Written by Charles Husemann on 3/11/2004 for Xbox  
More On: Counter-Strike
Counter-Strike, oh how I loved thee. With thy realistic weapons, innovative and cool multiplayer options, the classic maps…you were my massive after work time sink. But then, the cheaters came and ruined everything. Even if you didn’t cheat, you were accused of it. Sure PunkBuster came and helped a bit but it was never the same. So, we split up and both moved on with our lives. You became the Number One online game and I moved on to Battlefield 1942 and Desert Combat. Sure, I still have the CD but it hasn’t seen the inside of a drive in several years. Every once in a while, I think about firing it up but I never do. It’s just not the same (plus I’d have to download about one and a half gigs of patch files just to get it to run).

With some trepidation, I fired up Counter-Strike for the Xbox. As soon as I started the game, the memories of the original came flooding back. I hadn’t played the original since the third beta (remember gun-running? Ah.. good times). I was very interested to see how well the game would transfer over from the PC.

For the three of you out there who haven’t heard of Counter-Strike, the game allows you to play as either a terrorist or a counter-terrorist. The Xbox version of the game features two game modes, Bomb Defusal and Hostage Rescue. If you’re the terrorist, it’s your job to either plant the bomb or keep the hostages nice and safe in their cell. If you’re the counter-terrorist, then you’ve either got to stop the terrorists from planting the bomb (or defuse it if they do plant it) or find the hostages and escort them to the safety.

Each game is broken into several rounds (which is set by either the user in single-player or by the person who is hosting the game for Xbox Live matches). A round ends when either side has completed their mission or one side has no players left alive. At the start of the round, each team has an opportunity to purchase weapons, tools, and armor before the round starts. You start out with a pistol and a knife but that’s it. Any additional weapons you want you have to purchase. If you do survive a round, you get to keep your weapons so you have a little extra incentive to keep yourself in one piece. You earn money by completing objectives in the game (planting the bomb, terminating opponents, rescuing hostages, etc) and how you spend it makes all the difference in the game. Just like in real life the nicer the weapon the more it costs (although some players specialize in some of the cheaper weapons). The only problem with this is that teams who dominate are likely to keep dominating, right? Not really, as there are still some cheap weapons that can help keep things close. You can also pick up weapons from dead teammates and opponents, so occasionally, you will luck out and find a nice gun without having to pay for it. Sounds simple right? The simplicity of the game play is easily overshadowed by the tactics of the game. Do you buy powerful weapons and armor up front to try and overwhelm your opponents in the first round or do you save your money and hope that you get the drop on your opponents? Then there are also the team tactics. Do you stay together and beat them with numbers or do you split up into smaller groups to try and create cross-fires? Do you camp the bomb points/hostage areas or do you take the fight to your enemy? Once you’ve worked out those ideas, then you have to start figuring out the map specific tactics and strategies. While all of these decisions can be overwhelming at first, once you get your feet under you, it’s quite a bit of fun.

The core of Counter-Strike is the maps and where the game really shines. Microsoft left in all of the classic Counter-Strike maps (De_Dust how I missed thee), as well as including a couple of new maps to spice things up. Playing on Dust for the first time in a while was a lot like going back to high school for a 10 year reunion. You know all the nooks and crannies but it still feels weird. The new maps are solid but I never really warmed up to them like I did the old maps.

Graphically Counter-Strike is solid but it’s not going to knock your socks off. The original game was based off a modified version of the Quake II engine (which came out a few years before the Xbox was created) and while the developers have done a great job on polishing the player models and spiffing up the textures, the game still feels dated. The upside of this is that the game runs really well and you’re not going to drop frames even during heavy firefights.

The sounds in the game have also been ported perfectly over from the PC version. Each gun has a unique sound so you can usually tell what weapon is firing at you (or in my case which weapon just killed you). You can also hear the footsteps of the other players if they are running, which can be helpful if you’re the last person alive on a level and are trying to figure out where the enemies are. There really aren’t a lot of other sounds except for the thudding noises when you get shot and the radio commands.

The single player side isn’t too bad and it does serve as a good warm-up before you go online. For the most part the, AI is pretty solid (I did have a few cases where it got caught up on a texture or continued to try and jump over something that it couldn’t quite do). There were times it almost felt like I was playing real human beings (they just need to add profanity to the AI speech pattern and some smacktard behavior to the bots and it would be uncanny). Online multiplayer action is where the game really shines and I enjoyed the experience (even though my survival time in a round was usually shorter than the guys who stormed the beach in Saving Private Ryan). The ability to use the headset to communicate with teammates adds a lot to the game and makes it easier to coordinate attacks and strategize on how to take out the enemy.
The controls are what you would expect in a FPS Xbox game. The left thumbstick controls where you move while the right controls where you look. The right trigger fires your weapon while the left trigger crouches. Jumping is accomplished with the A button while X button reloads weapons or uses an item (such as setting the bomb or defusing a bomb). The Y button cycles between your weapons while the black button cycles grenades. The white button allows you to drop a weapon and then you can pick up a weapon with the X button. The control scheme works pretty well but I still miss the ease of aiming that I get from a mouse.

Where the Xbox version trumps its PC parent is in the ability to use the Xbox Live headset to communicate back and forth as well as the lack of cheaters in the game. On the PC version, you could use a headset to communicate back and forth but it requires a bit of setup and coordination with everyone on your team. With the Xbox version, you have all of that right out of the box without having to configure anything which really enhances the game play. The final advantage is that the game is less prone to cheaters since you have the “closed” environment of the Xbox. I’m sure there are still ways to hack the game but you don’t have nearly the amount of cheating that took place in the PC version.

After all is said and done, Counter-Strike for the Xbox is a solid FPS game for the Xbox that captures most of the appeal of the original game. It is a hard game to recommend spending a lot of money on since you can find the original version (with it’s superior controls) for significantly less and it will run as well on most modern PC equipment.
Counter-Strike is a solid Xbox FPS but the game is starting to show it’s age. It’s also hard to recommend this over the PC version given the more precise PC controls and the difference in price.

Rating: 7.9 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I was a Microsoft Xbox MVP from 2009 to 2014
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