The Counter-Strike formula is universally recognizable and has been since it first saw the light of day in 1999 as a Half-Life mod. While it has undergone several iterations, the point has always been the same. Counter-Terrorists and Terrorists fight for honor and glory in a series of best of 10 matches. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive doesn't do much to reinvent this wheel, as it feels more like Counter-Strike: Source with a shiny new coat of paint. It's a fine jumping-on point for newcomers, but feels like a pricey update for CS veterans.
CS: GO looks undeniably gorgeous. Many classic CS maps make their return with fresh new detail and visually stunning effects. For example, Aztec is once again a part of the map rotation. In addition to new textures, players will notice weather effects as they trudge through the terrain. Many of the other classic maps feature similar upgrades, offering more realistic visuals than previous CS games. Veterans will feel right at home in many of these maps.
Classic CS game modes return with some interface changes and little else. Purchasing upgrades now puts the players into a shop wheel, something that feels easier to console players and might jar PC players. After that initial phase is over, it's classic CS gameplay all the way. The formula of Terrorists planting a bomb or Counter-Terrorists rescuing hostages remains unchanged. That's not a bad thing, as these game modes still feel fun and engaging, for however brief they last. Many games come down to players scoring lucky headshots, but that feels like it's become an accepted aspect of CS games, at this point.
Valve and Hidden Path have attempted to add value to CS: GO by adding new game modes, both of which are based on the Gun Game mod from CS: Source. The first one, Arms Race, sounds like a good idea on paper, but quickly devolves into guys running around like chickens with their heads cut off and shooting blindly. The object of Arms Race is to score a kill with each of CS: GO's weapons (excluding grenades), with players immediately being switched to a new gun after each successful kill. It's a cool idea, but the small sizes of the maps made spawn camping far too easy, which took a lot of the fun away. Also, since the game ends when one person reaches the scoring limit, there's really no emphasis in team play. It's simply a bunch of guys shooting at each other without a sense of strategy.
The second new game mode, Demolition, is much more interesting. Demolition is structured into sessions of best of 20, while also doing away with the shop in favor of making players earn weapon upgrades/downgrades with kills. It's a fun twist of the traditional CS formula, made better by the fact that this mode exclusively uses brand new maps, all of which offer the right amount of space to maneuver. A person favorite is Lake, which takes place around a lake house and can bring firefights to various parts of the house or outside near the deck.
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CS games remain a consistent source of entertainment and CS: GO is no exception. However, veterans of CS: Source and CS 1.6 should rightfully put some thought into whether the upgrade is worth it, given that GO doesn't bring a lot of new content to the table. That could change later, since Valve has fully opened the door for community content, including additions like the new zombie mod. Newcomers looking to see what the CS phenomenon is about are encouraged to start with GO. Although, they're cautioned to bring along some friends, since public servers can often have little tolerance for the inexperienced.
This Counter-Strike: Global Offensive review is based on a digital PC version of the game provided by the publisher. The game is now available on PC, Mac, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade.