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PC Review - 'Counter-Strike: Condition Zero'

by Justin on April 8, 2004 @ 1:19 a.m. PDT

The #1 online action game of all time goes single-player with Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. A stand-alone product, Condition Zero is the comprehensive successor to the 2000 Multiplayer Game of the Year. Condition Zero completely replaces the current Counter-Strike, and combines six story-driven episodes, three different single player modes and multiplayer enhancements to drive the future of Counter-Strike gamers everywhere.

Genre: Tactical FPS
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Developer: Turtle Rock
Release Date: March 25, 2004

Buy 'COUNTER-STRIKE: Condition Zero': PC

Counter-Strike was, initially, a mod for Half-Life. After Half-Life’s success in 1998, and people began to notice that it wasn’t so hard to build mods for it, a small team began working on Counter-Strike. It was released as a free download and began to amass a large number of players. Seeing this, Valve and Sierra adopted the game as their own and began selling it as a standalone online title. It was largely a silly move to buy it; at that time it was easy to find Half-Life for a cheap price and simply download Counter-Strike, since you were going to have to download patches for it even if you bought it. It was a smart business move though, and only fueled the online community.

The idea behind Counter-Strike: Condition Zero is that the game deserved a full-fledged offline mode, complete with bots and unique challenges. The game passed from developer to developer over a number of years – at one point even resembling a Half-Life clone with a continuous storyline (it’s actually possible for CS:CZ owners to download “Deleted Scenes,” which is basically this, showing up “as-is” and very buggy). The final result, however, is little more than an organized series of missions with specific goals.

That’s not to say that it’s all that bad. Counter-Strike’s gameplay is classic, and even all these years later, it’s still fun to play. For all of you – if there are any – who don’t know how Counter-Strike plays, imagine this: you start each round with your team and the ability to purchase weapons and equipment. You then use this stuff to either plant/defuse bombs and rescue/guard hostages; but most of all, you’re there to kill as many enemies as possible. If you live to the next round, you get to keep your gear; if not, you’ll have to wait until one team loses the round and then buy everything over again when you die. That’s Counter-Strike in a nutshell: it is a simple yet fun online game.

Each round in the single player game plays out just like an online game. In fact, all rounds follow exactly the same rules as before. There are some new maps (some of which are very nice), and the old maps have been spruced up a bit with new textures and the occasional out-of-place object. The only other real difference is that you’ll be playing with computer-controlled bots, and you’ll be working to complete certain challenges.Too bad you can not switch sides and play as the Terrorist side.

The challenges range from downright dumb to tough-as-nails depending on the difficulty level you’re playing on. Examples from Easy or Normal mode are “Kill one enemy with a sub-machine gun” or “Rescue two hostages.” Examples from the harder modes sound something like “Kill someone with a sniper rifle within 60 seconds and stay alive for the rest of the round.” They get really tough and promise to give even hardcore Counter-Strike players a run for their money.

As mentioned before, Condition Zero also features “Deleted Scenes,” which are the leftovers from the last developer “Ritual” before they got booted off the project. Unlike Turtle Rock’s portion, the “Deleted Scenes” are an actual campaign style game, although it lacks any sort of story, apart from you being a special ops agent who travels the world fighting “evil-doers.” The only redeeming part about the “Deleted Scenes” is the fact that you play in an all-new environment and not old rehashed CS maps. It would have been nice if the two developers could have worked together because Ritual’s contribution consists of new environments but the AI is laughable, while Turtle Rock’s AI is rock solid but lacks new maps. In a way, it is a nice addition as you get more CS bang for your buck, but it also adds more frustration, as it clearly shows why Ritual was replaced, leaving many glitches behind.

The bots are surprisingly well done as well. When playing on the easier modes, you can see that at times they’ll deliberately miss, but on the harder levels they will have one hell of a trigger finger. They also know the maps very well; they’ll take advantage of useful locations and take note of dangerous spots. They often stay in groups and communicate using the in-game voices. They’ll try to help out with bombs and hostages and let you know what you can do to help. Sure, it’s nothing absolutely revolutionary, but it definitely is not crap and I came away much more impressed than I thought I was going to be.

The online aspect of the game is of course included, and Counter-Strike players with the latest v1.6 patch can play against Condition Zero players. Everything is tied in with Steam, which is mandatory and requires a decent-sized patch download. One peculiar thing that happened to me, however, was that I had to add a serial number for the appropriate game when I wanted to play it. Okay, I can see that. But the thing that disturbed me was in that playing on Counter-Strike servers required a Counter-Strike serial number! Luckily, I had one, but it seems very odd that I would not have been allowed to play Condition Zero online without probably bothering a number of people that operate Steam.

Since Condition Zero runs on the Half-Life engine, its graphics are considerably dated. Half-Life is, after all, going on six years old. It’s not that it looks that bad, but compared to the graphics of today it isn’t anything special. The textures are relatively clean and the framerate is smooth as hell, which are definitely pluses. On the other hand, character models are blocky and lack detail (block hands!) and death animations look pretty darned clunky compared to the ragdoll physics employed today. Overall, the whole thing is more than bearable, but don’t come in hoping for great visuals.

The sound still holds up very well, though. Gunshots, explosions, and all of the other sound effects are presented here loud and clear. The voice acting has been redone, with quite a bit of new lines of dialogue and different voices that hopefully distinguish one bot from another. There isn’t much music to speak of, but everything else is perfectly fine.

Overall, Condition Zero is a decent game. It’s fun, but it’s basically the same game from five or so years ago which was basically free with Half-Life – that is to say, innovation isn’t exactly seeping out of the sides of this game. The only real additions are the bots, challenges, and new levels – all of which are good, but are they worth paying for what is essentially an offline practice mode of Counter-Strike? That depends. If you’ve never played Counter-Strike before, by all means check it out – there’s a lot to like. If you’ve already spent countless hours with Counter-Strike, or you already own Half-Life, it probably isn’t worth the cost of admission. If you do decide to fork over the cash, though, you should have an enjoyable time.

Score : 6.9/10


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