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Counter Strike: Condition Zero

Counter Strike was first introduced to the gaming community in 1999 as a mod to Half-Life. It took off like lightning. It is the number one modification for any game, and arguably the most played FPS on the net to this date. What Counter Strike: Condition Zero does is offer the casual player the opportunity to hone their skills in a single player environment.

[review_ad]Introduction


Counter-Strike: Condition Zero advances this award-winning series by introducing objective based single-player action, the official CS bot, and special enhancements for online play. CS:CZ is a tactical action game that challenges you to compete with and against cunning computerized opponents in a Tour of Duty across the globe.

As a squad leader in an elite counter-terrorist operative, use new intel and weapon skills to complete an incredible collection of single-player missions. Lead your team in increasingly challenging scenarios — from harsh jungle environments to severe arctic terrains, unforgiving deserts to dangerous international city streets. Rescue hostages. Escort VIPs to safety. Locate and defuse bombs. A collection of entirely new objectives challenge your ability to think quickly and strategically.

System Specs


Recommended:
Windows 2000/NT/XP
Pentium III 500 MHz processor
96 MB RAM
16 MB Video Card
500 MB HD Space

As Tested:
Win XP
P-4 2.24Ghz
1GB Ram
80GB HD
GeForce 4600 Ti
SB Audigy

Gameplay


Counter Strike was first introduced to the gaming community in 1999 as a mod to Half-Life. It took off like lightning. It is the number one modification for any game, and arguably the most played FPS on the net to this date. What Counter Strike: Condition Zero (CS:Zero from here on) does is offer the casual player the opportunity to hone their skills in a single player environment. To do this, CS:Zero has some of the best bot AI out there.

When I was approached to review CS:Zero, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, how is this version going to be different from the version I remember playing years ago. Well, I can definitely tell you that some things have changed.

First off, you can download the game using Valve’s proprietary applet called Steam. Steam is an online only tool that allows you to buy Valve games, install Valve games, and play Valve games from a central online location. It also coordinates friend lists, and a host listing of servers for whatever Valve game you will play.

To buy and play a game, you load up Steam, find the game you want, give it the proper information, and away you go. Steam loads up the main components for play to get you started, and then you start the game. Again, components load from Steam as needed, like maps for CS:Zero. This causes a bit of load time versus having everything local. Other than setting up video, audio, and control options, you’re ready to play right then and there. Pretty slick.



Gameplay cont’d


CS:Zero is a first person shooter modification using the Half Life game engine. You take on the role of counter terrorists fighting the computer controlled bad guys. You can still play it multi-player, but this game was made for the single player. That is how my review will be geared.

To start off, you have maps you have to unlock as you progress. To unlock more maps, win more scenarios. Scenarios consist of things like stopping the bombers, protecting a VIP, and hostage rescue.

Once you choose a map scenario to play, you are given a choice of team mates to take along with you. Again, better team mates get unlocked the further you play. You also have to “buy” them using reputation points you earn for successfully completing scenarios. To successfully complete scenarios, you must follow the on-screen prompts for your mission objectives. They change from mission to mission. Some are as simple as stop the terrorists. Others can be killing a terrorist with a particular weapon or within a particular time frame. This can be a great immersion factor, but it can also be annoying. I’m sorry, I see no need to kill a terrorist with a sniper rifle in a close quarter situation.

How do you get those weapons? Well, you start off with a cash pool to equip your team. The cash pool is determined by how well you do during the previous mission. A shopping menu allows you to purchase weapons, ammo, and equipment you will need for your current mission. There is also an auto-shop feature which allows the game to determine what you need to best finish the scenario with the cash available. It will also equip you with what you need to satisfy current objectives.

Perhaps the best thing going for CS:Zero is the awesome bot AI. Bots are computer controlled team mates or opponents that simulate another person playing. In most games, bots aren’t that great. Here is one of the exceptions. Because the original Counter Strike started as a multiplayer only game, bots were developed so people could hone their skills offline. CS:Zero is a single player game, so the bots had to be as good as a human player. Most of the times, they are.

The bots will hide from you, run from you if weak, press an attack if strong, bait you into traps, and run the maps like there is no tomorrow. In fact, I think they know the maps too well. A new player would be hard pressed to keep up with the bots’ knowledge of the maps without playing them for a while. Bots also “know” about objectives. So, if during the VIP escort, time starts running down and the good guys haven’t gotten the VIP out yet, the bots will try to work there ways to point where they can stop the extraction. In a hostage rescue mission, for example, there was one terrorist left. He hid out behind the hostages, waiting for us to make our move for them. That’s pretty smart programming.




Gameplay cont’d


However, they aren’t exactly perfect, by design. Difficulty level can be coupled with bot ability. If their bravery is low, don’t expect much of a challenge from them if you charge. If their gun skills aren’t that good, they will miss, even up close. An annoyance, but meant to simulate a real player, is the cooperation rating. If they don’t feel like following your orders, guess what, they go off on their own. Grrrr, we’re supposed to be a team, and I’m the lead, dammit! Only ‘issue’ I had was sometimes they’d get stuck on map level objects.

If you happen to get killed, which you probably will, the first thing that the bots will do is comment that the team leader is down. From there, you get a great observer feature. You can follow the terrorists or your team mates; you can change the camera angles, even pull back to an overhead map view.

I think that the biggest negative to CS:Zero is that you can not play the terrorists. Once you beat the game, without playing it on varying difficulty levels that change the personal objectives a bit, the replay value is diminished.

Sound


Communications is a key factor in this game, and the bots excel at it. They will tell you where they are, what they see, and what they are doing all the time. It is an excellent feature to have, because otherwise, you wouldn’t know what was going on at all. You can also communicate back to your team mates, giving simple instructions and alerts with which they may or may not respond to. The voices, however, sound a bit too similar to each other.

Ambient sounds play a critical role in this game, especially listening for enemy movement. While running, you make a lot of sound, and so does the enemy. Walk slowly, and you go quietly, allowing for some sneak tactics. You can crouch in a corner and listen for the enemy to come to you. The sound effects are quite good, from the weapon reports to the ambient music bits played in certain maps.

Graphics


CS:Zero is essentially a 5 year old mod running on a 6 year old engine. It may not be the youngest kid on the block, but it can still turn a head or two. Unfortunately, time does move on, and the graphics, while good, are still rooted back in the past. The environment looks blocky, in most instances. You don’t find the smooth curves or radii here. The character models, while good, just don’t look anywhere as good as current offerings from technologically superior engines. The game’s settings are essentially the same as the original Half Life. I even recognize textures from the original game as well.

Still, I can understand why it is so popular. It runs quick and solid on older computers. You don’t need to have the latest hardware to have a 1280×1024 session running at ungodly FPS. There are no lag, tearing, or graphical anomalies to speak of because of graphics.
Summary

Counter Strike: Condition Zero is a high-quality mod for arguably one of the best mods for a FPS game, ever made. There is the rub. It makes an excellent single player game, but people familiar with Counter Strike will wonder what the point is. The AI, while first-rate, doesn’t save the game from having an old feel to it. With a plethora of great FPS games out right now with newer and better technology, I find it difficult to recommend CS:Zero at its full price. If it was priced as a mod, then I’d have no problem with it.

Final Score


I rate Counter Strike: Condition Zero a 6.5 out of 10


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