Review by Shinnokxz

"APB: Millions were found hiding in a Black Mesa outskirt with a dangerous drug on them. Details on the drug can be found inside this review."

Online gaming sure has come quite a ways over the years. Back in the day, when the only playable games that were online were Checkers, Chess, and other assorted board games. Gamers never would of thought online gaming would of grown to such a revolutionary force. Counter-Strike, Sierra's first person shooter Half-Life sub-game and expansion, entered the online game era.

Released as a beta version in early 2000, Counter-Strike took the PC gaming world by storm. It's tense, suspenseful gameplay elements and strategic team cooperation added much exhilaration to the fun factor. Story wise, the game suffers. While gamers really wouldn't pay much attention to any story that would of been inserted, it still would of been nice to actually know what, why, and when you are doing things. Basically, it's Terrorists versus Counter-Terrorists (good guys).

Both teams have up to 6 different character models you can choose. These are plainly for eye candy, and what one you choose will not effect you in any way during gameplay. But, what does affect you during gameplay, are the choice of weapons. Smaller artillery, such as knives, handguns (Pistols, Desert-Eagles, etc.) are least damaging, but lightweight and enables your character to move around quicker.

On the other side of the coin, you have the bigger and more macho like firearms. Mainly AK-47's, Sniper rifles of the sort, and other such (semi)automatic weapons. These weapons tend to jump around more when dispatching (aim site is harder to control while shooting) and burdens your character down, causing them to walk at a slower pace.

Adding to the realism, you are given a very nice ammo conservation gameplay element. It is so, that every time you start, you are presented the option to buy the necessary things you need. Things like guns, ammo, grenades, armor, and other such things to help prevent certain death in your mission. Grenades are an important part in your mission, giving you an advantage. There are about three different kind of grenades: explosive (inflicts damage), flash bomb (5 second blindness), and smoke (to obscure area where you are). There are also other goodies; such as night-vision goggles, armor, and head gear. Unfortunately, the armor do next to nothing in helping you or your comrades in a hail of gun fire.

To add to the in-depth experience, the battlegrounds plainly compliments the games high replay value. Each map, with excellently placed hiding spaces, also give you plenty of wide-open space to shoot at your adversaries. Maps have nice textures, vibrant colors, and excellently done details to really add to the tension.

Where the game falters, is the insanely difficult learning curve. When connecting to a game server for the first time people will quickly see your suckiness, and appropriately name you a ''n00b''. From there, you will have two choices: Either be kicked and banned out of the server immediately by the admin, or you can practice, grow your aim steady, develop your skills, and start having the time of your life.

Albeit a shallow story is present, the seemingly seamless gameplay will keep you coming back for more, each and every day. Games only seem to last about 5 minutes, and immediately after the match has depleted, another one resumes. Every time you win, you gain certain amounts of money, in which you can buy the firearm artillery that I stated about earlier.

Offline, the only mode that the game offers is a shallow training mode. Basic strategies are learned here; such as plant and defuse C4, throw grenades, shoot the guns, and the whatnot. What it severely lacks, is the option to actually practice against computer AI characters. The most unfortunate thing about training is... it only last about ten minutes.

Controlling your your character about is as fluid, and responsive as you would come to know from PC FPS games. Many commands are present, such as crouch, jump, weapon scroll (with the roller-ball on the PC Mouse), and other such things to help your suicide-mission painlessly along. Along with nice commands, all controls are completely customizable.

A newer element that Counter-Strike has offered in the newer version (v1.3), is the voice command. Yes, you can hook up a microphone to your PC to help you communicate your commands throughout the server without taking your hands off necessary spots of the keyboard to type. Though it looks good on paper, it is strategically rarely used. If you are actually looking forward to checking this feature out, then be prepared to put up with fuzzy and spastic sound (people using below average microphones), bratty, loud, and high-voiced nine year olds, and constant and unnecessary swearing.

Got broadband? What kills the online gameplay is the games poor operation on a decent 56K connection. With pings that will reach over 600, you will find yourself lagging behind everyone else way too much. People will see you turn the corner before you actually turn the corner. Frustration.

This brings me to another point: geeks. Yes, geeks. Geeks spawn in the servers of this game, so be prepared to get smoked by people who literally play for hours on end in this game. A lot. The fact of the matter is, masters of this game will take any fun away. Only leaving a frustrated gamer. Also, it is noted that the game has a some-what cheap headshot element. With people who hacks, codes, or anything else bad, headshots will come your way quite a lot.

''Ma, the graphics card is up to 360 degrees now, when should I put on the chicken?''

To put it bluntly, this game looks and runs fantastic. Low-end computers beware: this game will take up heavy resources. To even run this successfully in the gritty low-resolution mode, it is recommended you have a processor of atleast 500. For higher end computers, Counter-Strike in high-resolution mode looks hella better than the low-res has to offer. Textures are crisper, colors are more vibrant, and animation tend to move more fluidly. Details on character models are nice, and easily tell you which team you are fighting on. If you run a lower end PC system, most of everything is left with a gritty look, with a lack of detail that more powerful PC system have.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the audio. Likewise, we have a game that gives solid, and fluid sound effects. Bomb explosions, gun shots, C4 explosions, all is heard very well. The lack of music in this game may be a disappointment to some, but don't forget, you can always play MP3's in the background.

In the end, Counter-Strike will be a title for you to play and enjoy for a few weeks. Master the gameplay, meet new people, beat you frag list, it's all fun a few times through. But the lack of a story-driven single player mode robs it of what ever replay value that is left over after the online mode is played through. -Shin 4/16/02

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/23/03, Updated 05/23/03

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