Six Reasons Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is More Than Just a Port

09/11/2011 by Billy Berghammer | Source: Gamepro

Most Valve fans have been clamoring for more Half-Life, but there is one major Valve staple that has gone the longest (minus Ricochet) without a proper update, and that’s Counter-Strike.

Even though many Counter-Strike fans are still playing 1.6 or Source, Valve recently announced such a refresh to this venerable franchise titled Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Being developed as a collaboration with Hidden Path Entertainment (Counter-Strike: Source, Defense Grid – The Awakening), this download-only title will be released in early 2012 for the PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Back in the day I played a good chunk of Counter-Strike because I enjoyed the challenging quick team-based objective gameplay and the tighter smaller maps – usually playing one or two over and over again. And although I planted a bomb or two in my day, I’ll be totally honest – I’m not very good and never lasted too long in a round unless I was really lucky. And since I haven’t regularly played the game since its inception 12 years ago, jumping into a match on PC today is often times a “Welcome to Fodderland” experience.

At first glance, I thought, “Yep, it looks like Counter-Strike.” And on the surface, it’s easy to dismiss this game as, “It’s just Counter-Strike: Source. “ Granted on the show floor players were playing the Xbox 360 version of the game (map: Dust2), and it did look much like I remembered of playing Counter-Strike: Source. After playing numerous matches, and faring surprisingly well, I hit up Valve writer and self-proclaimed Counter-Strike badass Chet Faliszek to find out why Global Offensive is more than just a port.

Casually Competitive

Even though the team has picked the brains of the Counter-Strike community and worked with Counter-Strike pros and veterans, the barrier for entry for Global Offensive will be a lot easier with the addition of Casual Mode. Separate from Competitive Mode, Casual Mode makes money no longer an issue. You’re given armor automatically and have enough funds to choose any load out you desire. Unlike trying a pick-up game of Counter-Strike: Source today where economies vary depending on what type of server you’re on, you can figure out which weapons work for you, and build up your skill set before you enter Competitive mode which re-introduces money back into the equation. That all being said, I may dabble in the competitive side, Casual mode will most likely be my bread and butter. Counter-Strike features a nice variety of weapons, and I’d like to digest them all at will.

It’s About Skills

Shooters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield have leveling up systems that rank players together due to what level they have achieved in the game, but matchmaking and player rating in Global Offensive is based on an Elo skill system (Originally used for Chess, an adapted system that calculates a player’s relative skill level), instead of just a Kill\Death Win\Lose ratio.

“So Counter-Strike is: You jump into a game, and your skill decides if you win or lose,” explained Faliszek. “And a lot of other games - and it’s a cool thing, and I understand why they do it - they get longevity and replay by having you earn leveling up by time. So you made a time investment that levels up your skill, even if you don’t get better. We wanted to make sure that your leveling up is always you getting better.”

This will hopefully mean newbs are always paired with newbs, and experienced players get an actual challenge in each match.

The New/Old Hotness

Global Offensive will ship with seven classic maps, five of which are the terrorist bomb missions, and two hostage rescue missions. These maps have not only been given a graphical overhaul, but in cases where these older maps aren’t being played any longer, Valve has worked to improve these locales.

“The maps look new. We’ve changed some of the maps that weren’t playing well to make them play well. The community is really good about giving us that feedback on what works and doesn’t work. ‘No one plays Dust anymore. Well, why not? Let’s fix that.’”

Ever have a problem distinguishing who’s who from a distance and accidentally tagged a friend with friendly fire? Valve has taken a cue from what the community is doing with “minmodel,” which minimizes the number of different player models on the battlefield to hopefully alleviate confusion. “So depending on the map you play and the location, we have models that fit that. They’re groups of models… to give some variation, but the idea is that the ability to differentiate between your enemies and friends is easier.” Finally, Valve promises new maps and modes will ship with Global Offensive, but is remaining tight lipped on details for now.

Controller vs. Mouse/Keyboard... Fight!

Unfortunately, Xbox 360 players won't be a part of this equation since there are more restrictions with Xbox Live, but Global Offensive will allow for cross platform play between Mac, PC and PS3. Historically, I used to swear by mouse and keyboard, and primarily that’s what I use for Valve games. However, I’ll admit that the Xbox 360 controller felt tight and snappy. Valve already has experience with cross platform play with Portal 2, so it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing who kicks ass with what. Time to finally end the debate on which control scheme is better, right?

“Let’s end that debate,” Faliszek said, laughing, “We don’t need to. I think the PC players for the most part [will win], but the thing is, is you say that, and you sit here and watch some guy with a 360 controller and you go, 'Wow' So a lot of it is going to be situational awareness, and how smart you are with the situation. We’ll see.”

To Mod or not to Mod

Counter-Strike has been modded to death for years, and while Valve will host some servers that keep everything as a standard, Faliszek assured me that anything you can do in Counter-Strike 1.6 you’ll be able to do with Global Offensive. In the past few days I’ve actually gone back and played a few Source rounds via Steam, and just trying to find a clean mod-free version of a map was tricky. Some mods are fun, but for the newcomers that may have never played the franchise it might be a deterrent.

PC players can easily try many different mods, what about bringing these mods to the console side with a game that historically has a rabid modding community?

“It’s hard. I’ll say this: There are things you will be seeing about Portal 2 soon that will make that question even more interesting. We don’t all [at Valve] just work on one game. We often talk across [teams] for long term goals for the company, and Portal 2 will be doing one of the long term goals for the company in the second DLC, which the beginning of October you’ll start to hear more news about.“

Same but Different, Different but the Same

Even though I only was privy to one map, basically Global Offensive looked and played like Counter-Strike with a few subtle nuances, such as a radial weapon selection menu in the Buy menu (much quicker and easier for controllers) and quick weapon swapping at the press of a button. Visually, Valve states they’re using the same Source engine that powered Portal 2, but it looks to me that they still have more polishing to do. The game didn’t pop on the level that Portal 2 does at present, and I hope the other maps included flex more of Valve’s graphical muscle. I expect better from a franchise of this caliber.

Even though the game has been in development for 18 months, it still seems early. Plenty of questions still remain, including what each of the new modes and maps will encompass, how different the economy will be versus current Counter-Strike games, as well as how this mysterious new element we’ll be seeing in Portal 2 DLC will affect Global Offensive. PC Counter-Strike players will get their first taste as a limited beta for Global Offensive is slated to go live in October, and color me excited to get back into Counter-Strike once again. Fire in the hole!