Counter-Strike remains, to this day, the one title in which I've logged the most gameplay hours. For this reason, I was both cautiously optimistic and a bit nervous as I approached the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive kiosks in the Microsoft Xbox 360 area at E3. Not all of the series' spin-offs have been very good, and I'd never played Counter-Strike with anything other than a mouse and keyboard.
The match I participated in was a familiar 5v5 Demolition match. As a member of the terrorist team, my compatriots and I had the task of planting and detonating a bomb in a prettier version of one of the series' more famous maps (Dust), while the counter-terrorist team tried to stop us. The standard Counter-Strike rules still applied: Getting killed in a match allows you to spectate, and bots automatically replaced idle players. Once spectating, downed team members could highlight any remaining bots on their team (if any were still alive), and take control of them to continue the match.
The controls for the Xbox 360 version of CS:GO were tight and responsive--a must for the series' fast-paced action. The in-game economy is also in place, and money earned at the end of rounds can still be spent to purchase a number of pre-configured weapons kits. I only played one match, which consisted of several rounds. What I played felt really good, but it was admittedly tough to fully assess things like balance, or bot effectiveness, or all of the available weapons. Suffice to say, my quick hands-on time alleviated far more concerns about Counter-Strike: Global Offensive than it raised.
I also spoke with a Microsoft booth representative who told me about a couple of the new previously teased "Arsenal" modes the game will include when it ships. "Arms Race" is a free-for-all deathmatch (with respawns) that takes players through a set progression of the game's weapons. Each time a kill is achieved, the next weapon in the list must be used to get the next kill. The weapon-progression in Arms Race is set, but doesn't follow a simple path from weakest to strongest weapon, but mixes the arsenal up a bit. The knife is the final weapon in the chain, and the first player to kill an opponent with it wins the match.
There's also a Arsenal "Demolition" mode, which contains only one bomb-planting point, and features a sort of diminishing gun progression, with a "big gun" at the end. As in "Arms Race" each kill is made with a different weapon.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will ship with 16 maps, made of of eight classics and eight new maps (created to support the new game modes). Once-planned, cross-platform multiplayer is still out of the picture, due largely to Valve's desire to update the PC version regularly, without having to worry about being hamstrung by the approval process of other platforms.
Though I didn't get to personally sample either of the new "Arsenal" modes, they sound like solid additions. The core impetus behind them--I was told--is to give players a couple of game modes that allow them to more easily sample the game's sizable variety of guns, without necessitating the skill level necessary to access them during standard game-types. Both Arsenal modes seem like a good way to make the highly competitive game more accessible to new players.
The game is coming out on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 on August 21, and will cost $15.
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