Release Date: August 22
Platforms available on: 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Hidden Path
Genre: First-person shooter
Valve's Counter-Strike has ruled the roost in the tactical shooter field since the concept was derived from Half-Life more than a decade ago, but it's never translated particularly well to home consoles. Much has changed since the days of the original Xbox, and the studio has applied what it has learned in that time to make the Counter-Strike title console gamers always dreamed of.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive marks the biggest leap forward for the series since Counter-Strike: Source overhauled the formula in 2004. It will feel like a change of pace to many PlayStation 3 owners, particularly those who popped their first-person shooter cherry with the likes of Call of Duty.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive peddles the same basic concept as the original, pitting a team of terrorists against counter-terrorists in hostage or bomb disposal situations. Teams secure victory by either eliminating the opposition, or satisfying mission objectives, such as detonating a bomb for the terrorists, or liberating the hostages if you are one of the good guys.
Matches take place over a series of rounds, and once a player perishes, they must wait until the next round before they can play again. Completing objectives and racking up kills earns you money, which can be spent on weapons and armour ahead of each round. All players start out on an equal footing, packing only a handgun and knife at the start of a game.
Having said that, first timers certainly won't feel like things are equal. The Counter-Strike series is backed by one of the most dedicated communities around, so newbies are in for a rough ride. A handy weapons tutorial is available to bring players up to speed on the basics, but plenty of practise in the offline bots mode is recommended before jumping into a game.
Counter-Strike Global Offensive has been built from the ground up, but the underlying principles haven't changed since day one, handing series veterans a greater advantage than usual. Two new modes of play - Arms Race and Demolition - bend the rules slightly by rewarding players with new weapons for meeting certain conditions. These come loaded with some new maps, but players are limited the same ones as before in the core modes. Perhaps Valve is withholding them for future DLC?
It's a game built with the fanbase firmly in mind. Anyone familiar with Counter-Strike will know that it's all about strategy. Every bullet you fire must be carefully measured, as landing that headshot could be the difference between felling your opponent and being nailed to the wall by a volley of return fire.
Naturally, Valve and developer Hidden Path have given the game a facelift befitting of the current generation. It's Counter-Strike at its most polished, but the new aesthetics don't impact on the mechanics at its heart. This is still the game players fell in love with all those years ago, even if the layout of some of the classic maps has been tweaked somewhat.
The developers haven't attempted to reinvent the wheel here, but some of the subtle refinements improve the experience dramatically. The matchmaking system has been finetuned in a way that's mutually beneficial to veterans and and newcomers alike, and the way the game has been optimised for home consoles without dilution will surely please the diehards.
For those raised on the PC iterations, the thought of playing with anything other than keyboard and mouse is nothing short of blasphemy, so it's a good job these inputs are available to PS3 players. It's a swings and roundabouts situation in the sense that the definitive control method very much depends on how you are used to tackling first-person shooters.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive neither deviates from or significantly alters the principles the series is built upon, making it a fan-pleasing edition to the fold. Valve and Hidden Path have optimised the formula for the console generation without alienating its core fanbase, and that is an achievement for which they should be applauded.