Review by Virulent

"People, it's time to move on."

Counter-Strike can be fun, I won't deny this. I played the heck out of the game back in 2000. I did it all, the LAN parties, the clan, skipping college classes just to get a few more rounds in, the works. But let's be honest, this game is old and has been usurped by games which not only are more realistic (Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and Rainbow Six 3 come to mind) but are generally more fun and require more skill than good ol' CS could ever demand (UT2004 of course). That said, let's get to the review:

Graphics: 4/10

The venerable Half-Life engine is definitely old, but let's face the facts here...even it has seen better days graphically in the form of beautiful mods like Specialists and Natural Selection. The fact is, Gooseman and Cliffe have done absolutely nothing to improve on the core graphics of the game. The same ugly skins and models have been in play for the last 5 years, and the look of the game (as well as most of the maps) have been set in stone since Beta 7. The fact that the community is highly resilient to any new content keeps the visual presentation of this game at the bottom of the sludge drain as well. Modders have designed beautiful maps for this game, yet none of them ever get played because maps will always run the same old ugly maps like Dust.

Sound: 7/10

The weapon sounds are easily identifiable, so you know if your buddy around the corner got wasted which weapon you'll have to tangle with if you follow suit. That said, the audio quality is still extremely low with mostly 8-bit samples. The radio commands are laughably wimpy, and I fail to see how anyone can play this game for as long as most have without getting sick of the usually ''GO GO GO!'' and whatnot. Once again this game suffers from the same lack of updates in the aural department as any other.

Gameplay: 9-3/10 over time

Now we get to the core of the game. At this point I'm sure the entire world knows how CS is played, so I'll spare you the boredom...if you're unsure of course, read my CS: Condition Zero review. Undeniably, Counter-Strike at first is extremely addictive due to the fact that those who can kill and survive will continue to prosper, and those who are killed have to sit out an entire round to plan their revenge against the person who took them down. Despite the claims of realism and tactics, CS is basically just another twitch shooter with even less strategy than most free-for-all Deathmatch games. To explain my theory, I'll take you through a typical round of CS.

The game begins. If it's the first round of the game, you (and all your teammates) will buy Desert Eagles with your 800 bucks, as it's the pistol with the most power and therefore the best. Whether you die or not, how many kills you score that round, and whether your team wins the round or not you will buy a Colt/AK the next round if you won depending on if you're a T or CT, or an MP5 if you lost. You buy grenades and maybe body armor (which is only useful against sub machineguns, not rifles). Let's say you lost the first round, so you buy your MP5 (because all the rest of the SMGs are less useful) and get going. You hope that your team sticks together but more often than not they'll scatter like roaches around the map. People get taken out one by one, and let's say you survived the round and are the only one left. Odds are your opponent(s) camp, and so do you, for the rest of the round until time is almost out. You search the map and sure enough, they were camping and took you out. The next round you decide to buck the trend and buy a Galil/FAMAS rifle for cheap. Unfortunately whoever killed you camping last round on the opposing team has invariably bought the AWP, the preferred weapon for campers and people who think they have skills but don't due to its propensity for one-hit kills. You run around the map like lemmings again, with the same choices of 2 or 3 paths because that's all you can do in the map. One of those paths invariably gives you a disadvantage and nobody else is going the other route so you take the only one you can and follow your teammates. You run into a group of enemies, and your team gets wasted. You fire a few rounds but alas, that cheap rifle you bought has no accuracy whatsoever! You run and hide with 15 health, and call for backup via radio. Of course, the other players aren't gonna leave their nice camping spots to bail you out so you have no choice but to die like a chump. Now in spectator mode, you sit for 5 minutes watching your 3 still-living teammates camp and take out those who served you death. They decide to find the last player on the opposing team, who is of course the fellow with the AWP. One by one they are taken out from a distance by the powerful sniper rifle, and you lose. One of your teammates cries ''HACKER! He was aimbotting!'' on public chat, as it is well known that a variety of online cheats, or ''hacks'' that give you superhuman aim and the ability to see through walls exist. The admin denies this of course, and as retribution ''slaps'' the accuser down to 50 health the next round.

Does this sound fun to you? I won't deny the fact that it is fun for the first few months you play. You develop your skills and get better at reacting to enemies, taking them down before they can fire a shot. You might camp and get the drop on enemies and feel victorious. However, your weapons arsenal, routes of play, and strategies are so limited that you will be bored of this game after those first few months. The servers play the same tired maps that you know inside and out. After playing Dust, Dust2, Prodigy, Aztec, and any other of a handful of maps hundreds of times, you will be bored out of your skull buying the same limited array of useful weapons and taking the same paths through the maps, or camping the same spots. It becomes academically braindead so quickly. The designers tried to add a breath of fresh air in the 1.6 update by introducing the new budget assault rifles (stated above in the FAMAS/Galil) and more radically, the tactical shield, but by and large these updates were rejected by the stubborn CS community. The shield in particular originally had a nasty invincibility bug, and despite the fact that it has been fixed most admins will kick you for buying one as it is a ''lamer'' option (which surprisingly a one-hit kill rifle is not). CS boils down to a game of chess where the board is 3 spaces wide and the only pieces available are the rook, knight, and bishop.

I have to say that I'm stymied why this game continues to be so popular. Perhaps it's the fact that it is the only highly competitive online game which is still widely played that can be run on archaic PC setups. Perhaps it's the fact that the ''community'' and ''pro players'' enjoy dominating anyone new to the game because they know the maps which they keep in such limited rotation inside and out. Perhaps it is indeed the bastion of bland familiarity that keeps CS on top of Gamespy's most-played list. After all, you can go into a McDonald's anywhere in the world and get the same Double Cheeseburger you've been ordering since you were 12, just as you can join a CS server anywhere in the world and play a round of the same old de_aztec you've been playing for 4 years straight. However, most people grow out of McDonald's and try different culinary experiences with new and exciting flavors, and I would hope that most players move on from CounterStrike to games that require more expert skill, offer more playmodes and weapons, and bring exciting innovations such as vehicles into the fray. Come on people, dare to be different. Dare to quit playing this aged, limited game and move on to more exciting experiences.

Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 03/31/04

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