Counter-Strike: Source (PC) review
" A few years back, after the release of Half-Life, a team of modders released Counterstrike, a revolutionary modification that became the single biggest online multiplayer game in history. Counterstrike was so popular that people devoted themselves to it like a religion, learning every minor quirk about the gameplay. So, it wasn't surprising that when Half-Life 2 (and subsequently, Counterstrike: Source) was released, most players didn't want to switch. They decried Source as a game for newb..."
A few years back, after the release of Half-Life, a team of modders released Counterstrike, a revolutionary modification that became the single biggest online multiplayer game in history. Counterstrike was so popular that people devoted themselves to it like a religion, learning every minor quirk about the gameplay. So, it wasn't surprising that when Half-Life 2 (and subsequently, Counterstrike: Source) was released, most players didn't want to switch. They decried Source as a game for newbies who couldn't handle the rigors of "real" Counterstrike. To some extent, the bad rap Source gets is completely true, but overall it is not a horrible game.
Counterstrike: Source plays much like its predecessor - players still separate into two teams, Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists and proceed to blast the crap out of each other until one side wins or manage to pull off the map's objectives, be it the Counter-Terrorists rescuing hostages from inside a heavily guarded warehouse or the Terrorists planting bombs in a castle-turned-museum - things that you could probably do in Unreal Tournament 2004's Assault mode, or in Halo with some modifications. So, what sets Source apart from every other game out there? Two things - the physics engine and the damage system.
In most online FPSes, the objective is simply to beat everyone else to the big guns, and then whore as much ammo as possible until you win. Not so in Source, which eliminates the scramble to the guns entirely. Instead of rushing, each player is given a very limited amount of spending money with which to buy guns, body armor, and various other things to help you complete the map. At first, this system can feel very limiting, giving you only a pistol and a knife with just enough money to buy ammunition for the pistol and some basic body armor. When the system starts working is after a few rounds have passed, and each team has a decent sum of cash to spend. Do you buy that assault rifle that can easily kill an enemy in a few hits but costs a ton, or do you go the more economical route with an SMG and maybe throw in a grenade? The choice is entirely up to you. The balance to this system is that you must buy in a designated area (generally your spawn point) and that you cannot carry more than one of anything, including grenades.
Another thing you see in most online FPSes is their unrealistic concept of damage - you can take several rockets to the face and live. Source uses a far more realistic damage scale, allowing you to kill or be killed by as little as one well-placed bullet. The beauty of this system is that it keeps rounds short, generally eliminating huge waiting periods. Another positive of the damage system is that it fully incorporates the Source engine's physics and hitboxes - if you shoot someone in their body armor, it's not going to do as much damage as if you hit an area not covered by kevlar or a helmet. But, even with all these improvements over classic FPSes, there are still some kinks, namely that it's possible to survive lethal shots that the game erroneously does not register - but most of the time the system works fine.
One of the best features in Source is the team-based gameplay, and how it seamlessly integrates features seen in other games. Source has built-in voicechat, ala Unreal 2004. Many of the smarter players will use this to their advantage, commanding their teams to rush a bombsite or warning teammates of enemy locations - things that can and will save your life quite frequently. One of the funnier features is the ability for a user to make a custom image which they can "spray" on walls, which can annoy some users but can also cause a huge amount of laughs (doing something like spraying goatse on the enemy team's spawn, only to hear the screams of anguish ten seconds later).
The last major thing of note is Source's amazing graphics. All the models (even though there is only one for each team) are incredibly detailed, down to having a player's bought hand grenades strapped on their belts and the pistol sidearm visible in a holster when not in use. Ragdoll physics are used to tell the grisly tale of how a player died, along with visible entry and exit wounds - which experienced players can use to tell where an enemy is. Unfortunately, the corpses do not explode into chunks of gore, even when it would be realistic to do so, such as when they're hit by a grenade. Flashbangs and smoke grenades are done perfectly - flashbangs cause an afflicted player's screen to either get washed-out or turn completely white, and smoke grenades actually work.
Now, one would think that with a stellar damage and weapons system, Source's gameplay would be simply the best. Unfortunately, the community is terrible, and definitely knocks the game down a notch. All of the official maps (and virtually all of the user-made ones) have blatantly obvious camping spots - be it the windows in Italy or the ledges in Dust2, and they're always occupied several times over - four or five people clogging a small camping spot is not considered unusual. Besides that, many players take it into their own hands to make their teams miserable, by doing things like flashbanging their own people in the heat of battle or camping in a buy area and constantly buying and throwing grenades, which makes attacking them virtually impossible. There are also people who abuse the in-game voicechat to scream gibberish or play horrible pop music (the latter obviously much worse), or open a burger stand made of a bunch of Counter-Terrorists standing on each other behind the garage in Office in the awesome zombie mod, one of many mods that exist for Source. For every good, smart player, there is a twelve year old armed with a porn spray and a high-pitched whiny voice. Sadly, most of the time you will wind up in a server filled to the brim with the latter. Yet another problem plaguing the game is the use of "noob spraying" - taking an assault rifle with lots of recoil, aiming at a player's feet, and letting the recoil work its way upward, generally causing a headshot. There are records of first-time players using noob spray to gain fifty kills in only a few rounds without dying.
Even though the community totally blows, Counterstrike is still a decent game. The only problem you might have with it is buying it - Source uses Valve's Steam platform (an anti-piracy measure with terrible security), and costs twenty dollars stand-alone. If you can find it as part of a bundle, by all means go for it - you probably won't regret it unless you absolutely can't stand playing with a few idiots.
Featured community review by timrod (November 11, 2005)
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