Along with many other gamers, I recently had the chance to go a few rounds with the Counter Strike: Global Offensive beta. First impressions of it indicate it’s moving in the right direction, but being a former Counter Strike: Source and 1.6 player, I couldn’t help but feel something about the game was a little off. Though there's time before the game comes out, some of the new things about it are really good, so let’s go over them, shall we?
Right away we notice something a bit different than before. Instead of bringing up a giant server list and trying to pick one that best suits you (which you can do), there is a "Quick Match" selection in the main menu, which is convenient if you just want to jump in for a few quick rounds. You can select which match type you want to be able to jump into from the many match types available, with two variations of both Arms Race (basically Gun Game), which is a standard match type now; Demolition, which is Arms Race but in a team deathmatch style; and two versions of the classic play style. You can also lobby up with your friends, but as with Battlefield 3, this doesn't guarantee you'll be placed on the same team.
You can also just go ahead and jump into a bot match if you would like. Bot matches allow you to get used to the controls if you haven't played in awhile, which was good for me. They also did an interesting thing with bots where if you are playing in a match where there are a couple of bots, let’s say the server isn’t full, if you happened to die before the bot on your team (and because I’m not very good, I did), you could jump into the bot and keep playing. The bot’s are still stupid, but unrealistically accurate at a distance.
The gun selection is still very solid, with a couple of additions and changes to the way the buy menu works. There are now new types of grenades, though whether they stay until the final release is still up for grabs. The molotovs are the stand out of the additional grenades, which leaves a good option for flushing out opposing players from the normal hiding spots. Guns have been grouped into different categories: shotguns and heavy machine guns are now in the Heavy category, and the Rifles category now includes sniper rifles and automatics. I’m not too happy with the new scope view for the snipers; the edges of the scope is grainy and distracting. Some new additions to each category made the tried and true combat of Counter Strike feel a little bit new.
I dislike the radial orientation of the buy menu. Being an older player, the radial menu confused me for awhile, leaving me standing in spawn moving through the buy menu at a snail’s pace trying to find the stuff I was use too. Also whether or not they decide to change this, armor and defuse kits are automatically on your player at the beginning of each match but still in the buy menu.
The maps are the exact same maps from Source and 1.6, with favorites like Dust2, Italy, and Office making appearances. Dust is also present, though they took the updated Dust that has the exit through the underside of the overpass. I played one new map during a Gun Game match, which consisted of walkways and hallways, obviously designed to be smaller and keep players close to keep the gun game action fast and furious; this also left the problem of spawn camping readily available. Maps have received a vast texture upgrade. The maps just feel more natural, and are filled with more graffiti and environment touches making the experience better.
The main issue I have with this early version of the game is hard to explain in words, and may not even affect most of the people playing. The game just didn’t feel right. Gun accuracy was dialed down, and I had a hard time popping head shots off with the AK, which was one of the more accurate guns from Source. Even with my mouse sensitivity turned up, movement felt slower than it used to be. Characters seemed to run faster, but jumping and turning almost felt like you were moving underwater. I’m not sure if the game was changed in this way due to the planned implementation of cross-platform play with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Slowing down movement and reducing accuracy would allow an equal playing field with people playing on controllers, but it could have just been me.
Beside the match differences and the new guns they introduced, the game is pretty much just Counter Strike, but in a higher resolution. I don’t know what I was expecting from this release, and I don’t know if this will pull all of the players from Source or even 1.6 which still has a rather strong community, and Source has been trying to pull those guys away for years. They game is coming along nicely, and given my misgivings the game plays well and looks good. The net code is solid and I didn’t really experience any major bugs while playing, so I can’t wait to see what the final product ends up looking like.