Well, where do I start with this one? I guess that personally, Counter-Strike was my first foray into online gaming. Being able to play online with friends after school really is a fond memory of my early gaming years. It all started here.
I’ve never been a huge PC gamer, mainly because I have never invested in a decent PC. My back catalogue is mainly filled with RTS (Age of Empires II) and Sim (Roller Coaster Tycoon) games due to my less than cutting edge graphics cards. I’ve always turned to consoles for everything else.
However, Counter-Strike was a bit different. It was an online centred FPS that, at the time may have looked decent, however never placed any considerable strain on the system running it, so it could be enjoyed by as many as possible. It actually started life as a Half-Life mod, before Valve acquired it and released the game we know today, often referred to as Counter Strike 1.6. Thanks to the online platform Steam, online matchmaking was pretty easy as was setting up private games with your mates.
There were hundreds of servers to choose from, each with their own game mode and map. These playable battlegrounds, such as “Dust” and “Assault”, became famous in their own right. The beauty of the game being on PC, was the fact it could be modded. Players did loads with the game, however my favourite changes featured excerpts of songs being played when you found yourself in certain situations. For example, when you were the last one in your team left fighting, and “I am the one and only” by Chesney Hawkes would blurt out, from his similarly named song. A classic moment for me.
Each round had terrorist and counter terrorist forces facing off in different scenarios. These included bomb diffusal, hostage rescue and assassination. Each is pretty self explanatory, seeing you race to stop a bomb going off, rescue a group of hostages or protect a VIP respectively. Of course, if you were playing as a terrorist then the objective was the direct opposite.
When you die, or if you choose to at the start of the round, you can become a spectator and choose any player to follow, or operate a free camera to survey the battlefield. Also, if you are killed you will return to having just basic equipment for the next round, whereas if you survive you’ll keep your better weapons, and therefore have an edge.
Of course, no matter how good your weapons were you’ll have come across plenty of “elite” players who seemed to be unkillable due to playing the game pretty much 24/7. I distinctly remember getting headshotted regularly, not even being able to figure out where from. Wall hacking was also another widely employed tactic, allowing players to pass through walls to escape or sneak up on other players. Although frustrating, when playing with friends, it was still loads of fun trying to take these players down. But to be clear, those players were dirty cheaters.
Something you may not know is that Counter-Strike made its way to Xbox via a port in 2003. However, with console online play in its infancy, it was overlooked by many. Half-Life was also ported, but oddly only made it to PS2.
The series saw a handful of releases, however eventually the original evolved into Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). It was released in 2012 and remains the most recent game in the series, and was a huge success. So much so that a couple of years ago Valve made it free to play, leaving no excuses for not checking it out.
Counter-Strike is truly a classic. It paved the way for so many games that came after, and has a fanbase which has kept it active decades after release. Despite being simple compared to the games of today, it’s still hugely playable with nothing else which quite compares. It’s an icon which I can still happily recommend to this day.