Launched Over a decade ago as a mod for one of the most important games ever, Counter-Strike has become a pastime for tens of thousands of people worldwide. Its success is rooted in the way it's changed and yet remained unchanged.
Evolving from a bolt-on extra to Half-Life with a look and feel barely different from the game on which it was based, Counter-Strike: Source is now a modernfeeling thing. Over the years it's had numerous revisions big and small, while steadfastly sticking to its principles and listening patiently to the bad tempered, semiliterate know-it-alls who play it.
Although its popularity has never dwindled, put both the 1.6 mod and Source versions together and you have a title with almost twice the head count of its closest rival, it isn't attracting new blood. A lot of the people who play it today have always played it, and the clubby feel of most servers, together with the fact everyone seems to be in a clan, means newbies don't feel welcome. Because they aren't.
As a result, Counter-Strike has recently had its biggest upheaval since 2004, when its engine was swapped for Half-Life's GoldSrc to Source. The nuts and bolts of the world's most famous hostage rescue game have been changed from old Half-Life 2 code to Orange Box, meaning it now runs the latest version of Valve's engine that supports Windows and Mac OS X and now powers Team Fortress 2 and Portal.
Besides support for the six per cent of Steam users with Macs, the biggest gains you'll see from this upgrade are multi-core processing, allowing owners of multi-core processors (ie pretty much every desktop CPU sold in the past few years) to reap the benefits of multi-core rendering; better HDR support, juicier explosions; along with tweaks, bug fixes and enhancements inside Source itself. But Counter-Strike players are never more than a few moments away from complaining about something, and it's the extras Valve has added to the game, on top of these engineering works, that have polarised a community which prides itself on acting like a two year-old beating the floor in a tantrum.
While Valve promised to keep the mechanics of the game itself will stay exactly as they were, the addition of over 100 achievements, 'cinematic' death shots, a redesigned scoreboard overflowing with information, not to mention persistent player stats and a domination/revenge system - all of which we've seen before in other titles - Counter-Strike veterans are creating something of a fuss. If you've spent more than five minutes with TF2, you'll find it hard to understand why everyone's in such a tizzy. Achievements are frivolous tasks that any veteran will have accomplished donkey's ago (plant 100 bombs, kill 500 enemies with the high-explosive grenade, win in less than 30 seconds, and so on), they don't get in the way of the game. They're a bit of harmless fun, the sort of thing that entertains casual players and can be ignored by everyone else. The 'cinematic death camera' is long overdue. Panning back to see yourself slump to the ground before getting a demeaning close-up of your killer has been an integral part of both Day of Defeat and TF2 (where it is used in conjunction with taunts for comedic effect), and in Counter-Strike can only help people learn from each other and identify cheats.
The clutter on the scoreboard takes some getting used to, but if players had ever set foot in other games they'd quickly realise it's standard fare for any title that preserves match data for rankings. And the domination/revenge system, where getting killed repeatedly by the same opponent, will result in you being humiliated and under pressure to even the score can only bring out the best in even the most timid players. Nobody wants to be flagged as someone's bitch. It's true this upgrade has brought genuine problems. The code change included numerous bugs, though Valve have already fixed most of them, releasing a succession of updates addressing the most reported issues. The beauty of Steam is that everyone gets the same updates automatically.
But therein lies the biggest problem of all. Every Source player is effectively on a roller coaster ride, unable to opt out of Valve's timetable for changes and is totally reliant on them plugging the holes they make along the way. Long gone are the days of reverting to a working prior version: like they say in the movies, there's no going back now.
Counter-Strike is better than ever. It's still the old game to old hands, but is more accessible and more fun. If you gave up on the game a while back, it's time to give it another go.
Download Counter-Strike: Source
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP