Counter-Strike: Condition Zero

16_1CS grafts its own single-player, with mixed results.

Counter-Strike: Condition Zero is the delayed-by-two-years retail version of a four-year-old free mod built from a six-year-old game. Even as such, its overall strength comes from Counter-Strike’s multiplayer component; the new parts, the attempts at creating a compelling single-player experience out of this multiplayer game, are a decidedly mixed bag. Over the course of its development, it’s been passed around between developers like a digital chunk of hot coal, and it shows.

The most recent addition is a tacked-on and pointless ladder mode for playing the current multiplayer game against bots. The ladder mode works as a tutorial, a sort of “Counter-Strike For Dummies†that provides some teaching for the uninitiated. Built into the ladder are a number of objectives you need to complete before moving on to the next map, and they are designed in the beginning to introduce the handful of game concepts players need to know. You always need to win a certain number of matches to advance, but they throw in other objectives—recover one hostage, stay alive for an entire match, kill at least X bad guys—to add more challenge.

4_1It’s fairly pointless, and it’s hard to imagine it providing a satisfactory single-player experience. The more “normal†single-player game is dubbed “Deleted Scenes,†and it’s Ritual Entertainment’s attempt to graft a normal, Ghost Recon-like, mission-based single-player game into the Counter-Strike world, such that it is. These missions are interesting, if only to show how very wrong the game could have gone. They feature the worst kind of obvious design, with dull settings, and numbing combat. If you hate something in a shooter, you’ll find it here.

You have the guy hiding in a room with no obvious reason to be there other than to attack you, the guy behind every corner who just happens to always know you’re coming, the guy who hangs out at the tops of a stairwell waiting to shoot you in the back, and finally, it’s full of everyone’s favorite character, the sniper. Snipers in alleys. Snipers that pop up behind you. Snipers that are hanging out on rooftops. Snipers, snipers, everywhere.

If there’s a first-person shooter cliché that’s missing, it’s only because they probably ran out of levels. It’s not particularly long, though it feels longer because ots tedious and repetitious. (It’s worth playing through to the end just to experience the closing credits, which are full of macho poses, literally exploding women, and a missile going through the Counter-Strike logo, which is either the most comically over-the-top example of pseudo-machismo, or a self-winking parody. You make the call.)

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The overall quality of the ‘bots in the standard Counter-Strike matches keeps Condition Zero from being a disaster. You can play against and/or with them on any of the included maps. With a field full of ‘bots, the matches are almost indistinguishable from those you’d find online. They exhibit human-like behavior—well, they swear less, and are less likely to shoot you if team-killing is enabled—and are tactically sound, taking cover and guarding areas when appropriate, and they’re not the crack shots that ruin some other ‘bot experiences. They even bunny-hop for no reason from time to time. The most obvious comparison is Unreal Tournament, and the work is at least the equal of Epic’s. There’s not much in the way of tuning options, and you can only globally set their skill level, not choose it for individual bots.

In the end, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero might just be the most pointless CS ever made. And if you haven’t tried Counter-Strike, and plan on using this as a training tool, God help you. The enormous community is, at this point, so good at the game that new players are doomed.

System Requirements: Pentium III 500 MHz, 96 MB RAM, Windows 2000

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