The short version is the simple one. Counter-Strike: Global Operations is really fun, and it made CS fun again.
It’s weird in that I’d quit CS utterly as of 3-4 years ago. I played some CS:S when it came out, it was still decent, but I basically did nothing but botmatches. I played again over the winter for some presents and it just…well, it didn’t do it for me anymore. Some of the conventions didn’t work for me, the community didn’t do it, the maps, all of it. Seeing it as it was was a rough experience. Too much waiting, too much imbalance, too many rough edges by modern standards.
A friend sent me his beta gift, I jumped in and did some Arms Race (team deathmatch type mode where you get the next gun for getting a kill, and win by getting a kill with all weapons). The speed was a bit hectic (as expected for a deathmatch), but the balance seemed a lot better. The weapons all felt a little more balanced, except shotguns which are actually useful finally. It’s a fun mode on its own, a good way to feel out guns and a good warmup for other modes. Most of all. It’s got an interesting power curve. Start at SMGs, move to shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, machine guns, and then…pistols! It’s a ramp up up up and BAM, you wanna win, you’d better prove you’re so good you can beat all those other guys just with a pistol, and the final kill is with a knife. So, it’s really entertaining.
Next up I tried demolition. It’s a 20 round game, 10 on each side, and it starts players with a mid-level rifle (M4A1, AK-47). If you get a kill in a round, you get the next weapon in the chain. More than one kill and you get a use it or lose it grenade (which goes HE, Flashbang, no idea past that). Again, it follows a power curve of valleys/peaks. It actually drops your power at first, then boosts it back up, then down, and if you manage a kill for EVERY round you end up with an AWP. It’s an on the fly balancing system, it resets at match 10 for team switch. It’s also a bunch of short rounds timed to (I think) 90 seconds, with one demolition site on small maps. It’s a very careful mad dash to the site, the terrorists have to plant the bomb ASAP if they’re going to, and it’s a nice series of quick bites of CS action.
After that I moved into the classic modes (competitive is my preference in this case). It matchmakes pretty nicely even in beta, you pick a map rotation (Demolition, hostage rescue, or Dust (yes, dust maps on their own)), and off you go. There’s a new buy method now, too. It’s a wheel instead of a list, you can use number keys for fast buying, but you can use the mouse and get detailed info on everything. It displays a chart of costs, penetration level, and ratings rate of fire and damage among other things, so you actually have a clue what the stats of every gun are. It even gives a little more info in text. As an example, the menu explains that the AK-47′s accuracy can be suspect at best, but the accurate first shot and the stopping power are what make it a favored gun. True enough, the first shot WILL go exactly where you’re pointing. Score a headshot on that and it’s already over, but if you’re spraying at anything over a close range you’re losing the fight. Close-mid, though, spray/burst wrecks people.
It feels like everyone moves a little faster now, and the guns are a little tighter in their recoil. The obvious best method is strafe/spray/jump and be a real nuisance basically – it doesn’t work that well. It seems like now it pays off more to actually use a different approach by distance, and more wise to retreat sometimes. Long range encounters demonstrate the importance of crouching and firing from a stable platform in very controlled bursts. If you’re in close it pays to stick and move and know your ammo count. Spray with a p90, burst with a UMP, but the pattern of move, stop, shoot is pretty important.
It also seems to move faster than previous CS versions without breaking the pace that worked so well. High tension marked by short moments of intense bursts of action, high lethality as ever, but the moments come a little closer together and start a little faster, especially in the new maps.
The new maps are very well designed and have a little more verticality in spots (in one, site A is upstairs from site B via several routes). The new things, like the Zeus tazer (a one shot kill that only gets one shot for the CTs) and the decoy grenades (which simulate gunfire, as in the gunshot sounds are played by them AND an enemy marker is produced on the radar) work well. They add a new tactic that doesn’t break the feeling of CS at all. Same for the molotovs/incendiary grenades (I think they’re new, I sure don’t remember them), they light a nice patch of ground on fire. Not a ton of damage unless you score a direct hit, but spectacular for holding a corridor or small area of ground against incursion. Nobody likes to walk through fire!
In short, it’s still Counter-Strike, but with massively improved balance and a pace which has been improved from the original/source versions. Moreover, it’s a big facelift into the modern Source engine. The biggest standouts are the improved lighting/shadow, which CAN give away position, and that everyone is the same “type” of terrorist/CT. All l33t, all GIGN, all SAS, whatever, by map, but it’s 5+ individuals versus the same guy five times. It actually solves an old problem CS had, which is that you never knew what you were looking for. It results in faster enemy recognition without feeling stale, a very good thing. Even the voices are different for each team now. Collected GIGN members, excited SAS Scotsmen, and hyper hooligans running around Office.
If you never liked CS, GO isn’t going to do anything for you. If you really enjoyed CS back in the day, but fell out of it and never got back in, this is the time. It’s absolutely the heart of CS, but the improvements are so numerous that even when they’re not readily apparent, they’re obvious. I just couldn’t get myself to play CS again before now, despite repeated attempts. Now I’ve spent 13 ours playing, and that was in 4-5 days of beta alone. It’s a more responsive, prettier, better version of CS, a modern version of the old game and at $15 it’s priced just where it should be. Above budget “what’s wrong with it?” games, below the $20 “new boxed release” threshold. Enough for a triple A arcade game, basically, without making you feel angry you’re buying Counter-Strike (again). Hell, I hate multiplayer games 99% of the time, and I really did hit 13 hours in beta alone. I fully endorse this game on that value alone, I paid a dollar an hour!