As one of Valve Software’s flagship game series, Counter-Strike is well known for its blend of strategic action and realistic gunplay. Global Offensive, the latest iteration of the series, brings back the popular tactical shooter after an eight-year hiatus with a significant visual redesign, new weapons and modes. Unfortunately, while it’s still the same robust FPS we’ve all come to know, love and/or hate, it doesn’t do a whole lot to break new ground for the series.

For those new to the series, Global Offensive is going to be a vastly different experience from the kind of run-and-gun style action you might’ve seen in Call of Duty or Battlefield. Things like regenerating health, kill streaks and Michael Bay-esque explosions dotting expansive battlefields full of tanks and helicopters are absent from Counter-Strike – the focus is on smaller teams of Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists completing objectives rather than killing everything that moves. You’ll be challenged to develop a different set of skills centered on moving cautiously, placing your shots and thinking how to work best with your teammates, and well, chances are you’re going to die a lot getting the hang of Counter-Strike‘s mechanics. But that makes the first time you successfully plant the bomb, rescue a hostage or just survive a round in one piece all the more satisfying.

For veterans of the series, the good news is that you’ll feel right at home with Global Offensive. It may have received a graphical overhaul, and some of your favorite weapons and maps may be absent, but it still offers the same kind of adrenaline rush you might remember from playing the original Counter-Strike well over a decade ago. The game’s dual scenarios of rescuing hostages or disarming bombs are back in full form, along with a handful of classic Counter-Strike maps including Dust and Aztec, but the bad news is, you’re going feel a fair amount of déjà vu playing through them. As fun as it is to pull off a daring rescue of all the blindfolded hostages that are holed up in Office’s projector room, I couldn’t help but feel that I had been there and done that a dozen times before. There may be no time like the present for those new to tactical shooters to give Counter-Strike a try than with Global Offensive, but for long-time fans of the game, you’re going to notice that Counter-Strike‘s game play is starting to show its age.

Global Offensive does introduce two new modes, titled Arms Race and Demolition, that slightly break away from the more traditional game types. Arms Race is based off the “Gun Game” mod made popular in previous iterations of Counter-Strike, and instead of rescuing hostages or defusing bombs, sets players up in a full on team deathmatch with fast respawn times. Each successful kill moves you up the next tier in a weapon tree, and whichever player is able to reach the final level and score a kill using just the default knife wins the match for their team. It’s a blast to play, mostly because instead of being a realistic, structured mode, it just lets you run around and blow off some steam while getting a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of Global Offensive‘s varied armory.

Demolition, on the other hand, is a more streamlined take on Counter-Strike‘s classic defuse mode, but with smaller, more enclosed maps and much faster pacing. Similar to Arms Race, successful kills you give you a new weapon or bonus grenades to use in the next round, making you think on your feet how best to use whatever weapon you’re awarded, be it a short range submachine gun or a high-powered pistol. It may not have the complexity of the classic bomb defuse mode, but I found it to be just as engaging and for newer players, it’s a good way to get pick up the basics of Global Offensive‘s realistic combat.

When it comes down to it, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive may follow the same old formula of gameplay seen in previous versions of Counter-Strike, but it’s still a well-rounded tactical shooter. It may not try anything drastically different or revolutionize the series by taking it in a new direction, but there’s still enough there to appeal to newbies and hardcore fans alike.

Bottom Line: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the same robust tactical shooter as its predecessors, but it doesn’t feel like a full-on sequel.

Recommendation: If you’ve never played Counter-Strike before, Global Offensive is an excellent intro to the series, but veterans may feel underwhelmed at the lack of new content.

[rating=4.0]

This review is based on the PC version of the game.

Game: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Valve, Hidden Path Entertainment
Publisher: Valve
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Mac OS X
Available from: GameStop(US)

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