"A must-have for single-player gamers, but online gamers will be left with wanting more."

Let me just say it right now: I'm not a big proponent of online gaming. I just don't care for the anonymity, the hackers, the cheaters, the first-time beginners, the holier-than-thou elitists, and just the all-around-jackasses that frequent servers. Sure, I like playing a little bit here or there, but to me, nothing beats the wholesome experience of a single-player game done right. So, needless to say, I was very excited about Condition Zero. I simply love Counter-Strike. I've been playing it for months (mostly offline with third-party bots), so Condition Zero seemed too good to be true. It would feature updated graphics, new maps, a single-player mode, and official first-party bots that would top any bots made by a third-party. For the most part, Condition Zero delivers on all of these aspects. Condition Zero is really just an update of Counter-Strike 1.6. That being said, the game boasts all the features and gameplay of CS 1.6, just adds a little more knick-knacks and improves upon just about everything to some degree.

The graphics have been updated in Condition Zero, and they are noticeably more detailed and realistic looking. The character models and environments have all gotten a resolution boost and now have comparable graphics to many other games released today. Even better, all our old favorite maps from CS 1.6 (dust1/2, Aztec, militia etc.) have been remade with updated graphics, and some environmental features have been changed in order to balance the gameplay. Of course, all the old maps in their original form are also fully available, so no worries.

The single player mode, while not all that special, is definitely a good way to hone your skills and definitely is enjoyable the first time through. The game has you facing the terrorists among all the maps. There are requirements and goals you have to accomplish for each level. Often, you'll have to win a round in less than a certain amount of time, get a specified number of kills with a certain weapon, rescue a certain amount of hostages, and so on. Towards the beginning of the campaign, the goals are ridiculously easy and your computer opponents are a cinch to defeat. But once you advance to the harder difficulties, the game becomes significantly harder. In harder levels, you'll have to do things like get two knife kills in a round without dying, or achieve three Scout kills in a row without dying on a map designed for close-quarters combat, not to mention that your AI opponents will become substantially smarter. On the Hard and Expert difficult settings, chances are even the most hardened Counter-Strike veteran will have their work cut out for them. Good luck.

Thankfully, you'll have AI teammates helping you along the way. Every time you beat a map, you'll gain a reputation point, which allows you to hire bots of greater skill with better weapons. So, while towards the beginning of the game you may only have a few military rejects fighting alongside you, towards the end you'll have a multitude of the world's greatest operatives on your side.

So this begs the question: How are the official bots? Well, let me just say that the computer-controlled bots are no pushover, and are far superior to any third-party bot of any previous Counter-Strike incarnation. These guys will work together and use impressive tactics that make them a pleasure to play with. Of course, they're far from perfect. They'll occasionally lose sight of an enemy and turn around, getting themselves shot in the ass, and sometimes they'll dawdle running to the bomb to diffuse it, even when all the enemies are dead. Also, one major problem is how they often throw grenades at the most inopportune times, sometimes killing or severely injuring you or your own teammates in the process. But all in all, these guys are really great. They're worthy of much praise, whether they're on your side or on the other team.

Other than these minor complaints, CS:CZ is probably a must-buy for any Counter-Strike fan that doesn't want to deal with all the headaches that come packaged with online gaming. With an impressive single-player campaign, unbelievably realistic bots that can be fully used in regular games, and updated graphics, CS: CZ is definitely a winner for offline and single-player gamers.

The only problem is that if you are a big online aficionado, or if you're expecting the game to have a full-fledged single-player mode with a blockbuster storyline as it was originally hyped up to be, CS:CZ won't impress you. The game really feels like it could be mod, or even a free download. If you love the social aspect of online gaming, Condition Zero is not worth buying, to be frank. While the single-player and slightly updated graphics are nice additions, the add-on's main selling point is the bots, which are basically useless to online gamers.

Pros:
+Updated graphics all-around.
+Remakes of old favorite levels that make them more fun and balanced.
+Incredibly intelligent bots that are great if you prefer playing offline rather than online.
+Fun and challenging albeit shallow single-player mode.

Cons:
-Next to nothing is offered for online gamers.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10 (with 5 being average)


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/27/05, Updated 10/25/05


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