Counter-Strike has been the most popular FPS game to play on-line on the PC platform, and bringing it to the Xbox should have been nothing but good, while it resulted in something that will not appeal to the majority of fans of the FPS genre. After reading up on the E3 exposure, I was excited about getting my hands on this game, but now I partially wish they never brought it to the console. If you're a single-player type of gamer, then this game has almost nothing special to offer. If you're a Live! Gamer, then the Xbox version of the game will bring you the same thrills and excitement of on-line gaming as the PC version did. It is really unfortunate that such a promising game brought barely what it promised.
The gameplay does differ, but very little from the original version. The game offers no single player campaign mode. No campaigns, no story lines, nothing. The only off-line game play mode offered is the same as the on-line one, but with bots. You pick from being either a Counter-Terrorist or a Terrorist. Being a terrorist gives you such objectives as having to plant bombs and having them blow up to win the game, or protecting hostages from being rescued by the opposing team. Being a Counter-Terrorist, brings you to disarm planted bombs or to rescue hostages in order to win the game. A match can also be won by eliminating every member of the opposing team. The problem with having no campaign mode is that this gameplay quickly gets repetitive and boring when playing single player. It is merely practice to brush up your skills and play on-line against real human opponents.
Before each match begins, you have a few seconds to buy weapons, ammo and equipment, such as kevlar vests and grenades. After each match, kills and completed objectives give you money in return, which helps you buy better weapons and armor for the next round. For those who have played the PC version, the system used to buy your equipment before each round has been greatly improved. It works with a simple rotary dial that allows you to quickly get in and out with what you want. Wasting too much time buying your weapons results in your opponents having a better placement on the maps, and an advantage for sneaky attacks. The game play still remains very strategic and team work based. Getting killed in Counter Strike happens much faster than in other FPS games. Finding yourself dead after a few seconds of gunfire exchange is very common. Once dead, you take control of cameras that follow all the remaining players across the map, until a winner is declared.
The computer controlled bots have very good AI and do not fail to present a good challenge, even at low skill levels. There are very few options available in the game. Character creation is not present and the only other single player mode available is the tutorial mode, useful if you strive to learn how to complete both sides' objectives. The weapons and all are pretty much the same selection found in the PC platform, which is a bit deceiving, as they could have added some cool stuff to improve the game. But the selection is still a tried and true one, and gives much to choose from. The game includes eighteen different maps. The original eleven maps from the PC are here, and seven are exclusive to the Xbox version. Unfortunately no map editor was found in the game either.
I really believe the game needed a single player story mode. This is what really makes this game non appealing to the single player, and all about the on-line gaming experience. Although that experience is fantastic, it has nothing good for those who do not plan to use the system link option or Xbox Live!. The game is really hard to master, and playing on-line might bring you against extremely fined skilled human opponents that will leave you getting fragged all the time and frustrated. Playing off-line is basically only there to make you better for your next on-line appearance.
The graphics are the best seen for Counter-Strike yet. Slightly improved, the details in the game do look better and explosions look really good now, but nothing spectacular can be said here. The game looks outdated, and recent games of this genre such as Halo, Ghost or Rainbow Six 3 are real eye candy compared to what can be found here. It does not look bad, it just does not look as good as it could be, especially when you have such a powerful console as the Xbox.
Creating a player with the skin of your choice is not an option. Each map has its own set of skins for both teams depending on the environment, indoor or outdoor, desert or snow, and so forth. The skins look nice and many of them are original, but having a whole team with the same skin is kind of boring. Shooting certain objects in the map might cause to make them vanish from the screen, while other objects have absolutely no reaction when shot at. These are not things we should be seeing in recent games. The make-over team did not do a great job on a game that had such potential.
The gunfire noise is good and all sound effects such as foot steps or explosions sound crisp. The Dolby digital 5.1 made everything sound great on my surround sound system and had me in the adrenaline rush during on-line gameplay. All the effects really make the game sound real. While playing on-line hearing footsteps around alerts you to presence without having to see your opponent or teammate, and shows how sound really takes its place in the game. Although nothing out of the ordinary was accomplished, a good job on the sound was done.
The only reason you should buy this game is to play it on-line. The thrills of playing on-line are still there and very alive. The game preserves its very addictive on-line gameplay and submerges players into a fast paced killing frenzy. Using a headset helps you get into that teamwork strategic effort this game brings. Playing on Live allows you to rank yourself on leader boards. Being in the top position is what all the on-line gamers crave. The on-line gaming experience is really wild, frenzy and energy pumping fun. It's not one of the most popular on-line first person shooter games for nothing. On Live you can play up to 16 players in one game. With my DSL connection I was only able to host games up to 4 or 8 players which was kind of deceiving, as I did not have the choice of allowing more players, it was taken for me. Playing with system link allows up to 8 players to play at the same time.
If you're not going to play on-line, then there's no point to going out and buying yourself this game. It is strictly directed towards the on-line gamers and will not appeal to all first person shooter fans. The game is not easy and might leave some players mad and tired of constantly getting fragged while playing against skilled human opponents, but I guess that's what keeps the players striven to practice their skills off-line against AI and then taking it back on the real battlegrounds. Although the game is already a classic, bringing it to the console did not come with many new interesting features or gameplay modes. Some extra game play modes are rumored to be offered in the future, but no downloads for the game are currently available. To put it bluntly, if you like on-line gaming, then this title is a must-have for Xbox Live! owners, especially if you have never experienced the PC version. But if you're a single player type of gamer, then stay away.