Review by Eric43

"Just a supplement to Counter-Strike and nothing more"

Note: There are two versions of Condition Zero. One installs directly to Steam, the other installs directly to your hard-drive. The Steam version is the one we're talking about, and is the one that most gamers own already. There are slight differences between both versions, so if you have the non-Steam version, then you may be confused about some things mentioned in the review.

There's no denying that Counter-Strike is one of the most popular FPSes to date. However, the people at Valve decided that, before releasing their new HL2 mod Counter-Strike: Source, that they'd give the original a face lift. Someone calls up Turtle Rock Studios and asks them to take the original CS and slap some new visuals and features on the package. It's still Counter-Strike, but there's nothing new about it, and you'll want to revert back to the old style sooner or later.

In case you don't know about Counter-Strike, it's like this. Two teams, one terrorists, the other counter-terrorists, play in rounds to kill the other team and accomplish additional tasks, such as planting a bomb at a bombsite. The game has some elements of Rainbow Six, as you can't spray without experiencing recoil and if you die, you're dead for the remainder of the round. Players earn money each round which is spent on guns and gear, such as MP5s, Desert Eagles, AK-47s, grenades, and body armor. The original Counter-Strike was an online classic, as its fast-paced gameplay and keen pacing is why it's so popular today. Condition Zero is similar in the manner that you can just jump online and play it without noticing a difference. However, its premise is to accommodate for the lone player who wants the avoid the hassle of dealing wih online players.

One of the big features the game throws at you is bots (aka, computer players). You can create a local game and put any number of bots on either team. Pick from four different difficulty levels—with the easiest being those newbies that stand still like deer in the headlights and the hardest being your typical “pub all-stars” who will take you down in a headshot in split-seconds. The bots aren't half-bad. They demonstrate some human tendencies as in some rush, some will listen to your commands to push or pull back, and some camp. Each bot also has voice clips over their “mikes” that'll tell you bits of semi-useless information of the current situation. While rushing a bombsite with a bunch of bots isn't as good as doing it with a bunch of friends, it's satisfying to say the least.

The bots do have some apparent problems. In a match, the bots have a tendency to make stupid mistakes such as running into a crowd of enemies or taking a few seconds to recognize you in an open field. You can play bots on custom maps, as the game creates a waypoint file for each one. However, for any maps that are slightly more complex than de_dust, expect the waypoints to suck and the bots will spend most of the round running into a wall in their futile attempts to kill the other team. Also, it is common knoweldge that bots are free to download off the internet for the original Counter-Strike. The bot mods are a bit of a pain to set-up, and if you're not savvy with setting stuff up, then the Condition Zero version may be suitable instead.

There's an additional campaign mode that lets you play against bots on a variety of maps and work your way up a ladder on four difficulty levels. Each mission is just like a scrimmage between bots. You can choose from a bunch of different teammates who each carry different weapons and have slightly different tendencies from one another. To beat a mission, your team must not only be ahead of the terrorists bots by two rounds, but you must also compete some mandatory goals, such as kill three enemies with a specific weapon or rescue all the hostages in one round. It's a good, structured alternative to keep you occupied for a few days. The only problem is that on the hardest levels, your team gets outnumbered easily and you need some luck to beat such levels, unless you're a pro of course.

Besides the bots, all of your classic maps , such as dust, aztec, nuke, and italy, are back and are refurbished to look significantly better, especially the texturing. There's also some new maps, such as a Japanese subway or a British football stadium that are interesting for the first few plays. Gun models are visually different and look more gritty overall. Player models are redone to look less cartoony, though their animations are the same. However, all of these things can be installed in the original Counter-Strike, thus defeating the purpose of paying for a bunch of models that a friend can give you if he owns the game. Not to mention that even though the game overall looks better, you'll most likely prefer the maps and models from the original. Seriously, how can you replace the original Elite Krew model with the green shirt, cargo pants, shades, and buzz cut? All this new stuff just looks too shiny, and the original has an iconic look that shouldn't be replaced.

Though this game is a carbon-copy of CS with a visual makeover, there's a few select gameplay changes that really don't mean anything in the long run. You can pick up grenades from dead players. You can choose from five different models per team as opposed to four. The new player models are cool but nothing ground-breaking. You can also bind different packages of weapons, such as a Sniper, Assault, SMG, and Shotgun package that you can pick out quickly from the buy menu. New hostages replace with the brain-dead statues of the past with animated blue-collar workers in orange jackets. Terrorists can “scare” them into moving back to their original location, and they can “flee” to the rescue point if no one is around. They also have expressions of fear and will even wave to CTs that come to rescue them. Otherwise, nothing new game-play wise.

As a “reward” for buying this game, you get a new set of missions called Condition Zero: Deleted Scenes. Think Counter-Strike meets Half-Life where you play a secret agent and do linear missions in locations such as Miami, Russia, and Hong Kong killing terrorists and getting to the exit. You use weapons from CS, particularly the USP, the TMP, and the M4A1. However, the enemies are really stupid, they hardly do any damage to you, and the level design sucks. On the training mission, in one room, a trigger doesn't fire, hence you are stuck in that room forever. Also, in the first mission (Miami), you go through a stupid sewer and have to complete some dumb jumping and maze elements just to get into a bank, and by the time you get there, the game is already untolerable. The less said about Deleted Scenes, the better.

Graphics-wise, you can tell that Valve was trying to make Counter-Strike look more next-gen. In terms of technical proficiency, yes, the maps and models do look better, especially considering the HL engine is still intact. I wouldn't say they're better than the originals, as you'll probably want to go back to it because it fits the mood better. The sound's not much different. The menu music is a low military beat with drums and trumpets. The bots' voice clips range from high to low-pitched, but they usually say the same thing repeatedly, and they err on the side of irritating. A few little things like groans of dead players are different too.

If you don't own either game and have to choose between one, Counter-Strike is the better choice. Counter-Strike is fine as is, and a lot of the changes are gimmicks to useless altogher. If you already own Counter-Strike and want a decent single-player experience without having to set up anything, get Condition Zero.

Presentation: 7/10 – Nothing really different from CS except a different splash screen and some music.
Gameplay: 8/10 – Same classic CS gameplay intact, but with no real gameplay changes. Bots and campaign mode are fun for a while.
Graphics: 7/10 – Game makes CS look a little more next-gen, but the new visuals aren't the same caliber as the original.
Sound: 7/10 – Nothing really new except for some silly bot voice clips.
Replay Value: 7/10 – Bots are a nice diversion for some time. You've also got online multiplayer but unless you like the visuals, you'll go back to CS.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/20/07, Updated 01/23/08

Game Release: Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (US, 03/23/04)


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