Friday, April 20, 2007

Counter Strike: Source

My trial is all but over for Counter Strike: Source. For those who do not know, Counter Strike is a extensive Mod for Half Life that was so successful you can now download it as a separate game through Steam. The game only has multi-player. This game is one of the most enjoyed PC games, it has a huge fan base and has hundreds of severs running 24/7. Does it deserve this appreciation? Before I start this review, remember, I have only played for 3 days.

I really enjoyed my experience with CS. There were many applaudable things in the game, the lag was rarely noticeable and the graphics stood up surprisingly well. One of the best things about the game is the level design. Due to its Mod roots, there are a large variety of different maps available for play. However, because I wanted to test the core game, I filtered the maps to CS only maps. Each map was well contstructed, with multiple entrance/exit points, levels and well positioned cover. It was truly a pleasure to play through these maps. And play through them again. Sometimes, because people spend all their lives on this game, when you are playing though it the first time, you feel one step behind everyone else, but this adds to the tension in some places.

Which brings me on to my next point. Because in this game you do not respawn, you check round corners before running round. The combination of decent graphics with bullet holes appearing in time with gun shots near your head can make quite a tense experience. Once, when I was guarding the back door, I was hiding behind some crates as on the other side of the map there was a sniper who kept reminding me that if I took one step out of line he would put a bullet in me. If that wasn't enough, above me, the enemy was storming through the upper door and someone on my team was machine gunning them down. As he did, I could here the chink of his empty cartridges land around me. Then the door I was guarding swung open and a flash bang bounced through. I tried to shield my eyes but it was to late, I blind fired and scored a headshot. When my vision returned they had gone. I ran, stupidly, past the door to catch them up and was shot for my stupidity. Cursing, as I would no longer have my snazzy gun I had just bought.

When you die, unlike most FPS, you do not respawn. Instead you must sit out till the end of the round. Although this can be frustrating if you get an unlucky death, it does teach you to be more careful. Also, the game does its best to keep you entertained. Once you are dead, you can choose to follow someone around or, what I think is more fun, going in free cam mode where you can drive anywhere and watch the combat from any angle. Amazingly, no one relays information to their team once they are dead.

Which brings me on nicely to the fantastic community in CS. The community needs to be good in a game where you can't practice offline, and it is. Although people may laugh when you ask how do you plant the bomb, they do tell you. Obviously, everyone is really good at the game but, at least in the games I played, they didn't start mocking you continuously.

Finally, the graphics in this game are really quite good. Considering the huge number of potential players and the decent frame rate it maintains this game is very technically impressive. Blood effects and explosions looks good and the physics are fantastic. Both of those features are inherited from Half Life 2.

OK, that's a lot of positives. But like every game, it does have some flaws. Firstly, because of the huge number of servers, it can be difficult to find a decent one. The game helps towards this goal by allowing you to filter the visible servers and add them to you favourites, but it can still be difficult when you first log in. This is not helped by the quite often un-helpful names servers are given.

Also, connecting to a game can take quite a long time because when you are setting up a server, you have the option to have custom sound files. Which are cool, however, you must download them before playing. This is fairly frustrating normally, but it doesn't save them so you will find yourself downloading the same files again and again.

The final, and most obvious flaw, is the lack of single player. Apart from meaning you can't go on it if your internet is down, it means you can not practice. Now, although the community is supportive, it is still not nice being mown down time after time. Adding in the fact you don't respawn, getting good at this game can take time.

There are also a couple of less notable problems like, a server will say it has 16 players in and turn out to only have one. In conclusion however, this game is very good and the problems are relatively minute compared to the positives. Am I going to get it? No, but only because I do not want a FPS at the moment.

One can not review Counter Strike without at least mentioning Steam. Steam is a free piece of software developed by the makers of Half life. It allows you to buy games, have them attached to your account, download them and play them on any PC. Also, it has a huge library and you can (supposedly) communicate with a common set of friends through all your games. Xbox Live anyone? However, the problem is you have to buy the games through Steam which is fine if it is the first thing you get, but if you actually have the games already you can not use them through Steam. I believe that along stops it from competing with Xbox Live.


Steam Site

Got Counter Strike? Use Steam? Got an opinion, post a comment!

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