What better way to relax after going through some hard midterm exams than killing dozens of people in the wide cyber world? Many of you would grab their old Half-Life CD and fire up a game of Counter-Strike and I had the same plan. However, not being a Counter-Strike fan and not owning the needed CD gave me some logistic problems. In comes Fragland to supply me with a shiny DVD containing Counter-Strike for the Xbox.
I could start out by writing a nice intro on how popular Counter-Strike is and how it set the standard for all shooters to come but I’m afraid I would bore you all to death because I don’t think there is a single soul that will visit Fragland and not know Counter-Strike.
On to the game then; the first thing I noticed was the lack of options. There is training, botmatch, Live and you’re done. A lack of options could imply a lack of inspiration and a quick money scam but hoping for the best I figured the existing options would be just great.
After some exploring and playing time I had to conclude it’s neither. I can’t really call it a bad game because I had fun while playing but calling it a great game wouldn’t be the truth because the fun didn’t last long.
Training is the shortest mode and I think most of you will skip it. It’s nothing more than running around in the game while getting an explanation of some basic elements. The best thing you can do is starting off with an easy botmatch with some low skilled bots which you can adjust in skill level later on. This botmatch mode represents the singleplayer part of the game and it’s a good way to get to know the controls and the “feel”. When you are ready to kick some real life ass, just connect to Live and have a go at the available servers.
Everyone that plays CS on a regular basis will notice the graphics have been boosted a bit but not in a shocking way I must add. Player models are nice and most of the textures are of high quality but the sober level design is a turndown for the game. The new maps are well balanced and perfect for multiplayer games but they are far form stunning and innovating. Even the maps known from the PC version have a bit of a shabby air.
The weapon interface is, in my opinion, the best improvement. It’s got a circular buildup and is easy accessible with the gamepad allowing you to select your gear within a few seconds.
Your gear exists of a knife, a pistol, a large weapon and some item depending on your personal flavour (I’m a grenade kind of man). I wasn’t really sure so I made a friend of mine check the updates compared to the PC and there are no new weapons, only some newer items.
With a ported game it’s always a safe bet to say the setup and gameplay didn’t change much and the same can be said here. There are still two teams: terrorists and counter-terrorists and they are still planting/defusing bombs and taking/freeing hostages. The game is played in rounds that can be won by completing planting the bomb, hostage objectives or killing everyone in the opposing team. If you get yourself killed you have to sit out the whole round as a spectator ghosting the players that are still alive. The only real gameplay difference is the lack of the mouse and keyboard combination and, it must be said, it doesn’t do the game much good. Playing a First Person Shooter with a gamepad feels like having sex with yourself: You are doing it but you feel like there is something missing and it’s not the same as the real thing.
The audio was fine in the PC version so I don’t think they changed a single sound for the Xbox version so it’s basically OK but doing such shameless ripping makes it look like they don’t really want to give people a reason to buy the game.
So what’s left of the game now? You have the same game as on the PC with some small extras but you are stuck with a gamepad. The graphics are better but they are nowhere near as smooth as the PC version runs on a mainstream machine these days. The sound is the same and the features are way more limited than other games in its category. They are making me pay for this? Why on earth would someone who owns Half-Life for PC want to buy this game when he or she can download the same game for free with better controls and, probably, more real life opponents? I can only think of two reasons. It could be you are a newbie or a not so skilled player and you want to battle with the same handicap as great players (read the gamepad makes everyone suck equally hard) or you want to escape the bugs and cheats of the PC version.
So if you want to get to know the game and just be at ease when you play, then buy this game. If you already own Half-Life or, you don’t, but you want to start ruling the planet of First Person Shooters then don’t buy this and download or buy Counter-Strike for the PC.