PC Games: Counter-Strike, Condition Zero

After a long two-year wait in which the game has passed through the hands of no fewer than four developers and undergone radical changes in design, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, the single-player follow-up to the popular multiplayer game, should finally arrive in gamers’ hands this month. Don’t re-cock that gun too fast, though — Counter-Strike: Condition Zero doesn’t necessarily make your shot any better than it was before.

The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies perfectly to Counter-Strike. And that’s a bad thing when you’re paying full price for a game that doesn’t have anything really new. The original intention of Condition Zero was to make a compelling single-player game out of the multiplayer concept. Alas, as it turns out, the gameplay is literally the same thing. And after two years, Counter-Strikers expected that a sequel would offer new weaponry and equipment — and, above all, that promised single-player game.

However, what has been packaged is simply a rehash of the old game, including the same objectives and the same guns, with some new maps thrown in for good measure. Sure, now counter-terrorists can also use the new shield as a defensive weapon, and the interface is much more streamlined, but you’re still playing the original Half-Life mod.

The single-player game is a joke, too. Instead of following a story, you’re made to complete a number of asinine challenges like eliminating a certain number of enemies with a specific weapon before you can move to the next map — the same map that you can just play online. Your computer-controlled team bots aren’t very intuitive, either. They’ll wait for you to defuse a bomb even though they’re sitting right next to it and you’re on the other side of the level, or they won’t effectively help cover the hostages as you escort them back to safety. Simply put, playing alone is just a way to hone your skills for online play.

The most striking feature in Condition Zero is its sharp visual presentation. To its credit, the game does look pretty, and the new maps are well designed for nicely balanced battles. There are new skins that both terrorists and counter-terrorists can choose, too. But a boost in graphics isn’t enough reason to rejoice.

What was supposed to be a revelation, a next generation of sorts, has become instead a disappointing follow-up to a beloved game. Condition Zero is more an expansion pack than a full-on sequel or a single-player development of the original game. It’s too bad Valve made us wait so long for something that could’ve easily been released a long time ago.

Visuals: Well-designed maps
Audio: Adequate
Gameplay: Disappointing single-player action
Developer: Valve and Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
URL: www.cs-conditionzero.com

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