Counter-Strike: Condition Zero
Bound to be popular, we reckon...
Almost everybody reading this will have played Counter Strike – it remains to this day one of the world’s most popular online games, and the most popular action one. The CS heady mix of tactical and arcade style gameplay hit that magic sweet spot inside our picky connoisseur-gaming brains, and all who played it were satisfied. So, ok, the graphics are a bit drab by today’s standards, but that doesn’t matter when the gameplay is as sharp and as balanced as this, right? And single player? There’s a hundred AI bot downloads out there, so there’s your damn single player covered. Ok? Erm, well, no actually…. CS is a great game in its pure form – multiplayer action the way it’s meant to be. Unfortunately, many decided that this was indeed not the way to be, and aim bots and speed hacks became ingrained in the fabric of your Counter Strike experience. It is extremely common for any winner of a CS game to be accused of cheating, and no matter how many patches Valve introduce, the hacks keep reappearing. And those AI bots? Any man who faces the corner while being shot repeatedly in the back and legs is a dubious choice for the S.A.S. Lets leave those bots out of this. Now part of Valve’s problem here is that CS was originally free – it’s Mod status has meant that it has been extremely easy to hack, and just as difficult to patch. So it becomes a gaming arms race, one that the developers are slowly losing. But they have one last nuke left to launch, the ace up their sleeve. They’re going to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. Aiming to kill two birds with one stone – namely enjoyable single player and unhacked multiplayer – Valve decided in early 2001 to start development on a new version. The game had a troubled beginning. Originally being developed by Rogue, Valve took over the project themselves around May 2001, before finally settling on old friends Gearbox a couple of months later. Since then development has been running more smoothly. So what does it all entail, I hear you ask? Or, get on with it, others might say. Ok…. Condition Zero’s changes are many and varied, so I’ll begin with the engine. It uses an updated version of the Half Life engine (which is in itself an updated Quake 2 engine). It feature’s all the usual additions, including more detailed models, weather effects such as snow and rain, new weapon animations, etc. The word is that while the game does not feature current generation top-tier graphics, they will be eminently pleasing to the eye, and more importantly, functional and conducive to the atmosphere. The focus of the developers has rightly been in refining and improving the famed CS gameplay. In planning the single-player game, Gearbox is aiming towards a console-style reward system for continual play. Anyone who played N64 GoldenEye or Perfect Dark will know the patter. Completing levels unlocks new campaigns, new weapons and models. The game also adheres to the console ethos of offering multiple play modes. CZ has three – Narrative, Endurence, and Challenge. Narrative is the normal play mode; list of objectives, a time limit, and a fully armed counter insurgency unit as your posse. Endurence is the Arnold Schwarzenneger movie version; you, eight bots and a five minute survival time. Arnie would lap it up. Challenge is the for the uber-hardcore – special limitations are imposed upon you, such as using pistols only, and strict time limits are given for the mission objectives. Even Arnie might struggle here. Although Bruce Willis would probably be ok. Gearbox have said that the whole game will be littered with these “Easter eggs” to be found by the gamer, and add that they will be of the type that will appeal to veteran CS players. Money still plays an integral part of the game. For each completed objective, you gain money, which can obviously be spent on buying new equipment or weapons for yourself. You can also spend it on equipment for your team. The innovation here is that money can be spent on training for your team also. For instance, if there’s a member you’d like to specialise in sniping, simply spend the bucks, and he’ll be more adept at picking off your enemies. Gearbox have stated that their aim is to make the player become attached to their team-mates, and try to replicate at least some of the team warmth that can be found in the better CS teams and clans. There will be six different campaigns on offer – Jungle, Urban, Asia, Desert, Europe and Arctic – with each campaign having different models for each of the Terrorist or Counter-Terrorist teams. Each team will also have its own unique weapon available (at first) only to them. For example, the Russian Spetznas will have access to the AK (although with this being the absolute staple for terrorists the world over – I question its uniqueness). These unique weapons will become available to the other teams once the game has been completed with the Russians. Eventually, the player will have the option of choosing any team with any of the weapons the game offers. New general weapons have also been added to the game. The LAW rocket launcher is in, inspired by Black Hawk Down, and can be used to get a team out of sticky tactical situations. Also in is the Molotov cocktail, which causes light initial damage, but can cause serious burns. At this point I should state that the single player campaign can only be played as the Counter Terrorists, and so the Molotov cocktail will only be available to players online. So will this game succeed? It’s almost a given. There are issues I am concerned about, but with Gearbox as developers that’s just me being paranoid. For me, the key to this will be the quality of the AI. If they can get this right this game will flourish. Opposing Forces is very strong evidence of Gearbox’s ability in the AI department, so all should be well. Other issues are relatively minor and relate to balancing, which Gearbox has said is their prime concern at the moment. The developers are taking the correct attitude to this property – they know they have a hit on their hands, the original CS is excellent to begin with – and so their primary aim is one of evolution, not revolution. To this end, Gearbox has consulted widely with the CS community, and has taken the advice of the foremost mod-makers out there. It’s extremely pleasing to see a developer being so sure footed about what pleases the fans. We as gamers do not always want sequels to be wholly original. Sometimes we just want more of the same. Related links:
Condition Zero Interview with Randy Pitchford (Gearbox)
Condition Zero Interview with Randy Pitchford (Gearbox)