COUNTER-STRIKE: GLOBAL OFFENSIVE BETA

The fourth (kind of…) installment in the Counter-Strike franchise, CS:GO has a lot of expectations to live up to – not only as a professional sport, but for being one of the most played online games since its birth as a humble Half-Life mod in 1999.

I’ve always been a big fan of Valve’s many titles and rarely do they disappoint. I don’t care that we’re all still so eagerly waiting for Half-Life 3; I don’t even care that I had to euthanize the Weighted Companion Cube in Portal – Hell, I don’t even care that Team Fortress 2 has become the world’s biggest hat parade! Valve just make good games and I have a lot of trust in them to keep doing so. Hopefully, by that logic, Global Offensive will follow suit with its full release.

Excitedly starting up the Beta – which was a full 4Gb, I might add – the first thing that caught my eye was the improved graphics. CS:GO has a very smooth, finished look to it that far surpasses its predecessors and most definitely compliments its gameplay. Much the same treatment has been handed to the audio, giving each gunshot and footstep a much rounder, fuller sound as compared to previous sharpness – a great improvement on all accounts and, twinned with an arsenal of refurbished weapons and maps, looks to be a strong competitor in today’s markets.

With eight new guns and throwables (including molotov cocktails and firefight decoys), this is certainly more than just a Source rehash. The most useful feature I noticed lay in the ability to jump into control of any active bots in play after your initial death, allowing for extended play whereas before you’d be forced to sit and watch the AI run in circles blindly, helpless. While this will not be so important after release, it’s definitely an advantage to the Beta, where it is still short of human controlled opponents.

I did still manage to find a few criticisms, however…

The movement feels artificial. Not to say that Counter-Strike has ever tried to be the most realistic of games, but there was something about the player control that just felt strange – almost as if I were gliding across each map as a disembodied gun, rather than a physical entity. Although the same could definitely be said of CS:Source, there’s just something very different and fluid in the new character movements, as well as the sensitivity in aiming.

Your lifespan is a lot shorter. More a skill-based problem than development, but Global Offensive seems to be a lot more ruthless than its previous incarnations, resulting in a lot of surprisingly quick deaths from surprisingly few hits. Some would maybe deem this an improvement, as there has always been a lot of frustration with Counter-Strike‘s hitboxes in the past, but Valve are implementing a match-making system to balance out the difficulty.

The ‘Buy’ menu feels a bit err… clunky. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what I want to convey, but it’s the closest word I can think of to express it. Although the aesthetics of it all are very nice, modern and stylish, there’s a sense of slowness and entrapment, forcing you to retreat frantically back through its pages to meet the start of each round in time. This could very possibly be a sensitivity issue, however – as I touched on briefly with the movement. There doesn’t seem to be an equal point between finding the perfect mouse speed for aiming and menu use, which is causing a love/hate feeling every time I play. CS:S felt extremely responsive in both aspects, whereas CS:GO appears to be lacking a little in this respect.

Where are all the player skins? Anyone already familiar with Counter-Strike has a favourite player model for each side – I can absolutely guarantee this. It wasn’t such a matter of giving variation and diversity in a team, it was personalisation; a way to distinguish yourself from an army of clones! As a Terrorist, I will always be an Arctic Avenger; Counter-Terrorist, SAS. Sadly, Global Offensive has removed this feature completely, and thus the feeling of independence – something I had never even considered or thought about until it had gone.

We must not forget that CS:GO is very much still in Beta, however, with both Valve and its co-developer, Hidden Path Entertainment, quickly and efficiently addressing every problem the community has brought forward as a serious issue. Especially so as a new chapter in Counter-Strike history, Valve will understandably be trying to change the game dynamics, so as to create a whole new level for its competitive gaming – as Blizzard similarly set in motion with StarCraft 2.

Overall, this game is looking seriously good so far and is expecting a full release sometime this summer, boasting a variety of different game types and an exciting new range of all our favourite guns and equipment – not to mention the inevitable community mods, which have always come in a wide variety of form and style.

CS:GO is currently a closed Beta, but has plans to extend its audience very soon. If you do not have it available for download in your Steam Library already, it will be made so soon.

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