The king of all online tactical shooters.
Initially born as a popular free multiplayer mod for Half-Life and later co-opted by Sierra, the wildly successful Counter-Strike saw its first retail release as version 1.0. Created by a team of fellow gamers lead by Minh Le (“Gooseman”), Counter-Strike is an everyman’s riff on the in-your-face tactical team shooter, minus the complexities of waypoints or mission planning. Later iterations of the game went through two engines selling millions of units in all, and both the free betas and commercial follow-ups are considered classic tactical shooters.
While the graphics and polish have seen continual improvement with Counter-Strike, the gameplay is pretty much the same. It is played in a series of short, sharp, suspenseful exchanges between two teams – terrorists and counter-terrorists – guarding or rescuing hostages, planting or disarming virtual bombs and escorting vulnerable targets through enemy territory. On most maps, the action is shunted through deadly choke points, since the attackers have to reach hostages and the defenders have the luxury of setting up ambushes.
Counter-Strike features a series of urban and semi-urban maps, all rendered in true retro fashion using the Half-Life engine and built with Worldcraft ( Valve’s official editor ). The CD comes with 13 official maps plus one scripted training mission, with different objectives for each side (Rescue, Bomb, and Assassination). The game is set up to be a tactical shooter with some semblance of realism – drastically reduced hit points, realistic firearms and grenades – and when played correctly (eg: not as a chaotic free-for-all) it can be wicked fun. The way Counter-Strike stretches for long periods of suspense and fear punctuated by a few seconds of wild gunfire is the charm of the entire experience.
Completing objectives or just offing the opposition rewards you money to purchase a number of real-life weapons – from cheap but efficient submachineguns and shotguns, to automatic rifles and deadly sniper weapons, to three types of grenades and various other gear such as Kevlar and NV goggles. You’ll lose money to friendly fire incidents or if you shoot a hostage (which is an incentive for the bad guys to use hostages as human shields). When you die, you’re out until the next round and you lose the weapon you had bought.
And There’s More
The title of this retail package might betray the fact that it is jam-packed with a bunch of other stuff, top of which is probably Team Fortress Classic. It was born as a Quake mod, but Valve hired the two developers while they were working on a version for Half-Life, resulting in the mod before you. Most of Team Fortress is traditional capture the flag gameplay, but there are some immensely entertaining variations such as “The Hunted” (one team tries to escort the Hunted character to the exit, the other tries to assassinate him first) and “Canalzone” (each team fights for control of victory point locations to accumulate a score).
The spread of classes allow plenty of different playing styles, from the standard run and gun action of a Soldier or Scout to the complicated nuances of playing a successful Spy. There’s even an Engineer who can stand back and build sentry guns and resupply points to play almost as if he were in a real-time strategy game. Each class has its own speed, armor capacity, and variety of weapons. Once you start to explore the different classes and the ways they interact, the mod’s real depth starts to show.
After CS and TFC we have Firearms (FA), another innovative multiplayer mod with an even heavier bent on realism. Here teams of soldiers scatter to defend or attack map points in conquest matches. You have a choice of two teams, 7 pre-made classes or the option to configure your own custom class (which includes a ton of decisions, from assigning your arsenal and items, body armor type and special bonus abilities). Fatigue gets your character worn out when wearing heavy armor and long falls result in broken bones. Plus you get realistic bullet spread, stopping power and firing modes for each gun.
The fourth addition in order of importance is Wanted, a deathmatch game with an odd wild-west spin. The modelling, artwork and animation aren’t quite as sharp as in previous mods, but this here’s the only one with out-of-the-box bot support. As you would expect, conventional weapons get replaced with six-shooters, repeating rifles, double-barreled shotguns or even stranger boomsticks like a portable Gatling Gun or sticks of dynamite. The levels are all wild west themed and the action is frantic.
The original Half-Life and Half-Life: OpFor got bundled in as well, minus the singleplayer, as well as a few more extras like Ricochet and a HL solo mission pack called Redemption. All of these mods are evidently standalone and don’t require Half-Life to be installed in order to play.
But the main attraction is the mod that bears the title of this retail package. When it was in its beta stages and this retail form, Counter-Strike was a heart-pounding, visceral experience. When you play it properly, with team work that clicks like a well-oiled machine, the game offers a sense of accomplishment and comradery that is simply amazing.
System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 32 MB RAM, SVGA, 1.35 GB HDD, Win 95/98
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Download CS Beta
moddb.com (requires Half-Life)
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