This preview originally appeared in PC Gamer UK issue 233.
Since shortly after its first beta release back in 1999, this tactical, team-based Half-Life mod has dominated the competitive firstperson shooter scene, while countless hours of community yelling have made it a tight, balanced experience. A brief foray onto consoles in 2003 failed to expand the audience away from its PC home, so why are Valve attempting to create what they're calling the 'definitive' version of a game that people like just fine as it is?
“We had been looking to create an XBLA version of Counter-Strike: Source as a sort of nostalgia thing,” explains Chet Faliszek, whose role on the game is loosely defined as 'writer'. “But pretty quickly we began to realise how much we liked the game and it grew to something bigger.”
The team have decided to make some changes to the tried and tested formula. Classic maps such as Dust have been tweaked and, while other stalwarts such as Inferno and Nuke will return, they're joined by new maps designed specifically for the Arsenal modes. The new modes are based on the popular Counter-Strike: Source mod Gun Game, in which players start with a pistol and earn a new weapon with each consecutive kill. Many of these new environments are said to be inspired by other titles in the Valve canon, though they're holding back specifics.
The graphics have also undergone an overhaul, though they could hardly be described as beautiful so much as robustly functional. Eight new weapons have been added too. These pack tactical characteristics, as well as additional firepower. For example, the Molotov cocktail is intended as much for blocking off areas of the map as causing damage to enemies. Meanwhile, the Zeus is a oneuse, Taser-style weapon that costs an eyewatering $1,000 of your load-out bank.
Playing it though, it's very much the Counter-Strike you'll be familiar with, and Faliszek is keen to emphasise that the experience hasn't been compromised through its shared appearance on consoles. “This is absolutely a PC experience,” he says. “One of the rules we had is that it's going to be Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike. There is no auto-aim; it's absolutely a game of skill. PC players will still be able to mod the game, host dedicated servers and all of the things that have made Counter-Strike such an enduring experience.”
Indeed, Valve looked carefully at what the community were doing in Counter- Strike and borrowed traits, including shorter round times and even entire match modes. Counter-Strike has always grown up in public, shaped by the rallying calls of the people who love it the most. While Valve are claiming CS:GO will be the definitive version, it's still the community that will decide its future.
Preview by Simon Parkin.