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Counter-Strike: Source Preview

publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: Valve Software
genre: Shooters

P1200, 256MB RAM, DirectX 7 compatible graphics card
ESRB rating: M

release date: Oct 07, 04
» All About Counter-Strike: Source on ActionTrip

It's been a while since I've played Counter-Strike... In fact it's been more than a while, - probably something close to a decade in gamer years, which is about 2 years in real life. (Ed. - And 14 dog years.) And in that time, both I and the world around me have changed quite a bit. I guess the best indication of this are the new politically correct names of the famous weapons in CS. As someone on this site has pointed out, an Austrian made gun gets a name after an English design style. That's just wrong.

What brought me back to Counter-Strike a few days back was an e-mail from Valve, letting me know that I've been accepted into the Counter-Strike: Source beta. To cut right to the chase, CS: Source is the original game powered by the Source engine - the same piece of 3D code that's powering the long-awaited and much-delayed Half-Life 2. So as far as the differences between Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Source are concerned, they can be summed up by the following statement: "it's the same damn game only on a new engine."

And how do I know this? Well let's just say that I've wasted my share of days and nights perfecting my AK-47 skills, making sure I have the recoil and the aim of every weapon right and that I know exactly which walls I can shoot at to get to the fuckers camping on the other side of it. All of that is back in Counter-Strike: Source. The only map that's available in the beta is de_dust and that's kind of fitting, seeing how it provides a good combination of open areas and great chokepoints for fierce gunfights. The tactics of the game haven't changed in any way either. Although this is a bomb diffusion map, most of the online matches come down to team switching to knife/sidearm and heading to the nearest/hottest chokepoint. When near a chokepoint, fling a grenade or a flash bang and then storm in the hallway 'all guns blazing.' Essentially, there's nothing to report here. It's Counter-Strike; you either love it or you don't. I myself happen to love it... only without the online players if possible. I wish Steam was some kind of elaborate spyware program that scans your brain and determines whether you're capable of writing a coherent sentence or not. (Ed. - And if you can spell or not, most online players of course falling into the 'not' category.)

And speaking of Steam, generally speaking, the Steamy software was working fine while the beta was still semi-closed. Not a lot of people around, and I could kind of get into the groove of things and even pretend that my team had the basic concept of teamwork within their grasp.

Phase two opened today and that means that all the people owning CS: CZ or ATI/HL2 coupons got to join in on the fun. Subsequently, Valve's servers are being worked harder than Martha Stewart in the courtroom, and it shows. I was kicked off of various servers a couple of times and even had some latency problems. Seeing how I am sitting on a broadband connection and our router was showing that the network was working fine, I can only attribute the lag issues to the Steam servers being overloaded.

Finally, is there anything different and are there any substantial improvements in Counter-Strike: Source over the original game. The only thing that I could notice is that the in game atmosphere has been kicked up a notch or two with the addition of very, very believable physics, excellent textures and some mighty effective pixel shader and particle effects that are most evident when you have a bomb or a flash bang detonate near you.

There is no doubt in my mind that de_dust looks much better now. Although the visuals have been obviously stripped of any unnecessary bells and whistles, the new Counter-Strike still looks like a next-gen PC game (on most occasions). Smoke and fire look awesome, and the use of pixel shaders when you're blinded by a flash bang is exemplary. So are the sparks and billows of smoke that rise up when a grenade detonates. The physics engine seems very natural (for a lack of a better word). Shooting various objects just feels right, as they react the way they're supposed to. The rag doll physics have pretty much become a standard in today's PC games, but what the Source engine does right is that it appears to assign the correct weight to different objects, depending on their real world properties. This is the kind of physics that we saw in Far Cry, and possibly even slightly better.

On the other hand, I wasn't that impressed with the player models (they seem to lack more polys and sharper textures) and with how some of the guns performed in mid range shootouts when I was firing in burst mode (I'm talking about AK47 in particular).

The game also ran great on my rig, which is an Athlon 64 3200+, 1.5GB RAM, ATi Radeon 9800XT (oc-ed to 440/390MHz). I naturally had all the details turned on and was running at 1280x1024. Essentially, this steady and enjoyable performance comes at the expense of better looking player models and possibly more details in the background, but that is how a good online shooter is supposed to look and play, so no objections there. Overall, Valve have managed to find a great balance between making the game look much prettier, while making sure that it's quite playable on today's rigs.

I've just learned (as I'm writing this) that Half-Life 2 has again been delayed, possibly to November this year. (Ed. - Who had November in the pool? Smap, I think, damn that kid's got skills.) Well I guess there's always Counter-Strike: Source to tide me over before the much-ballyhooed sequel hits the stores. Yeah right! Time to cure that frustration with a couple of headshots. I'll catch you all later once Half-Life 2 has shipped to stores. By that time, clever scientists might find the cure for stupidity and turn online Counter-Strike matches into a semi-civilized affair. It's a teenage jungle out there, I tell you!



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