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The story of "Counter-Strike" is like a video-game fairy tale. Coming from the humblest of beginnings - starting its life as a user created mod of "Half-Life" before being officially picked up by developer Valve - it has grown to legendary proportions in the hardcore gaming community as the shining example of an online, multiplayer first-person shooter.
"Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" is the latest incarnation of the popular title and - despite receiving only modest updates to its presentation and features - proves that many modern AAA titles could learn a thing or two from its decade old gameplay formula.
The most obvious element that sets "Counter-Strike" apart from the rest of its genre is the lack of respawning in the majority of its match types. Dead is dead. This knowledge greatly changes the way you approach a match. Suddenly, running and gunning with reckless abandon is no longer a viable route to the top of the scoreboard. Teamwork is no longer just a buzzword slapped on the back of the box for marketing appeal, but a necessary effort for success.
You also won't find any tired old capture-the-flag or king-of-the-hill match types here. Rather than leaning on a variety of match types to change the core game (*cough* "Halo" *cough*), "Counter-Strike's" match types aim to reward skilled players or to tip the scales.
The Classic modes offer the traditional "Counter-Strike" experience as players are rewarded with in-game cash to spend on weapons and gear that are only as permanent as the player's next life. The Arms Race mode will reward players instantly with a better weapon for each kill while Demolition mode will reward the leading team with progressively worse weapons each round. These game modes elegantly flip the conventional Death Match on its head without relying on gimmicky rules or uninteresting objective variations.
Global Offensive also throws one or two elements into the mix new to the title. Molotov cocktails and incendiary grenades for example lend a new layer of tactical creativity to your typical firefight while some classic maps have seen a change or two for a better-balanced experience.
While none of the changes or updates drastically changes the game, they feel very welcome in what could have been just another re-release or console port. What's bold about Global Offensive is how much hasn't changed from the original "Counter-Strike." Rather than invent ways to mask the inherent formula present in all multiplayer shooters, "Counter-Strike" instead relies on its solid gameplay, forcing players to adapt to changing variables while promoting teamwork through tight control of match conditions and rules.
While it may lack the appeal of a holiday blockbuster title's graphics or solo campaign, this is classic hardcore competitive gaming at its finest.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. It is available now for Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Mac and PC.