Any time I've stopped playing something for a long period of time, it's always my very first memory of it that draws me back in. I realised this a few years ago and ever since I've strived to get myself in the best frame of mind before playing something new. With some releases it's quite easy. For example, Skyrim and Portal 2 could have been released the day after all of my friends had perished in a tragic accident and I'd have still been in the right place to enjoy them. With others, it can take a few days, sometimes a week or so or some booze to get me to a place where I'm going to be happy recording some new memories. This isn't a reflection of how good the game is either, this is all to do with my perception before I've had any experience of it first hand, and I don't think any hype or lack thereof has ever affected my ability to be eager to jump into a game.
That said when Counter Strike: Global Offensive was announced, I was a little curious, a little scared and not much else. What it really drove home for me was how old Counter Strike: Source and the Source engine was now. I wouldn't have said I was terribly excited about it. But these things do change, and after a few months of reading a few blog posts and threads from people who had made it into the closed beta my interest began to perk up. The main reason for this was the sheer volume of complaints beta tester were making about the game. It was fascinating watching the development process play out in such an open environment but without having any knowledge of the product beyond eye witness accounts. It resulted in the only possible reaction. As my hungry eyes flew over countless bleating posts about recoil balance issues, my head was desperately shouting: “We have got to try this!”
My first memory of CS:GO will always be that I jumped onto a server as soon as it had installed, bought some weapons, ran around a familiar dusty map and killed 4 members of the enemy team before taking a bullet to the back of the head. I'm happy with that. I think I'll always be happy with it. I also earned an achievement for this spectacular introduction to the new iteration of the Counter Strike franchise, but I'm not sure that will attach itself to the rest of the memory. I already knew it was an achievement and I didn't need the game to tell me that, but all the same we're used to our games keeping a record of how awesome we are these days.
So what do I think of it? I think I like it. It has shapes and sounds I recognise that make me comfortable but there are still enough new bits to keep this from looking like a HD Texture pack. It has avoided the majority of modern day shooter trends to keep itself individual. I was elated when I discovered clicking my right mouse button didn't bring the AK47 and kickstart my magnify eyes. I was equally happy to get shot over and over again, as I did after my initial burst of brilliance, without my screen caking over with jam and chunks of liver. Valve know who they are making this for, and they aren't afraid of ignoring what most consider to be industry standards. I like this. It keeps the pace frantic because no one's staring down the iron sights of their sidearm whilst hiding behind a box. Instead they're running around, clearing rooms and checking corners and letting the action play out in rapid fire fights when the enemy is found. The closest thing to stealth is walking or crouching, and the latter will only be done for accuracy. This is Counter Strike, and these are the things I feared for when the game was first announced. What Valve had included has been well executed. There's a quick join option which cuts out the need for the server browser. You tell it what kind of game you're looking for and it finds it for you. A few items below that in the menu is the server browser. No one has been spurned here, everyone is catered for. Along with two new game modes, there are two variants on the old Counter Strike model. Casual and Competitive. In casual you can move through your team mates, friendly fire is off by default and everyone starts with nav armour. On the Counter Terrorist side, everyone gets a defusal kit. Competitive mode sees a return to traditional Counter Strike values in terms of team attacking, earning extra protection and being more challenging for those players who want it that way. It's difficult to see who hasn't been catered for here. There are obvious touches included for the console releases but there are still all of the PC counterparts we've come to expect and you don't need to route around anywhere to find them. With regards to gameplay: it's Source. Anyone who's played a lot of CS:S is going to find it easier slipping in to this. It's not a comfy old slipper you've worn around the house for a few years, but it is a new shoe you won't get blisters from. The new weapons are easy to get a feel for and the old ones haven't changed drastically from their predecessors. Anyone who is entering in to Counter Strike with this game shouldn't have much difficulty.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?