It should be noted that, while I’ve played all three previous games on PC, I’m reviewing this version on PlayStation 3.
The team behind the Counter-Strike franchise has a long history of doing a simple thing incredibly well. Starting with the purchase of a popular Half-Life mod known as Counter-Strike at the turn of the century, Valve Software introduced gamers to a lineage of first-person shooters they’re still unable to put down. Now, twelve years and four titles later, Valve has once again delivered a game that fires on all cylinders. This time, though, everyone gets to play.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is the latest entry in the Counter-Strike series, and the first game since the original to be featured on consoles. Though the game certainly comes as a welcome update to 2004’s Counter-Strike: Source, the decision to bring PS3 and Xbox 360 owners in on the action is one of its greatest advancements.
With the introduction of the console crowd, Valve brings a new set of players to its franchise. Whereas previously the unwritten rule of Counter-Strike has been “Noobs need not apply,” CS:GO seems to say to the thumbstick crowd, “Noobs welcome!” That doesn’t mean the game is easy, or that its competitors aren’t skilled, but with a greater pool of new players, the skill range is bound to be wider than with the long-standing community of PC Counter-Strikers. The PS3 and 360 versions of the game also offer gamers a different experience than they’re used to. Unlike Call of Duty and Battlefield, CS:GO has a vaguely “glide-y” feel to it that has been a popular staple of the series on PC. While the mouse-and-keyboard are usable peripherals, moving through this shooter with a controller feels right.
I do have mixed feelings about the default control scheme, simply because it takes some getting used to. One feature different from the standard shooter control scheme is the quick 180-degree turn button (R2), as previously featured in Left 4 Dead and Resident Evil 5. Unlike in those games, though, the quick-turn in CS:GO is actually effective once you get the hang of it. Being shot at from behind is not necessarily a death sentence when you can spin instantly and fire off a few well-placed rounds. On the other hand, the default method of switching between guns and gadgets is a bit cumbersome. Instead of being able to quickly swipe with your knife, you’re required to equip it by pressing L1 and then slice and dice your opponents. The same goes for throwing grenades. The system works alright when you’ve got time on your side, but in a pinch it takes some seriously quick maneuvering.
At its heart, CS:GO yields the same gameplay its series is famous for. There are four game modes present: two familiar and two brand new. The oldies are Classic Casual and Classic Competitive, wherein players join either the Terrorist or Counter-Terrorist teams and battle to achieve objectives in two-to-three-minute rounds. There are slight variations between the two modes, and their names pretty much explain the differences. Classic matches play just like you want them to, as their fast pace and smooth handling is seemingly never compromised by lag. The new game types are called Arms Race and Demolition. In the former, players make their way through a series of 26 weapons, gaining a new weapon with each successful kill. The first to make it from submachine gun to knife wins. In Demolition, which looks like a scaled-down version of the Classic modes, teams have 90 seconds fight over one objective while players shoot their way through a shorter list of weapon upgrades. These two game types stem from a Counter-Strike: Source mod known as “Gun Game,” and now, with full Valve support and development, they’re even better. Both run just as smoothly as their Classic brethren, and with their ramped-up speed, they provide a nice alternative to the original modes.
One disappointment with “porting” the game to consoles is that PS3 and 360 players don’t get to experience the many mods developed by the Counter-Strike community. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, these range from custom-designed maps to completely new game types. Though expansion is limited (for now, at least) the sixteen maps included in the game facilitate the very best of Counter-Strike gameplay. You won’t find the many intricacies of Call of Duty maps within CS:GO, as each level stands as a monument to the days of simpler map design. This may sound like a bad thing, but it puts the focus on teamwork and raw skill, rather than on map exploitation and finding a good hiding spot. The maps (and player models, for that matter) are also delivered with updated graphics, and while they don’t rise to the level of the PC version, they certainly get the job done.
If you’re looking for a reason not to buy this game, you’ll be hard pressed to find one. In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention that spawns are somewhat easy to camp at in Arms Race, the CS:GO community seems to have their hearts set on playing in the “Dust” map every other round, and the purchase-wheel available at the start of each round can be hard to adjust to. Still, we’re talking about a $15 game, here, and the few drawbacks that are present are simply too small to affect the experience as a whole. With its surprisingly pretty visuals and its smooth, fun, action-packed play style, it’s hard to make an argument against hopping on the Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Store and buying the game right now. What better plans do you have for that 15 bucks, anyway?
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was developed and published by Valve Corporation. A PlayStation 3 digital copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.