameplay Simple concept, but great backing from HL engine but the omission of the tutorial and lack of bots gives it a steep learning curve. 9/10
Length I can guarantee there's people who downloaded this game in 1999 who play it now. Relatively difficult to learn, but a lifetime to master. Down to your natural gaming skills really. 10/10

CS 1.6 is a game worth buying today even with the Counter-Strike Source being 2 years back. Hardcore fans have claimed this is better in gameplay and requires more skill, and there's many people playing today, while this has the advantage of being less graphics intensive for those who game using Geforce MX's or dodgy onboard chipsets. Once you've gone over the frustration of getting 1:10 kills to deaths ratios and mates calling you n00bs, it's certainly an addictive and rewarding game to play which you may even get overly addicted. So what are you waiting for, let the pwnage begin! 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/28/06


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