Review: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

I've been playing Counter-Strike for 13 years. Not continuously, mind you (that would be weird), and less and less as the years go on, but thirteen years. Wow.

So much has changed. Back then I was a bald writer, avid pc gamer, and lover of classic cars. Now I'm... hey, wait...

Perhaps it's fitting that C-S, with its latest iteration C-S:GO, hasn't changed a bit either, save for a polish and some softer edges. Softer edges. That's what we have in common.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a bizarre game with no apparent purpose other than to finally be able to charge for something that has always been free. There's little difference between GO and the latest version of C-S you can get for free.

Sure it's a LOT prettier, but the core mechanics of the game haven't changed in the slightest. Even the maps are the same. There are a few new weapons too, but if you'd told me this was the latest patch, I and no one else would have questioned it. Instead, Valve's polishing an old favorite and charging you for the nostalgia.

But maybe that's ok. I certainly paid my money to try it out, and for a few hours it brought me back to those brutally cold Ithaca nights, bundled against the lack of heat in my apartment, cursing my slow, frigid hands.

But you know what? I've moved on. I fled to the desert as soon as I was able. For the past many years, I've averaged only a few hours of C-S. And GO, as polished as it is, solidified something for me I'd been fearing to admit to myself: I've lost my taste for it.

In college, I wanted to be good, I played for hours to be good, and I WAS good. Now, not having kept up my twitch skills, I rarely rise higher than middle of the leaderboards. Sure, I have my moments, but generally I'm dead more than I'm alive. As a poet bard 'Merican pop singer once said, "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was." Whatever that means. It's not that I'm not good, it's that I don't care that I'm not good. I don't have any interest in getting back up to fighting speed.

Speed does seem like the biggest change, though. The rapid rounds in C-S:GO - and really, modern C-S in general - means you're playing for only a few moments, then you're either dead or the round is over. It seems faster-paced than I remember, maybe because everyone is so used to the maps; they know exactly where to go and what to do. Maybe it's because after so many years, everyone is better now.

If you're not familiar, one of the many unique things about C-S is its death penalty: If you die early in a round, you're stuck as a spectator for the rest of the round. Maybe I just value my time more now. Maybe the frenetic pace doesn't excite me like it used to. Maybe it was those rough, unpolished edges that made it so great. Whatever the case, now I find it all... boring.

As I came to this realization, I took comfort in the fact that perhaps this wasn't a symptom of my aging corporeal state. It's not that I don't like first person shooters, or even multiplayer first person shooters, far from it. I think it's that my tastes have changed. I vastly prefer the slower, methodical, Battlefield 3, or the clever group play of Left 4 Dead 2. When I look back, I can see how the original Battlefield took over from C-S as my go-to multiplayer shooter.

Though I always came back to C-S. I suppose maybe Counter-Strike is like your old girlfriend or boyfriend, fondly loved and remembered through the nostalgic haze of time.

So if you want to do some Facebook stalking and see if he/she's gotten fat, you can download Counter-Strike:Global Offensive from Steam for $14.99.

Oh, and you can play C-S:GO on consoles, which you couldn't before. Not sure that's an improvement, but there you have it.