Counter Strike is without a doubt, the most played multiplayer modification in the world, and therefore announcing a single player version of the game way back in 2001, it was a logical move for Valve Software. Counter Strike Condition Zero was the result, and with a three year development period, unexplained delays and four seperate developers having worked on the title to some degree down the line (see this article at CS nation for a history lesson), the game will no doubt have it's place in history. What we are left with is a mix-match of content from both Ritual Entertainment and Turtle Rock Studios, as well as exisiting content from Counter Strike version 1.6. I'll take each aspect in turn and assess the overall success of the game.
Let's start with the single player 'Tour of Duty' game mode, the 'final' version of the single player side of the game developed last year by Turtle Rock Studios. The game is essentially an offline botmatch mode of the familar multiplayer, in which you take on challenges as well as taking the main tasks of winning multiplayer maps against bot opponents. There are several new maps avaliable in Condition Zero, based on various settings, as well as most of the maps from 1.6 returning with a face lift - most notably the cs_office map, which looks alot better than the original.
Selecting a team in Tour of Duty depends on how many maps you have completed, which give you reputation points to spend on new players, which do make a difference on skill, co-operation and bravery settings of an AI buddy. It is quite annoying to hear your team mates say 'er, negative' or 'no way' to your orders if you like to play a certain way, but after you are out of newbie land that occurs less. The bots communicate with you and each other with what they plan to do, which is great, but their shouts of 'owned' and similar phrases just makes me laugh. Insignificantly, I love the music at the victory screen at the end of the round, whoever made that up deserves a medal.
The 'tutor' tells it how it is One of the biggest boasts about Turtle Rock's version of Condition Zero was how smart the AI bots were going to be. This is quite true, as bots rarely take the same approach or tactic twice, and know how to use most of the weapons and equipment effectively. Of course, any botmatch is no comparison to playing against real human players in multiplayer, but newbies (like me!) finding it difficult to get a foothold in the veteran world of Counter Strike will find Tour of Duty an excellent way to prepare. There is also a 'tutor' in this mode, which, when enabled constantly gives tips and updates the player on what's going on in the match. However I found the tutor stupid as it pointed out the blindingly obvious, such as the effect a flashbang has had on you.
Included as an optional, stand alone executable are a selection of linear missions created when Ritual Entertainment held the development reigns. In my opinion it is very unfortunate not all of these evilly titled 'Deleted Scenes' were included in the final game. The levels play out individually, without sequence, with the player taking on missions in locations around the world as the American, British, French, German and Russian counter-terrorist forces. The actual scenarios themeselves are very interesting, ranging from nuclear bomb location to the classic hostage rescue. Some of the missions are longer and more challenging than others, with some requiring some early reconnaissance and inflitration rather than an all out assault.
I have a high regard for Ritual Entertainment, they put a lot of effort into making high quality games, and their work on Condition Zero is no exception. Ritual have made some beautiful new weapon models and sounds, as well as new equipment suited to the single player missions such as a blowtorch and radio, which all add to the realistic feel of the game. The counter-terrorist and terrorist player models are also very handsome and it is a really big shame that Valve and Turtle Rock didn't incorporate them into the rest of the game to give Condition Zero the updated feel it deserves.
For these 'Deleted Scenes' to make the best single player Counter Strike version possible, they could have used some extra work. The AI of your opponents isn't all that great, most notably enemies taking cover in idiotic locations where you can take them out with a pistol without and trouble, while the rest tend to make a suicidal attacks which is more annoying than challenging. Some extra work in this department, perhaps making fewer, smarter opponents would have brought back the original feel. At times, when the main objective is to run down coridoors and shoot, the game tends towards being an all out action shooter, and it did at times feel like Ritual's previous title, Elite Force II.
Bots can join multiplayer roundsThe multiplayer component of Condition Zero, as far as new content goes, is a let down. Like the Tour of Duty mode, only a few new maps are included, with the rest being graphically updated, while the weapons and player models are taken directly from version 1.6. Therefore for the Counter Strike player who is simply looking for an updated to his favourite multiplayer title, this is not the game to get, as you will just be paying for what you are already playing. Of course, the multiplayer, is the core of Counter Strike and is great fun (well duh!).
The smart bots from Tour of Duty mode can also be included on multiplayer servers at times when player counts are low, and will respond to the orders of their human 'commanders'. Its a nice added touch, and while not as challenging as battling your friends, the bots are more than just targets. I did find bots tended to add to lag stresses, but only on certain servers. Hopefully this will be ironed out in future updates over the Steam service (and perhaps, more optimistically updated models will be made avaliable).
All in all, Condition Zero is an essential purchase for the new Counter Strike player who wants to get a spring into the action, rather than the veteran Counter Strike player looking forward to the future of the Counter Strike family, which will hopefully be brought with a totally new version based on the Half Life 2 engine.
Counter Strike: Condition ZeroESRB:
Platform: PC Games