On the surface of it, Firearms may look and play like a less polished tribute to Counter-Strike, certainly it doesn't look quite as gritty or realistic, and on your first few online missions - if you've played CS in any great depth - you may even wonder why you are bothering at all. However, there are many people who are bothering (hundreds rather than Counter-Strike! s thousands) and if you'd care to put the time in, you'll soon find out why.
There is one fundamental difference between Firearms and Counter-Strike, whereas CS involves a small-arms conflict between two ideologically opposed teams, Firearms operates at a much grander scale - all-out war. This is aptly demonstrated by the weapons (which extend Counter-Strikes range to include claymores mines and grenade launchers) and the maps, of which most simply require your team to capture and hold a number of strategic locations, ranging from bridges, towers, bunkers and buildings - set between the enemy base and yours. There are no civilians to get in your way and, unlike CS, when you die you respawn back at your base, until your side's reinforcements are used up, at which point those in limbo are left to watch the battle reach its conclusion and the war cycles round again.
In a nod to Team Fortress, Firearms favours a class-based system, of sorts. Rather than force you to pick from a number of predefined roles (although there a few preset examples), you can effectively create your own. After you've joined a game and chosen sides, you're given a number of points to spend on equipment and armour. The choice for these items is far more varied than in G$ there are almost twice as many weapons and even three grades of armour that can be extended to protect your legs and arms as well as your head and body.
No matter how much armour you protect yourself with and no matter how big the weapon, you always run, walk or crawl like a snake on your belly (a feature CS could well do with) at the same speed. However, in Firearms it's not how fast you move that matters, but how far. Those weighed down by artillery and Kevlar will run out of stamina faster and will have to rest more often then their pistol-packing comrades. It's a novel idea and although the masses are divided on the issue, we rather liked it - even though there is a bug that lets you run backwards without breaking sweat.
Along with team-based objectives like the simple annihilation of the enemy, there's the incentive of developing skills. Taking control points on the map and racking up kills allows you to add new skills to your repertoire and even go up in rank. Choosing 'marksmanship' will improve your accuracy, 'stealth' will quieten your steps and 'field medicine' will mean you can heal others as well as yourself. 'Leadership' skills broaden your range of voice commands and there's an ability later on in the game that will allow you to build a mortar. Neat, huh?
There are other nice touches, too: one map has one team defending a fortified base, which means the other team has to parachute from the back of a plane. It sounds more exciting than it is (a slow, controlled fall from a great height, basically), but if you find your drop zone overrun by the enemy, those making their descent become sitting ducks. On other maps there are gun emplacements, watchtowers, trenches and mine fields - all of which make Firearms feel sufficiently different.
UNDER THE COUNTER
However, comparisons with Counter-Strike are unavoidable and any mod - especially one for Half-Life - pertaining to be realistic, is always going to be set alongside Counter-Strike's far-reaching benchmark. Although there are dozens of maps, many of them offer much the same challenge over the same layout, albeit in a different setting, and while there are other game variations apart from those maps where you must fight for control of certain areas (find secret codes etc), they seem rather limp compared to Counter-Strikes tense hostage rescue missions.
Unfortunately, by trying to capture conflict on such a scale, Firearms - limited by Half-Lifes ageing architecture rather than the mod itself - somehow feels too small. If it could accommodate 40 players, Firearms could certainly match up to its ambition. It's unfortunate that Half-Life can't cope with the numbers of people that this mod requires. Eight-player games are the smallest you'd want to get involved in and hopefully, in time, if enough people spread the word, bigger, dedicated Firearms servers will start to appear.
While there is the occasional bug and a few balancing issues to be ironed out, Firearms remains a remarkably complete game and one with a depth that is probably lost on a lot of people. While it has a small dedicated bunch of fans, there are unfortunately too many people who try it and discard it as a poor Counter-Strike clone and never come back (we tried running a server in the office and many did just that). We wouldn't go as far as to say that you should abandon CSin favour of Firearms, but if you cared to give it some time you may find yourself warming to it.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP