Counter-Strike: Global Offensive launches later this month, nearly eight years after its predecessor, and it's threatening to suck us back into the CS universe all over again.
Before I begin, it's protocol among CS players to lay out your credentials such that others can make the decision of whether to care about your opinion. CS veterans are a wary bunch who usually like to see the proof in the pudding before they are willing to acknowledge advice. That's because, despite being one of the most popular game ever to grace Steam, Counter-Strike is still viewed as an elite and untouchable experience - at least, by its many worshippers.
It can be difficult to get into Counter-Strike, thanks to its unrelenting and oft-unforgiving nature. If you're used to running up large killstreaks and knifing people all over the shop in Call of Duty and Battlefield, CS will come as a shock. Before you get anywhere, prepare to die. Lots.
My credentials then: I've played a mixture of Counter-Strike 1.6 and Source for just over five years, putting in 2000+ hours altogether across the two titles, with that time shared half-half between playing in public servers, and playing wars, mixes and league matches.
Regardless of my past CS experience, I want to straddle the same line that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - the latest title in Valve's online FPS series - does throughout: how do you create an experience that satisfies both disagreeable veterans and absolute newcomers?
BACK TO BASICS
The answer, as evidenced by the hefty changes made over the course of the beta, is to leave the core design be. When the beta launched last year, it became clear that Valve was attempting to provide a different experience compared to past CS titles, with bullet sprays that felt, to be frank, unwieldy and random. As you'd expect, the majority of CS players were not happy.
Fast-forward to mid-2012, and CS:GO is now a very different beast, more closely resembling Counter-Strike Source with beefed up visuals. What CS players really wanted was simply more of the same, hence CS:GO has ended up more CS:S 2.0 than a true, fully-fledged entry into the franchise. The weapons now recoil in a similar fashion to CS:S, while everything from movement around maps, binded key and tactical play feel familiar and homely.
Not that we're complaining, as Global Offensive has been injected with nearly every element, game mode and upgrade that CS:S players have been yearned for for the last five years or so - the majority of which appear to have been inspired by the most popular CS mods.
Take Arms Race mode, for example. It's essentially the infamous Gun Game, in which players start out with a particular weapon, and have a new gun shoved into their hands every time they get a kill, accumulating in them having to kill other players via the weediest of pistols before finally picking someone off with the knife, stealth-like or otherwise. Get the knife kill, and you're champion of the world.