Review by antseezee

Reviewed: 10/18/03

Eliminate the opposition while dealing with frantic situations.

If you've ever watched an exciting movie, it usually contains plenty of suspenseful and agonizing conflicts. Usually, characters constantly engage against each other under limited amounts of time. Half-Life: Counterstrike is one of the redefining online modifications that allows thousands of players across the world to experience a sensation unlike other games. Rather than being tossed into the role of some boring warrior, CS places you as either a member of the Counter-terrorist, or Terrorist unit. Basically, each team must accomplish a goal on a certain map, while destroying the opponent in the process. Missions consist of protecting/destroying bomb sites, saving/defending hostages, and whichever team is dead first. However, Counterstrike is more than your simple modification. Being out for nearly four years now, CS has grown internationally to be one of the most popular and recognized mods for Half-Life. With free access to play online, it has now become a way of life for gamers across the world. The amazing selection of weapons, intricate details on maps, and pure simple rush of adrenaline is what makes Counterstrike stand out from the rest.

Graphics [9/10]
Most modifications have the possibility of displaying amazing graphics. Every aspect of a first person shooting game can be exploited in any way you desire. Weapons can be modified, uniforms detailed, maps renovated, and even programming codes altered. Thankfully, the developers of CS did their best to utilize nearly every graphical option to perfection. Since Counterstrike is modified from the original Half-Life code, the entire game takes place from a 3D virtual world. Your role takes place from a first-person view, allowing you to sift through the environment like a fart gone with the wind. The biggest and most noticeable feature of CS is the characters. Every type of terrorist, anti-terrorist officer, and uniform is displayed in perfection. Dress codes fit accordingly, with terrorists wearing ski masks, to CT units fitted with complete geared jump suits. Just about every distinguishable feature of a character is made possible through highly detailed skins. Secondly, the in-game weapons make a huge stand out from other mods. Weapons consist of artistically designed skins, with every groove, curve, ridge, and edge outlined in importance.

Very few games show every reloading animation, twirl, and even the clip of the gun. Reload animations show superb fluency, almost as if you were reloading them with your own bare hands. Guns show off a sense of resilience, such as silver metallic parts shining in the distance. Map designs are probably one of the most influential visuals throughout the game. Each level is usually themed with a certain setting. For example, you'll be fighting in the abandoned dustways in the Middle East (de_dust), while you can be engaging in an urban warehouse (cs_assault). Scenarios change quite often, giving the player a fresh look to cope with. Each side is balanced to even the minutest proportions, such as timed rushes, and choke points. There are just enough entry ways, but enough flanking points to perplex player strategies. For the most part, Counterstrike is an absolute work of art in the graphical department. Framerate slowdowns will occur on rare occasions, but happen frequently to players with low-end computers. CS is so close to perfect, and it does more than enough to awe the user.

Sound/Music [8/10]
For being one of the most popular online games, there has to be a balance of every element that continually brings the player back for more action. Counterstrike does just enough to provide a blazingly hot display of the audio department, while not overwhelming the player with drabby soundtracks. First off, music is partially non-existent throughout CS. Levels usually do not include music, since this can turn out to be a hindrance during gameplay. However, CS does feature an amazing array of sound effects. Every single weapon in the game has their own individual blasting effect. Shooting a powerful gas-coil Desert Eagle pistol will sound off a blaring magnum sound. On the other hand, pulling the trigger on a silenced M4A1 rifle will send off a repetition of whistles. Nearly every weapon effect in the game matches the appropriate gun. This becomes a huge factor later in the game, since hearing someone shooting an AWP (or powerful weapon) gives you a head start on what they're equipped with. There are several voice clips included during gameplay that players can sound off in desperate situations. Each clip usually contains plenty of clarity and enough emphasis to keep players aware. Counterstrike for the most part is one of those games that masters sound effects, despite no music.

The game is hugely based around listening to your opponent's footsteps. Yet again, this is very important since listening to someone run in the distance alarms you of their incoming presence. Strategy comes into play, since walking silently can benefit the player (no footsteps being produced). Maps contain background clips that play occasionally. For example, thunder can sound on a certain map, giving you an interval to run while your footsteps get muffled. It's extremely hard to believe how well the programmers mastered the audio output in CS, but it certainly pays off during gameplay.

Gameplay [10/10]
Many online games toss the player into mass environments with plenty of options to choose from. First person shooters are another solid example of games where the possibilities can be endless. Counterstrike is an online team-deathmatch modification for Half-Life, which places you as the member of a CT/terrorist faction. The goal of the game is to complete the objective assigned on a certain map, such as bombing a specific target, or rescuing hostages from across the map. However, what makes CS such a unique and diverse experience is the fact that it combines fast paced action, frantic events, and thrilling experiences. First off, there are a few key elements incorporated in the gameplay system that are essential to understand. Since the entire game is primarily structured around terrorists versus counter-terrorists, there are a few discrepancies between both teams. CS is played on a ''round-based'' system. Unlike other modifications which feature spawning points (locations where the player is born alive), CS is played in rounds. If you happen to die, or croak over during a timed interval of round play, you stay dead until the round ends. Thus, CS simply isn't a deathmatch mod where you run around, and simply spawn out of the middle of nowhere. It was one of the first games that slowly, but surely had your own team members get picked off one by one during a round of play.

Secondly, in order to buy weapons/armor/accessories, it's essential that you have money. Money can be earned by rescuing hostages, killing an opponent, or simply winning with your team. Thus, a sense of momentum rises throughout gameplay. Not only do you benefit by simply saving the day for your team, but everyone re-equips with better weapons, more grenades, and heavier armor. Counterstrike integrates all of these features, plus the innovative goal system, and scoring. Depending on the map, the winning goals differ. For example, on hostage maps, the Counter-terrorists must rescue the hostages, and bring them back to the safety zone. On the other hand, the terrorists defend with all their might, forming a dangerous and pursuing battle. Bomb maps are similar, except that terrorists must plant a designated bomb on a certain target, and the CT must defend/defuse the bomb if so happens. CS is more than your typical ''capture the flag''; it's a true match up with realistic scenarios.

Gameplay is extremely balanced compared to other amateur Half-Life modifications. First off, weapons are arranged according to different types. Everyone starts off with a pistol, but once you build up money, the possibilities are endless. Types range from shotguns, sub-machine guns, rifles, sniper rifles, to even a sole machine gun. Rifles do hefty amounts of damage, while combining a decently-sized clip, and rate of fire. Meanwhile, your sniper rifles are usually single shot, but do extreme amounts of damage (50+). Players with pistols simply don't charge and mow down five people before getting nailed. Navigating your character can also be a tedious task. Jumping continually will penalize your character, since his overall speed and jumping height slows down. Sprinting will cause your cross hair to expand, causing more inaccuracy on shots. Unlike other games, Counterstrike is a complete morphing of several games put together. You're provided with a solid mix-n-match of realism, different perspectives, and overall balance.

Fun [6/10]
While CS may be one of the most balanced modifications on the internet, that certainly doesn't make it a top choice in the fun category. The biggest flaw in Counterstrike's design is the frustration that gets piled on top of the player. Most of this anger comes from the in-game mechanics, which cannot be tuned in anyway. Momentum provides a huge shift as to what team performs well, or another that does horrible. Once a certain team continues to win, their money and resources continue to expand. Players on the losing team will quickly find themselves outequipped, causing for a ''stick versus sword'' battle to ensue. The game is insanely difficult, because of the thousands of skilled players across the playing arena. Many new players will quickly find themselves having horrible kill-to-death ratios because they can't kill a single person. Low latency can make a giant difference between nailing someone around the corner, or getting pelted yourself. Despite the game being fun when you kill someone, the chance is almost a rarity. Cheap tactics get exploited through hackers (that go undetected). Accusations constantly get yelled during the game, causing for plenty of confusion and chaos that shouldn't happen. Players will get frustrated when someone camps with an AWP (powerful one-shot sniper rifle with tremendous damage) because they're untouchable to a certain extent. All of these conflicts stack up to make CS one of the less enjoyable modifications out there.

Replayability [10/10]
So you're probably thinking, why play a game that isn't entertaining? Well, this is where Counterstrike tends to completely turn the tables. All of that staggering frustration turns out to be a motivating punch for the gamer. Players end up taking the stress, and expressing it by going on a killing spree, or defusing a bomb in a matter of seconds. Rounds will end in humorous or odd situations, such as a player getting humiliated with a knife. Every single gamer begins to realize that CS is such a replayable experience because of the pure wackiness of what can, and will happen. More importantly, the actual replay elements of CS are unimaginable to other online games. There are over 25 different weapons you can use throughout gameplay. Each team has their own ''unique'' guns, such as a MAC-10 (terrorists), compared to the TMP (CT). Weapons are varied over different types, and each have individual details (velocity speed, clips, power). Even your accessories are quite detailed, such as defusing kits (for bombs), flashbangs (blinds the players), HE grenades (explosive damage), and even smoke grenades (a giant haze of smoke forms).

There are literally hundreds of quality maps across the internet. Some of the best map makers in the world have created maps solely for the use of the CS mod. Levels change quite frequently, from urban, rural, and even scenic areas. Bomb sites have choke points to hold, while hostages must be guarded at all costs. Players can choose between different player models (Arabian, Russian masked terrorist). By far, the biggest factor is the mass popularity of Counterstrike. The game has been out for over four years now, and has multiplied into one of the largest internet played games across the world. The diversity between players is amazing. There are literally over 10,000 dedicated servers you can choose from. If you get bored with the ''default'' maps, you can always download one off the internet, and the chance of finding a server playing it is nearly 100%. Plus, CS is now becoming a commercial product. The development team is working on updates for the future. Its popularity has reached a point where it's being released across consoles as a sole game in its own respect. This is quite possibly one of the most replayable online games ever.

Difficulty [9/10]
Challenging games are hard to come by. Unfortunately, most online games have now transferred their entire philosophy into ideas of where more time/dedication equals a better reward. Counterstrike resembles nothing similar to this. Basically, the more time you spend playing a game, the more you become good at it. CS relies more on actual player skill. You could play this game for two years straight, and still suck at it. With nearly over a million different players across the world, you'll face the entire spectrum of video gaming skills across the internet. Players will have amazing reaction speeds, senses, or aiming abilities. You simply can't camp a corner, and expect to dominate with your sniper rifle. CS depends more on elements of strategy and teamwork. Rushing as a whole causes more damage and destruction, unless you get ambushed by an opposing threat. Maps traditionally contain three points where teams can interact, meaning on-the-dime decisions decide your entire fate. The arsenal of weapons, map layouts, and realm of player skills add up to make CS one of the most difficult online games. The addition of hackers, cheaters, and would-be hackers only adds to the mix of difficulty.

Final Factor [9/10]
The classical formula has been seen from time to time. Developers make a game where you shoot people, and it's ''usually'' fun. Half-Life: Counterstrike is probably one of the most inspirational online shooters ever since its arrival. Many programmers had the instilled idea that a game had to be like Quake. Players would constantly spawn, and ultimate deathmatch would prevail. However, CS practically revolutionized online gaming. New elements such as round-based fighting made spiffy appearances throughout. Factors such as earning money could make the difference between a successful, or poverty stricken team. Not only that, but it featured a balanced system unmatched by competitors. Weapons did realistic damage for their cost, and map layouts were balance for BOTH teams. Counterstrike is the prime example of why you should own a computer, and broadband connection. Rather than simply being a game, it has molded its way into peoples' lives as a hobby. Gamers have dedicated their lives to this lone game, playing in tournaments for money and recognition. When you make a free downloadable modification, and it turns out to be this amazing, you definitely know you've made a masterpiece. If you want one of the best (and most popular online games), download CS free of charge. Whatever you do, just make sure it doesn't take over your life.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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