The Entertainment eZine - Gaming
May 23rd 2007.
This review of Counter-Strike (the most popular first person shooting game on the planet) has been 5 years in the making. I first started playing Counter-Strike in January 2002. My girlfriend at the time introduced me to the game and I've been an addict ever since. To the game. I long ago ditched the girlfriend for being too needy, a violent head case and overtly religious.
But like girlfriends, Counter-Strike is a game that you either love it or you hate it.
For starters, its intensely addictive and fun, but that addiction can become a cause for complaint in itself. You may find yourself skipping school, work, time with friends/family just so you can play the game. Thats just how addictive it is. You lose track of time playing it and before you know its 4 am in the morning and you have to get up at 7 to go work. You could drop out of school, lose your job and eventually become homeless as the result of playing this game. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Fortunately that never happened to me. I'm not an "awpwhore" (see slang terms below) who plays the game constantly.
The game itself is based off of the original Half-Life game engine, but instead is comprised of terrorists and counter terrorist teams working against each other to accomplish specific goals.
The goals include planting/defusing bombs, rescuing/guarding hostages, and killing each other until the enemy is eradicated or time runs out.
As a first person shooter you see the map/terrain from the perspective of a terrorist or counter-terrorist and can interact with it by opening doors, flipping switches, using security cameras, blowing up wooden boxes and bombing a bombsite.
A person first starting to play will have a learning curve with regards to learning the weaponry, tactics of play, and how to deal with hackers/campers (grenades level the playing field). Over time players develop their skills and become more aggressive, have more accurate aim and can deal with situations like being out numbered/out gunned.
However, many people have biases towards Counter-Strike because of it's popularity compared to games like Halo and will insult it given a moments notice. Even people who have not played the game or only played for a short amount of time have very biased opinions towards the game. These biases are likely due to the sheer number of hackers/cheaters/campers who play the game and make it less fun. The game is at its best when everyone on the team is playing fairly and aggressively.
My suggestion for new players is that they hone their skills on Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, a modified version that allows computer bots at varying degree of skill. If a player can progress to a level in which they can take on a team of the best bots in the highest setting (with bot settings set to rifle/pistol/grenades [the hardest weapon setting]) then you'll not only be ready to handle campers/etc, you'll be ready to kick their asses.
Mind you fighting bots is dramatically different from fighting players. Players can be tricky and will think of shooting from locations a bot would never consider. Players often use tactics designed to get them a higher kill ratio and not necessarily complete the goals of the game (ie. rescue the hostages).
Regular Counter-Strike gamers have come up with a variety of slang to describe things in the game (hoser is not one of the slangs, although maybe it should be).
Another way to deal with cheaters/hackers is to try out "Day of Defeat" instead. Basically the same game, but with World War 1 and 2 weaponry.
In recent years games like Counter-Strike have come under fire because loners have a tendency to play the game and develop their skill dramatically. Kimveer Gill (the September 13th 2006 Dawson College Shooter) made a list of his favourite games on his website prior to his shooting rampage: (in order of his favourites) Postal, Blood, F.E.A.R., Manhunt, 25 to Life, Doom 3, Quake 4, Farcry, Half-Life 2, Call of Duty 2, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, Postal², The Punisher (Punish Them), Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, Need For Speed Underground, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, Command & Conquer: Generals, Command & Conquer: Zero Hour, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne.
Notice Half-Life 2, a game made by the same company as Counter-Strike and runs on the same game engine.
But not all gun loners play computer games. Cho Seung-Hui, the South Korean student studying at Virginia Tech was an English major who wrote violent plays. Cho killed 32 people and wounded many more before committing suicide, making it the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. It was his playwriting/acting that seemed to bring out the violent tendencies in him. One could easily blame violent movies like the "The Matrix" as being the source/cause. Kimveer Gill also had a history of enjoying violent movies.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (from the Columbine High School Massacre on April 20th 1999) killed 12 students and a teacher, as well as wounding 24 others, before committing suicide. Their hobbies included violent movies, bowling, stealing and playing video games such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Harris often created levels for Doom that were widely distributed, and can still be found on the Internet as the Harris levels.
People who play violent video games don't become psychotic killers. They're already psychotic killers and just happen to play them.
I saw a statistic in the newspaper today that said divorced women were 3.5 times more likely to be depressed than married women. But you see the error in this statistic? Getting a divorce doesn't make you depressed. What it really means is that depressed women are more likely to get a divorce. They were probably already depressed BEFORE the divorce and the depression may have even been the cause of the divorce in the first place.
Before I finished this review there is one more school shooting I'd like to mention: Today's.
Today at C. W. Jefferys Collegiate in Toronto Canada there was a shooting in a school hallway. 15-year-old Jordan Manners died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
So to summarize: Counter-Strike is a good game and everything, but don't let it go to your head. Keep the violence on the computer screen and off our streets.
Alternative Review I
If you don't have the exceptional Half-Life, the new retail edition of Counter-Strike is a chance to get a stand-alone version of this outstanding multiplayer mod.
Half-Life: Counter-Strike is one of the most unusual PC game releases in months. The hugely popular mod for Valve Software's Half-Life has been available for free download for well over a year, and you can still download it for free off the Internet now that it's been through beta testing and has reached version 1.0. And if you don't have the exceptional Half-Life, the new retail edition of Counter-Strike is a chance to get a stand-alone version of this outstanding multiplayer mod. The retail package also includes stand-alone versions of other multiplayer mods and game modes that normally require Half-Life, the best of which are also available free off the Internet: Team Fortress Classic, Opposing Force Multiplayer, Firearms, Redemption, Ricochet, and Wanted. Counter-Strike itself is a superb game that fully deserves top billing in this release.
Counter-Strike divides players into teams of terrorists and counterterrorists in four game modes: rescue/hold hostages, bomb target/defuse bomb, escape from/guard an area, and assassinate/guard a VIP. None of these ideas are particularly original, but they're well implemented, and they strike an effective balance between realistic stealth and frenzied action. The thematically varied maps maximize tactical possibilities with alternate routes, multiple levels, and abundant cover. Games are played in short rounds, and when you're killed, you sit out the round as an invisible observer; there are no deathmatch-style respawns. This creates a strong social aspect, because with "dead" players chatting, there can be an enormous sense of tension for the remaining players stalking each other. Another big impetus to stay alive is that the more successful you and your team are each round, the more money you earn for buying bigger and better weapons. Unfortunately this can lead to a huge imbalance in firepower when one team wins a few consecutive rounds.
One of Counter-Strike's biggest appeals has always been the selection of weapons. In addition to a knife and assorted grenades, there's a wide variety of accurately modeled pistols, shotguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles. Three new weapons have been added to version 1.0: the H&K UMP .45, FN Five-Seven, and the SIG SG-550, though the retail version of the game uses invented names for all weapons.
Each weapon has unique characteristics, so mastering them all and learning which is best for different situations is a lot of fun, and it adds replay value. For instance, high-caliber weapons can penetrate thin walls and doors, which makes lugging a heavy belt-fed machine gun worthwhile when the enemy has been doing more hiding than fighting. Guns also have varied kicks, which makes full automatic fire a "spray and pray" affair - as in real life, short, controlled bursts are best for accurate fire. Effective weapon ranges are well simulated, so shotguns are brutal in close quarters and useless in large open spaces. Location-specific damage modeling means that shots to the head are more likely to get an instant kill.
Another part of the weaponry's appeal is the superlative sound effects. The guns sound remarkably realistic and powerful, which makes them viscerally fun to shoot. Equal care is given to other game sounds, like explosions, injuries from weapons or falling, glass shattering, and so on. Another good feature is the various audio messages you can send to teammates. They cover a whole range of warnings, status reports, and requests for backup. The only problem is that they all use the same voice, regardless of your team.
The Half-Life graphics engine may be dated now, but Counter-Strike has always used it to its fullest potential. The maps are visually appealing, and they have imaginative texturing and dramatic (though sometimes too dark) lighting effects. The updated character models in version 1.0 now use Valve's model-blending technology, along with even better skins than in the past, which makes for great-looking player graphics. Best of all are the firearm models and skins, which are some of the best you'll find in any shooter.
Counter-Strike is an online-only game that has experienced the mixed blessing of its immense popularity. You're guaranteed to find plenty of available game sessions online at any hour. However, cheating and even verbal abuse have long marred the gameplay in Counter-Strike. The game is not in any way newbie-friendly, despite the inclusion of a simple offline tutorial. You'll have to leave your ego at the door when you encounter the countless veteran players you'll face online. Fortunately, the abundance of experienced players means you can quickly learn the tricks of the trade through observation. It should also be noted that while Counter-Strike does require tactical thinking and teamwork, it's still a fast-paced shooter at its core. So not only are lightning-fast reflexes necessary to excel, but so are a fast connection and a low ping.
Still, despite its weaknesses, Counter-Strike is undeniably influential, and has already helped inspire countless similar mods and games. It's easy to see why: Counter-Strike has a simple yet effective design that's brought to life with superior maps and vivid graphics and sound. The end result is utterly exciting and addictive. Counter-Strike is a model of its kind and a thrilling action game.
Alternative Review II
Counter-Strike. Many call it the most addictive online game ever. It is the #1 online action game in the world. Counter-Strike has even spawned its own language. And the most extraordinary thing of all? This game is nearly five years old.
Created in 1999 and released June 19th of the same year by Minh Le, a.k.a. Gooseman and Jess Cliffe as a mod to Half-Life (1995), the free game caught on so quickly that it soon became available in retail stores. Riding their own coattails of success, the two quickly became employed by Valve Software, where the two still release Counter-Strike patches and work on upcoming Counter-Strike products.
The first question you might have is how can a MOD (modification) to a 1995 game still be so popular today? The answer is simple: excellent gameplay, a multitude of players from around the world, and it's both challenging and fun. In case you are not familiar with the game I will give you a little background. There are two teams: the terrorists and the counter-terrorists, along with three main map types (there are other less popular types):
There is something about Counter-Strike that keeps bringing players back for more. Though the graphics, sounds, and maps are dated, it does nothing to affect the popularity. Whenever I start playing a game that I really like, I seem to always fall back to Counter-Strike no matter what. The controls feel perfectly comfortable, it is challenging, and it is always fun.
As I mentioned above, the graphics are dated but the mod is flexible. For example, it allows gamers to replace character and weapon models and skins in order to give a more updated feel to the game. There are a good variety of maps which have undergone many changes since the originals. The maps represent several different environments ranging from desert to urban.
The sounds in the game aren't too bad. The weapons sound somewhat realistic, there are background noises like in the extremely popular Aztec map, there are radio commands voiced by co-creator Cliffe, and, more recently, a chat system has been introduced which allows players to use microphones at their computers to communicate with their team.
When Counter-Strike was released, it was a multiplayer only game. The multiple player aspect is the thing that really makes Counter-Strike the game that it is. To be able to play against other skilled people from around the world almost always gives you a challenge. Though the original game is still available for download, other products, such as Half-Life: Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike Xbox, and most recently Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, which includes single a single player game, are available at retail stores.
The fact that this multiplayer modification has survived in popularity for almost five years should really give developers something to think about. Multiplayer is an extremely important aspect of computer games, and without it players are likely to never play a game again after they complete it.
Counter-Strike is a revolutionary modification that has changed the gaming industry and has opened up new opportunities and ideas for people attempting to create mods themselves. It may be a long time before this game fades into the shadows along with other classics. The only true killer of Counter-Strike that I can come up with is the possibility of Counter-Strike 2, running off the Half-Life 2 engine. It would be a smart move by Valve because of how famous Counter-Strike is. Time will only tell.