Counter-Strike: Condition Zero Review
publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: Turtle Rock Studios
PIII 500, 96MB RAM, 16MB Video Card, 500MB HD
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Mar 23, 04
|» All About Counter-Strike: Condition Zero on ActionTrip|
Yes, my friends, the rumors are true. Counter-Strike: Condition Zero is finally here.
Few can argue that Counter-Strike has not been one of, if not the, most captivating and influential online games of our time. Long has it held the crown of the most played online first-person shooter, and rightfully so. Since it hit the scene, the Half-Life mod has enjoyed its meteoric success and seen its influence on countless other titles in the genre. Its addictive blend of tactical combat and near-realism has elevated it from just another (still) free downloadable Half-Life mod to a major cash cow for Vivendi and Valve Software.
I'm not knocking on that door, that's for sure.
Hey, do you guys wanna get out of here, or not?
Over the years, the game has evolved, adding new models, maps, weapons, features, etc., until the game of today looks nothing like the counter-terrorism mod that hit the streets in March of 1999. Gooseman and Cliffe, now working for Valve, have watched their brainchild take on a life of its own, as the next chapter of Counter-Strike is written by Turtle Rock Studios (with assists from Gearbox and Ritual, respectively).
Originally slated to be a single-player adventure title in the CS "universe", as envisioned by Gearbox Software, the Condition Zero project was fraught with drawbacks and delays, with the project then shifting to Ritual Studios. Gearbox and Ritual both have stellar resumes when developing first-person shooter games, but for some reason, the final product fell woefully short of Valve's meticulous expectations. The plug was almost pulled on the game as a whole, if not for founder and lead-programmer Michael Booth and his ambitious team at Turtle Rock. In an interview with HomeLAN Fed, Michael is quoted saying "The unfortunate consensus-shown in a few early reviews and final play testing-was the game wasn't much fun. With the success of the CS Bot, Valve was comfortable with my capabilities as a game developer, and decided to "jump off the cliff" with me and see if Turtle Rock Studios could turn CZ around and make it fun - which I believe we did."
So, with the whole direction of the game shifting from an adventure-style game to an UT style objective-based tour of duty, does CS: CZ capture the true feel of CS, finally bringing it home to a single-player environment? Absolutely. Can it stand on its own as a single-player game that every CS player in the world simply has to have? Mmm...not quite.
The main feature that the game has to offer is the official CS Bot that allows a fully-fledged CS game to go on right in the comfort of your own home, without all of the cheaters, hackers, whiners, and generally unpleasant things about human players that drive people bonkers throughout servers, worldwide. CS: CZ is essentially a guided tour through the official CS maps, with each map having certain criteria (Challenges) that must be met in order to proceed to the next map. The player is cast as the commander of a crack CT team populated with bots - all of which are purchased with reputation points that are accrued as the game progresses. For example, at the Normal difficulty, a typical set of challenges would be that you must kill a certain number of Terrorists, with several of those kills having to come from a specific weapon, or class of weapon. If you increase the difficulty, the AI of the enemies gets stronger, and the challenges become tougher to accomplish (more kills in less time, requiring headshots, etc.). Sounds straightforward enough. Once each difficulty level is conquered, the player is given a medal, and the whole process begins again at a different difficulty level. The entire game took me about 8 hours to complete on Normal difficulty, and only slightly longer to beat on the harder levels. Not exactly the CS single-player tour de force I was expecting, but it was engaging enough for the time I spent playing it. (Eight measly hours? Damn! - Ed.)
The game also includes the collective efforts of Ritual and Gearbox in the form of Deleted Scenes, which is a more story-driven adventure where the player takes the role of a Delta Force, SAS, GIGN, Spetnaz or other global law enforcement operative, fighting terrorists worldwide. This, quite honestly, was the adventure that the world had been waiting for - what CZ should have been...if it wasn't buggy as all hell and absolutely no fun to play whatsoever. The objectives are fluid, usually springing up as the levels progress, ranging from bombing strategic targets, rescuing comrades or just generally annihilating the shit out of every enemy that dares enter your field of vision. The levels (hand crafted by Ron Jeremy's long lost twin, Levelord) aren't anything worth writing home to mother about, either. They are extremely linear, at some points maddeningly frustrating with the most simplistic enemy AI imaginable. Bad guy sees you, Bad guy shoots you. (Or hits you with a knife - whatever.) If anything, the Deleted Scenes are CS meets HL meets target practice. The texture work in the Deleted Scenes is slightly better than that of the standard game, with the enemies getting a facelift depending on which mission you're in. The Deleted Scenes are definitely more cinematic than the standard game, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's better.
And as for all that spiffy new content? If you've been playing CS in the past year, you already have most of it. In an effort to stave off the unwashed masses clamoring for the goddamn game to be done already, they gave out all the new weapons, like the Galil, FAMAS, Riot Shield and the like. The Deleted Scenes feature extra utilities like a hand-held blowtorch, fiber-optic cameras and the LAW rocket launcher, but all of these items are useless (or overpowered) in a standard CS game. The only real new features that necessitate buying this game are the new and newly redesigned levels (mostly new textures, and minor upgrades i.e., putting an extra manhole in the middle of the field in CS_Militia) and the CS Bot itself - which, make no doubt, is worth a good $20 at least. The bots know the levels (they damn well better if they come packaged with the game! - Ed), and know how to cooperate with each other. They communicate verbally (but players with mics must use keyboard commands to communicate with them), listen for (and respond to) enemy footsteps and can easily complete objectives if your character catches a few bullets too many.
6.9 Above Average
CS Bots know their stuff, new maps are challenging, game captures CS experience very well;
Most "new" content has already been delivered, steep price tag, no chance to play as T's in either game, Deleted Scenes SUCK ASS.