When in-game trash talking pushed the wrong buttons, one player at an LA cyber cafe grabbed a screwdriver and killed a competitor. That same December day at another Southern California gaming center, a testosterone-charged tournament erupted into a 100-man riot involving hurled chairs, swinging pipes, and a pistol that left one teen hospitalized.
All this for a game started in a Vancouver basement? Without a doubt, Counter-Strike--which began as a fanmade add-on for PC first-person shooter Half-Life and ended up as one of the most popular PC games of all time--is a certified phenomenon. And this December, it's coming to an Xbox near you. Its rules are simple: Eight-man counterterrorist teams must coordinate to extract hostages, defuse explosives, and eliminate the opposition. Or you can choose to play as one of the eight bad guys if you're feeling sinister. If this sounds familiar, it should. Counter-Strike's influence is obvious in most of today's squad-based shooters for both consoles and PC.
Long before Navy SEALs set off to save the world, Counter-Strike immersed PC gamers in squad-based battles where a single well-aimed round can spell catastrophe, and the man watching your back matters more than anything. And with over 20,000 players online at any given moment, Counter-Strike for PC remains as popular as ever. But today, several years after its creation, can the game achieve the same success on a console? After all, if EverQuest taught us anything, it's that success on PC doesn't necessarily translate to the consoles. So, what sets this 5-year-old first-person shooter apart from the Halos and Rainbow Six 3s of today's Xbox?
Counter-Strike sits somewhere between realism and reflexes. The best of both worlds, it's packed with authentic weapons and environments, yet it remains fast paced. Unlike SOCOM or Ghost Recon where ample cover encourages drawn-out games of cat and mouse, CS's skirmishes are short and brutal--waste too much time searching for concealment in these comparatively small maps and a tango will shoot you dead. Success earns skillful squads cash to spend on deadlier arms--meticulously rendered to match the authentic articles--and better equipment. Developer Valve seems to have faith in this winning formula, since it has nixed its plans to include the single-player missions from Counter-Strike: Condition Zero for PC, allegedly so it can spend more time improving Counter-Strike's graphics and sound. "That includes adding higher-resolution textures and custom effects," says Director of Marketing Doug Lombardi, "as well as a complete overhaul of every world, character, and weapon model." And you'll still be able to improve your skills before going online by battling it out with A.I.-con-trolled bots on your own. In addition, the camaraderie that comes with taking your team to the top--that same esprit de corps perverted by gang mentality on that tragic winter day in California--should presumably carry over to Xbox Live.
Nevertheless, a few factors could keep the game from completely matching the success of its PC sibling. For one, PC owners can download the game for free (always a nice incentive). Second, the simple graphics that allow it to run smoothly on even low-end PCs are hardly an asset on Xbox, where, despite the enhanced horsepower, Counter-Strike still looks like an old game with an expensive face-lift. But if Counter-Strike does go big and you find yourself on the receiving end of grueling trash talk at a linked-system party, don't reach for the screwdriver. It's still only a game, man.
What there is of Counter-Strike is OK its a simple, decent online shooter. The problem is how little of it there actually is. With a measly two play modes and no real solo campaign, its hard to believe Microsoft expects anyone to pay $50 for what feels like one-third of a game. The one area Counter-Strike doesnt skimp on is the number of cool levels it offers: indoor, outdoor, banks, villages, Mayan temples theres a great variety of locations, all with plenty of interconnecting paths and nuances to learn. But, again, with only two modes to choose from (hostage rescue and plant-the-bomb), the game itself grows stale before the levels do. It doesnt help that single player is multiplayer, just with the computer A.I. controlling the other combatants. These bots are pretty smart (save for the occasional wall-humping hiccups), but playing by yourself gets repetitive within the first few hours anyway. I have minor quibbles with other aspects of the game. The controls are solid and easy to master, but for a shooter with such an emphasis on realism, the lack of some moves (like lean, lie prone, and crawl) seems a bit odd. Also, graphics and animation range from merely decent to poor. As the online multiplayer part of a kick-ass single-player game or with a buttload more modes or as a $20 budget title, I could recommend Strike. As is, there are just too many other quality shooters out there for anyone to waste their money on this.
If youve already liberated squad-shooter Rainbow Six 3 tram your local game store, dont bother securing Counter-Strike; its bare-bones, online-only (solo play with A.I. bots is a bore) tactical action makes it expendable in the war of the war games. Thats not to say its lean on gung-ho thrills the game unleashes a double-barrel blast of realistic weaponry and twitch gameplay. You will sweat bullets in many tense gunfights. But the fun fizzles fast. Counter-Strike needs more mission types, more weapons, more customizability it just needs more more. Most levels are blocky, blah, and look like they were made to run on a low-powered PC (which they were). Theres a reason Counter-Strike is free for PC. Microsoft should take the hint and qive this away with Xbox Live subscriptions.
As a Counter-Strike PC vet, I must admit that this Xbox port comes as a deafening disappointment. It isnt that I dont appreciate the new features console-exclusive maps and de facto voice chat via the headset but shockingly little has been done to improve (or evolve) Counter-Strike beyond its garage-gaming roots as a Half-Life mod on PC. Its still a landmark title, but this new version fails to incorporate advancements made by recent tactical shooters such as SOCOMII and Rainbow Six 3. That said, whats here is still surprisingly solid, from a gameplay standpoint. Great controls and a balanced weapon system make it instantly clear why Counter-Strike is the worlds most popular online shooter.
Coming from Quake or Unreal Tournament, Counter-Strike is a rude awakening. There are no health packs. No quad damage. You pay for your shooter and you pay for your ammo. If you catch a bullet in the wrong place, you keel over and die horribly. And there are no respawn rooms.
Tough? Yes, but we know what it's like to be a newbie. Here we show you how to get ahead when you're wet behind the ears.
1. The Tools
Don't pick weapons randomly. Acquaint yourself with three, perhaps four, guns and get to know them well: their ammo capacity, reload times, effectiveness through walls. If you can't afford the gun you're after, wait until the next round. Handing over moolah for a bad gun that you don't know is going to leave you dead - and skint.
2. Know How To Fire Them
Remember that guns such as the Colt M4AI Carbine will 'rapid fire' if you simply hold the trigger down. But stay away from such tactics when using artillery like the AK-47: don't let more than four or five rounds fly in any one go as your arm will waggle and your aim along with it.
3. Buy Grenades
Don't go throwing grenades in confined spaces, as often they'll simply bounce back and ' blow your knees off. Jump when you throw and they'll travel further. If you're using a concussion grenade, make sure you're ahead of your team mates before you lob it. Always keep a smoke grenade to hand: if you find yourself pinned down by unseen snipers, throw it close and make your break.
4. Stay Alive
Before scuttling off to find yourself a target, think. Don't walk into the middle of an open area. Move from cover to cover - from box to box, pillar to pillar - whatever. And keep checking behind you. Do everything slowly: very slowly.
Hold down the SHIFT key to walk and you'll not make footsteps. Hold CTRL when climbing ladders. Remember that audio is crucial to Counter-Strike tactics, and if you stomp around like a splayfooted rhino you'll end up on the mortuary slab. Use headphones if you have them; you can play all night without waking your beloved and you'll hear better, too.
5. Play Every Map And Every Team
It's a big mistake to stick to one team and one fave map. Sure, everyone loves Militia, but play it constantly as Terrorists and you'll never know what makes the Counter Terrorists tick - where they appear, where their cover is, and so on. Learn all the maps and pick your teams randomly.
6. Camp And Snipe
Sit still and wait for the enemy to come to you. It's frowned upon in titles such as Quake and Half-Life, but in Counter-Strike it's a way of life. Ignore the shouts of "Camper!" from clueless newbies. Think about it: if you really were a Terrorist, would you tackle your opponents head on or would you sit still with a sighted rifle and pick them off one by one?
The only way to become really good is to play the game often. To stay ahead of others you need to be deadly accurate with shots across all distances. And remember to go for the head: shots to the bonce are likely to be deadly.
Counter-Strike is one of the few wonders of the gaming world. Originating as an online mod for Half-Life, Counter-Strike quickly went on to become the online FPS of choice for many gamers. Even with it's aged graphics and (somewhat) aged gameplay, Counter-Strike is still the most popular online shooter. There are several factors to its success, such as it was free and the user-base for Half-Life was already high, but none greater than the fact that Counter-Strike provides a highly entertaining online experience. It only took five years, but now Xbox owners can finally see what all the fuss was about with Counter-Strike, a bare-bones port of the online classic.
Counter-Strike places two teams against each other: the terrorists and counter-terrorists. One team is given an objective, whether it 's rescuing hostages or planting a bomb, while the other team has to prevent the other team from completing those objectives. Counter-Strike has always had a fantastic balance between action and team-based play, allowing you to both run-and-gun and enforce team-based tactics. It's no different in the Xbox version -- everything that made the original Counter-Strike an online phenomenon is still here.
Unfortunately, Counter-Strike will be a definite case of too little, too late for most gamers. Aside from the voice-chat and enhanced visuals, there's little else to entice Counter-Strike veterans to the Xbox version. Xbox Live is absolutely needed to find enjoyment out of Counter-Strike since there's little else to it in the single player mode. No story, no setup, and no missions ' just the same Counter-Strike mode that you can find during online play, but with AI controlled bots. The bots can offer quite a challenge, but needless to say, yelling at the computer-controlled AI versus yelling at someone over Xbox Live isn't as fun.
Counter-Strike looks better than the PC version, but really, that's not saying much. Compared to most shooters on the Xbox, Counter-Strike is way behind the curve. Textures and animation both look like they don't belong on the Xbox, and environments are simplistically rendered. Granted, Counter-Strike veterans will likely overlook these problems if they've been able to play the same game for five years, but console enthusiasts might not be so forgiving.
It'll be a bit harder to overlook the audio problems though. Sound effects are solid, but the problem arises with the custom soundtrack option. Whenever a new match starts, the soundtrack will start over from the first song, meaning you'll be listening to the first few songs over and over if you play short matches.
There's no denying that the Counter-Strike formula still works and as such, is still a load of fun. It's just a shame that Xbox owners are only getting a slightly upgraded game that's over five years old. Veterans of Counter-Strike are better of sticking with the PC version, but Xbox owners looking for some solid online fun have another title to add to their 'To Buy'? list.