Counter-Strike: Global Offensive review

  • The improved visuals
  • Arms Race mode
  • Traditional shooter mechanics of CS are intact
  • Same old maps
  • No attempt at bringing the series forward
  • The steep learning curve for newcomers

The core elements of the Counter-Strike series haven’t changed much since the original Half-Life mod emerged in 1999. That trend continues with the newest update, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, for better and worse. Though the $15 downloadable title keeps the core of the series’ gameplay alive, preserving the traditional maps, gun mechanics, and game modes, it lacks any innovation the FPS genre has introduced in the past decade and never introduces anything new of its own.

The fact that Counter Strike: GO hasn’t become just another “knock off” of the Call of Duty franchise is reason enough for long time CS players to rejoice, but even they will be disappointed in the lack of fresh content. There are only a few new weapons. Plus, of the sixteen maps, half are recycled from previous installments in the franchise, including Dust, Dust 2, Office, Italy and Aztec. So, why migrate to CS:GO?

For one, the visuals from Counter-Strike Source have gotten an upgrade, providing updated visuals to the old maps and more detailed weapon and character models. In addition to the Hostage Rescue and Bomb Defusal matches, CS:GO adds two new gameplay modes. Sort of. Arms Race is Gun Game with a new name. There’s unlimited respawns and you receive a different weapon after each kill. This is a much faster-paced gameplay mode than the other modes, since it allows you to jump right back into the action after a death rather than having to wait for the next round to start. It’s a nice change of pace for CS:GO, especially if you are new to the series and haven’t adjusted to its more conservative playstyle from modern shooters. 

Domination is a mix of the Bomb Defusal and Arms Race modes. The terrorists can plant a bomb at the bomb site (to which the Counter-Terrorists have to disarm) or either side can eliminate all opposing players to win the match. There are no respawns in a match, so be prepared to spend a lot of time on the spectator screen if you run around with guns blazing. Domination isn't nearly the draw as the other modes are, as you’ll more than likely stick to playing either Bomb Defusal or Arms Race. It’s even difficult to find any Domination matches that are fully populated.

Those that loved the slow-paced, deliberate gameplay of Counter-Strike 1.6 or Source won’t be disappointed by any blasphemous changes to the formula. CS:GO keeps the core mechanics intact, but there are a few nit-picky changes that have been made. For instance, you can no longer screw a silencer onto the M4, and some of the old guns have been exchanged for more up-to-date versions (the MP5 is now the MP7). Also, some maps have had small paths added that open up congested choke points. While the lack of changes can be seen as a positive for long-time CS players, at the same time, it is also GO’s greatest weakness.

Counter-Strike has an incredibly high learning curve for anyone new to the series. Besides a short tutorial that walks you through the basic controls, GO doesn’t provide a real way to ease new players into a match. The majority of players online have extensive experience with the unchanged weapons and maps, so if you are a newcomer, you’ll feel like a guppy in a shark tank.

For the experienced CS player, old tactics work just as well as they did before, but you won’t be developing dramatically different, new strategies for your favorite game modes on the new maps. Bomb Defusal and Hostage Rescue make up the classic game modes, with six maps dedicated to Bomb Defusal and two to Hostage Rescue. CS:GO does add eight new maps, but those are dedicated to Arms Race and Domination. If you were hoping to play the traditional modes in some brand new environments, you’re out of luck.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive takes no chances and it’s hard to tell who it was made for. Source and 1.6 players will feel at home with the tried and true CS mechanics and traditional game modes, but GO gives them few reasons to migrate, other than flashy graphics on a few of the old maps. Conversely, newcomers to the series will find Counter-Strike’s steep learning curve rather discouraging. Essentially, you’re getting most of the same content, including maps, weapons, and gameplay modes that gamers have been playing for over a decade, with only minor changes to a few of them. CS:GO, mechanically, holds up as one of the best shooters you can play, but offers few reasons to move over from the previous versions.

This game was reviewed on PC.

More Info

Release date: Aug 21 2012 - PS3, Xbox 360, PC (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Valve
Developed by: Hidden Path Entertainment, Valve
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Intense Violence


  • onetimebuster - August 27, 2012 5:08 p.m.

    I had fun offline with bots.
  • Turtman - August 27, 2012 5:28 p.m.

    Inb4 "same old maps" derp derp derp DUST! (Battlefield 3 all day)
  • KnowYourPokemon - August 27, 2012 5:31 p.m.

    While I'm not a huge counter-strike fan myself I can't help but look at the reasons for looking down on the game and just thinking "huh?" I mean they could take the risk of making entirely new maps or just redo maps that they know people enjoy. In terms of "bringing the series forward" you listed no ways for it do so. If you're going to criticize a series for not being fresh maybe actually giving some examples as to what they could do? Instead of just 'they didn't do anything new'. What happened to "If it's not broke don't fix it"? I also like the fact that it has a steep learning curve, if only to hear the CoD players cry and moan cause someone clearly "hacked" the game. And of course watching them trying to chase me down with a knife when they're 20ft away lol
  • Viron - August 27, 2012 5:46 p.m.

    First it's not the reviewer's job to do the developer's for them. Second the same mentality of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" could be applied to CoD and Battlefield, and yet when CoD does the same thing twice people never cease to bitch about it. They've had plenty of time to at least try and add something new. Like a game mode where you role play as a clown or a mode where you shop at the mall with your grandmother. Anything. But they didn't. And that is the problem. as for the learning curve, I have no idea what that is about. The only real problem anyone might have is no ADS.
  • KnowYourPokemon - August 28, 2012 9:25 a.m.

    It's not the reviewers job to tell the developers what to do, no. That being said if I'm going to criticize something I should have a better reason than "It's pretty much the same as the last game." As with CoD there's a major difference here, look at when the last Counter Strike was released, now look at when the last CoD was released. CoD doesn't even get graphical updates with the newer releases anymore. You're paying $60 a year for what's essentially a map pack that will allow you to buy more $15 map packs only they don't work with the map pack you bought a year ago. That's a little different than releasing a sequel/update of a game that's 8 years old for $13. The only one's to ever try anything new with Call of Duty in the last, what, 5/6 games is it? Was treyarch and even then I use the term "try" loosely.
  • Viron - August 29, 2012 5:08 a.m.

    I don't really think that it's a fair comparison to make between releases. Back when Source was released in 2004 the first CoD Expansion pack was released, so the change from then to now is actually a greater change of degree in graphical and gameplay. And what I'm really trying to say by implication is: why did they feel the need to make this game? All it really does is change the graphics. Which is well within Valve's power to do, so why did they release a graphical update for $15?
  • KnowYourPokemon - August 29, 2012 3:53 p.m.

    Not a fair comparison? Of course CoD has gotten graphical updates since 2004... However look at the past 4/5, aside from some very minor additions its the same game. As for your second paragraph I could say the exact same thing about CoD. Why do they feel the need to make another CoD every freaking year? Why charge you $60 to reset yourself to level one and cut yourself off from all the maps you had previously. Did you ever think that the updates they made were too much change for the 8 year old game and clearly scene it was better off to release a new cheap title instead? Why hasn't Activision just had IW/Trey release map packs for the past couple years instead of releasing the same game every year. As for charging $15 for what is basically an update in graphics with new guns, cause it's not a sequel, Valve even said this themselves. Are you seriously going to judge a company for charging $15 for an updated version of a game that came out 8 years ago while defending a company that rereleases the same game and charges you $60 each year? I have a lot of issues with Valve but at least they know not to flood the market with the same crap every year.
  • Viron - September 9, 2012 11:40 a.m.

    I have issues with both. The problem I have with Valve is that they release practically nothing new, I want them to change and clearly patting them on the back and saying "good job" isn't doing it, because people have been doing that for years now.
  • Travia220 - August 27, 2012 6:34 p.m.

    Wait Wait, why the hell is a "Steep" learning curve now a bad thing? Has it come to this in gaming where reviewers give a game a bad score for them being a steep learning curve. Maybe Gamesradar should move to reviewing casual Facebook games if a "Steep Learning" Curve is a bad thing. It's at the point that GR is hard to even take serious. Some of these reviews are getting ridiculous. You people give an extremely high rating on Call of Duty titles but give CS:GO a "bad mark" for being repetitive. Yet every CoD Title is repetitive and nothing new. What the hell is wrong with this website? Also what's bring a "Series" forward? ADS? Easy Mode Weapons? No Recoil? Imbalance? Sorry, Counter-Strike isn't game that should be made modern. It's a game made for ESports not your resident idiot who doesn't know how to play an FPS Game learning for free handouts by catering to your lowest common denominator. The only valid point you make is the maps aren't new, however, that's not really a bad thing. Dota -> Dota 2 uses the exact same map, why? Because it's balanced. Counter Strike maps are balanced. If this is also a console review then what the hell does it matter? CS is a rather unknown game on Consoles so the maps will feel new and fresh for them. If this is meant for PC Gamers or both in a review, CS:GO has a SDK for mappers to make custom maps for the franchise. Although you mention no new maps, yet there are a metric ton of new maps for the game modes. Sure, Classic Mode uses the old maps. However, can you tell me what "Classic" Means? Yea, it means exactly that. It uses the old stuff. Congratulations are becoming Kotaku and Gizmodo. A website with little sustenance.
  • filipe-alves - August 27, 2012 7:45 p.m.

    Well, I couldn't have said it better myself. CS should stay as it always was, fun, competitive and balanced. Enough of the CODs ruining the FPS genre with the same tnwoformula.
  • McSpermie - August 27, 2012 9:03 p.m.

    Well said.
  • ThePrivateer - August 27, 2012 10:11 p.m.

    You just sound pissed that they didn't give it a 5/5 and suck Gaben's dick the whole time. What modern shooter feature no recoil? The learning curve bit is a detriment to a game for people who are brand new to it. If it's so difficult to figure out that you're losing 90% of time, simply because you aren't sure what to do, you're not going to have fun. The maps part: Why not make new, equally balanced maps? But do you really consider a 6/10 to be a bad review? They said it's good, but it doesn't differentiate itself enough from past iterations to warrant a higher recommendation. Call of Duty's multiplayer mode may not change much from game to game, but it still includes a new and varied campaign with each game.
  • filipe-alves - August 28, 2012 6:58 a.m.

    you make good points, except this game is not a sequel, it doesn't need to bring anything new, and yet they did! 2 new game modes and maps. They were just updating the graphics and such. About the learning curve, I agree that it can be a detriment. But CS is not that hard to learn how to play, it takes a little perseverence. But latelly, thanks to CoD and its clones, if it's even a tiny bit harder to learn a lot of people will dislike it and not play a game that IMO it's far superior. And honestly, who the hell plays CoD for it's campaign? Even that is not very good, so most of the big score goes to the multiplayer, which is the same thing over and over with minor changes and it always gets at least a 9.
  • snax - February 7, 2013 6:14 a.m.

    THANK YOU for this! I made an account after reading your comment just to reply. And I couldn't agree more, and this is coming from someone whose first taste in the CS franchise is CS: GO. What brought me to purchasing this game? Had an itch for a solid FPS game, and I am loving every minute of it. I can count on one hand the number of FPS games I have enjoyed dating back to the original Rainbow Six games on PC. The steep learning curve is a GREAT thing and the single most important feature as it ties into everything that makes CS what it is. Unless you are a pansy ass and like getting rewarded with projected missiles, new retarded perks, or crazy cool 'gold plated' guns. And yes i made the mistaking of purchasing COD: MW3 on PC, played it for a grand total of 0.6 hours. Anyways getting back to the review, you contradict yourself like crazy. "It brings nothing new to the table." Guess what? People who are playing 1.6 and Source don't want 'new'. Hell, if they graphically updated Rainbow Six : Rogue Spear and left all the core gameplay/MSN Gaming Zone the same, I would be that guy getting the N64 at Christmas. For all the newcomers like me, it is a great game in a genre that is so saturated and watered down from COD. Competitiveness, striving to overcome challenges and to become better is what makes games fun. Not perks/skins/killstreaks.
  • cjwalsh7 - August 27, 2012 7:12 p.m.

    Valve was very clear when they said this was not a sequel. They weren't trying to bring the series forward, just bring an update to an ageing game. They didn't want to drastically change anything otherwise players wouldn't switch over from source, since its still so heavily played in the competitive field. The same reason applies to the maps, people would be furious if the popular maps from source and 1.6 were not brought over. There is a reason why this game is only $15, because its not a full sequel.
  • Reubenguy - August 27, 2012 10:12 p.m.

    hmmm for once I strongly disagree with a Gamesradar review. The only valid point is the lack of new maps etc, steep learning curve and "not bringing the series forward" are ridiculous reasons to give this game a 3/5. As a commenter stated above CS:GO was never meant to be a sequal, only an extremely needed update of the series. I for one find this new flashyness and re use of the "old" (aka tried and tested) CS formula a brilliant idea, and a great use of $15. only $15 ffs
  • meh - August 28, 2012 12:34 a.m.

    Only $15? Fuck that. This is Valve. They should've just charged this for free. You yourself said its just an update. I thought this was Valve, the company that changes, updates, and adds to how the game is played for free? If not, I'm not paying money for a new skin if nothing's new.
  • SpiritTemple - August 28, 2012 1:35 a.m.

    Complaining about $15 for a game? Lol have fun at school tomorrow kiddo.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 28, 2012 4:15 a.m.

    One day, you'll get to the point where "It's 75% off? I'm not paying $2.50 for that!" Pull up your pants, gipper, it's time to find something reasonable to complain about.
  • christian-shaffer - August 28, 2012 9:35 a.m.

    They just put out a FPS for $15. Any other company would have done it for $40. AT THE LEAST. If you're going to complain when a great gaming company doesn't release something for free, you should probably quit gaming.

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