Friday, June 10, 2011

On Counter-Strike

Counter-Strike (shortened sometimes to CS) is a tactical first-person shooter video game developed by Valve Corporation which originated from a Half-Life modification by Minh "Gooseman" Le and Jess "Cliffe" Cliffe. The game has been expanded into a series since its original release, which currently includes Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Counter-Strike: Source, Counter-Strike: Anthology and Counter-Strike on Xbox. Counter-Strike pits a team of counter-terrorists against a team of terrorists in a series of rounds. Each round is won by either completing the mission objective or eliminating the opposing force.

This is another of the group of discs I referred to, in my review of Team Fortress - a group that was packaged together with Half-Life. It stands as the most popular of all of the Half-Life mods and addons, at least according to GameSpy.

Lots of history, and a lot of fans - I've played it since there was a training mission that showed you how to correctly set and defuse explosives, and showed you how to use a rifle, and such. So, there is a lot of ground to cover. I haven't played all of the different variants, so this review will focus on the three that I own: Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and Counter-Strike Source.

Counter-Strike's original form has been imitated repeatedly over the years, as possibly the most iconic of the "tactical" modern-themed team first-person shooters. You play in one of four forms, on one of two teams - terrorists or counter-terrorists. The CT team were all from special forces teams that are themselves pretty well-known, SEALs, the SAS, the French GIGN and the German GSG9 - while the terrorists looked a bit more generic, one looking (at least to me) like someone from a South American group, one very obviously middle-eastern character, and the others wearing arctic gear or a generic hood.

Both teams got a very similar choice for weapons, from pistols to assault rifles or an LMG, depending on how much "money" was provided at the start of the game - teams receive funds for killing enemies and finishing objectives. There were a couple of notable issues - the Terrorists gain access to an assault rifle of formidable power and accuracy very early, kind of like an AK-47 knockoff. They also receive a double pistol as an (expensive) option. Both teams have access to what are commonly referred to as auto-snipers, sniper rifles that were so accurate and deadly that they require little skill to use.

The gameplay consisted of either locating the explosives before or after they were put into use, or liberating hostages. More often than not, it simply became a game of deadly hide and seek, with one group of players winning because the other team was dead, but not always. It should be noted that this version of the game actually precedes the infamous World Trade Center attack of 2001, though a major version released followed it, only a day later.

One of the major downsides to this early version of the game is that there were many exploits and cheats (called hacks) used by various players throughout the network - leading to the present system used to prevent and deal with anyone using such thin and obvious ways to gain advantage in a game that requires no small amount of skill - the system called VAC, the Valve-Anti-Cheat system.

The Condition Zero series introduced the only single-player action available at that time, letting a player build a team, gaining points as missions were completed, missions that required a specific goal, sometimes very simple - kill 3 enemies, or more complex, kill 5 enemies, 4 with a pistol, and complete the mission in 60 seconds or less.

Counter-Strike: Source brought these concepts all together - the team action, the ability to run a completely independent server, with AI players, and VAC doing its best to keep cheaters out of the game.

Here's the trouble - the Source engine introduced something insidious to the design of the guns used - the accuracy cone. Instead of a rifle, SMG or pistol firing things more or less in a line - they sprayed all their ammo in a random cone, making accuracy for those without AI control a big pain in the backside.

Realistic physics and personae and weapons, but the best rifles in the game handle like they're high-powered cheap shotguns?