It’s the silencer on the colt that I first notice.
Later on I notice other things. The muddy directional sound and how I can’t tell where the bullet spray is coming from as easily as I could in 1.6. The missing VIP maps. How de_dust now has a stairway that leads up to the tunnel from the underpass. The AK-47′s recoil being ever so slightly off.
Like I said, though, it’s the silencer on the colt that I first notice. It’s gone for no ascertainable reason and I can’t understand what the game developers were thinking when they axed it. Throughout the series of matches I play, I hit my right mouse button absently several times–the action that would add or remove the silencer.
But it does nothing. It’s become a phantom limb, vestigial muscle memory from 2001.
I hit my right mouse button again and bite my lower lip. Finally I ask my friend if he noticed the silencer’s removal.
I don’t know why I do this. I mean, I already know the answer. Yes, he did. Yes, it makes no sense. Yes, this sucks. As someone with a similar background–thousands of hours into Counter-strike 1.6, the type of person who scrimmed religiously years ago–it would be hard not to notice something this small yet so big.
“This isn’t Counter-strike,” he says finally. I sigh and hit my right mouse button again.
Of course it isn’t. We both installed it dreading that it wouldn’t be the Counter-Strike we fell in love with, so while it’s a disappointment, it’s no surprise that it isn’t.
Just like how it’s no surprise that for an outsider, it is Counter-Strike. They don’t remember the Counter-Strike we do.
Counter-Strike was genre defining experience for people that are now in their early to mid-twenties. It was an entire culture, spawned off the early 2000′s and the progression of the first person shooter genre whilst coming to age as a gamer. While console gamers had their Halo or Call of Duty, PC gamers had their Quake or Counter-Strike. These games built us into the FPS gamers we are today and game you sided with flavored your view on FPS games for years to come.
On the flipside, though, if you didn’t experience it–if you somehow missed the FPS movement–Counter-Strike is meaningless and CS:GO will fill your needs perfectly as a tense shooter. Because, ultimately, it is a good game. It’s just not a brilliant one.
In many ways, to understand my love for Counter-Strike and its unexpectedly successful mod origins is to understand my entire gaming history. As much as I grew up on Street Fighter II Turbo or as much as I discovered the RTS genre through StarCraft, Counter-Strike shaped my entire thirst for competitive gaming. It whet my pallette for multikills, spawn camping, and trash talking. It brought me into competitive gaming–to my following the Korean StarCraft scene back in 2004 and to getting world firsts in World of Warcraft in 2006.
It opened my eyes. I was only thirteen, but I played a thousand hours of Counter-Strike before Steam even existed. In junior high, I made my first meaningful friendships on cs_militia on the servers I used to frequent. I remember when eSports was just starting to take hold in North America and I tried to qualify for CAL. I modified config files for the perfect sensitivity for the best aim. I went to my first LAN event with an actual clan.
I even purchased my first gaming mouse–all in the name of CS 1.5.
So I’m being honest when I say that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a good game in a brilliant series. But I’m being more honest when I say it’s not a good game to me–to us–to a generation of hardcore Counter-Strike players. It’s been years and this is what we get: a hollow reiteration. A great game in the wake of something awesome that withstood a decade of time. A great game that could have been a whole lot more.
Ultimately what we got after a lot of hype was a fun distraction in some ways, an overhyped novelty in another. Seeing de_dust2 in 2012′s graphics is like seeing my childhood reimagined and the first few minutes blow my mind, but then what? De_dust2 looked this way in my head, when I memorized the different routes and the corners to hide in for each bombsite a decade ago, and now it really looks this way on my computer. I can see the dust fly from the sand with every step my teammates make and count every tile on the vivid mosiac on ornate columns in bombsite’s tunnel.
But there’s no silencer on the colt. And although I’m undoubtedly very rusty, I can still tell the bullets don’t connect with their target the same way. Plus there’s a molotov cocktail that lights the entire tunnel ablaze in one fluid motion and I resent it intensely as it ends the threat of narrow hallways and determined campers around every corner in a cavalcade of fire.
It’s just not the same game that held up for years–the same game that is still played competitively at Dreamhack.
But again, I don’t know why I’m so surprised. Maybe it’s time the outsiders had their turn at Counter-Strike. Maybe it’s time I took off the rose-tinted glasses. Maybe it’s time I played a round of de_dust and didn’t think of when I was thirteen for once.
Maybe. But would it really have killed them to stay closer to the source material by keeping that silencer on the M4A1?
(Read this post over at PC Gamer for a way better review. I’m so emotional about CS:GO that this explains it 20x better.)