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COUNTER-STRIKE: CONDITION ZERO
£29.99 | Pub: VU Games | Dev: Ritual Entertainment/Valve | ETA: August
12 | www.cs-conditionzero.com
REQUIRES PIII 500, 96MB RAM and a 16 MB 3D Card DESIRES PIII 800, 128MB RAM and a 32MB 3D card
The single-player version of the world's favourite online shooter is finally here. Martin Korda goes, goes, goes into the fray to find a game of two halves.
"HI HONEY, I'M HOME."
"Hello dear, how was your day?"
"Oh... you know... pretty average really. Got to work, had a cup of coffee, a muffin, a banana. Checked my emails... mum says hi. Hold on there was something else... damn it... wait, I've got it. At about 15:00 hours we received a Code Red from Tac-Ops, who relayed the position of a terror cell to us. Major draaaag. So after afternoon tea and a nap, we pootled off in a stealth chopper to have a look, infiltrated their base and you'll never guess who we found."
"Close. Osama bin Laden. Heh, who would have thought it? In Somerset of all places."
"That's nice dear."
"And Billy got his balls shot off by a terrorist."
"Yes dear, stew for supper?"
Such is the life of a counter-terrorist operative. One minute you're sitting around sharpening a knife on your stubble, the next your intestines are being used as a skipping rope by some terrorist's niece. It's a job where you never know what dangers you'll be facing tomorrow, whether you'll live to see another day, and whether you'll make it home in tome for Neighbors
MAKE IT REAL
Danger, intrigue, brutal firefights, a battle of wits against the most uncompromising and brutal men on the planet. It's a scenario which many an online shooter, in particular Counter-Strike, has tried to replicate... and failed. Why? Simple. Because it's nigh-on impossible to submerge yourself in a terrorist/counter-terrorist bloodbath when you've just had your eyeballs shot out by some bespectacled snot-nosed aim-bot-abusing brat from Philadelphia named Chad - AKA FuKW1t - who mocks you constantly through your headphones for being crap in an undropped-balls-pitched squeal. The impudent little twat gets to you so much that all you end up thinking about is how much you'd like to grab the little prick by the neck, slap off his glasses, and hang him out of a window by his ankles while beating him round the back of the legs with a sawn-off oar. And I don't think I'm alone thinking that... anyone? What's more, how the hell are you supposed to improve when you die within seconds of each round?
How? Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, that's how. At least, that's what we've been led to believe until now. Due 16 months ago (when it was still being developed by Gearbox), Condition Zero claims to be the single-player version of Counter-Strike, the world's favourite online shooter. Which (obviously) means, you don't need to go online to play it.
Not, from what we could gather from the information trickling out of Ritual (who appear to have totally changed the game since the Gearbox days), this meant an 18 mission, worldwide campaign against terror, where you and a collection of intelligent bots fight as a team to thwart terrorist cells, in all-new missions not to dissimilar to the ones you currently play online. We were wrong.
Split into two parts, Condition Zero's first half (we'll come to the other, far superior half later) offer an 18 mission, worldwide campaign against terror, where you single-handedly fight to thwart terrorist cells, while a handful of brain-dead AI team-mates stand around looking at flowers urging you on to do everything for them, in missions not to dissimilar to the kind of basic, bedroom-coded rubbish you'd expect from a ten-year-old making their first foray into level designing. And you can't play them online. Or with other people.
Before you wade into action, you're offered a training course, which is basic at best, and inadequate at worst. After this, it's on to the campaign. Each of the 18 missions begins with a token cinematic sequence, outlining the mission goals (defuse bomb, rescue hostages, kill VIP, etc) before you set off on your lonely trek. In fact, while we're here why don't we get a feel for a typical mission?
The first level picks you up and plops you down, deep underground. The Japanese underground to be precise, where you find yourself on a tube, keeping one eye out for terrorists and one on the white panties peeking out cheekily behind the skirts of the Japanese schoolgirls sitting opposite you (hey, they said they were 16 OK?). The next thing you know, you're getting beaten round the head by a man who looks like a South American paedophile, while his mate wires up a bomb and randomly shoots passengers.
Mustering all your years of training, you pass out, waking just in time to see the bomb go off. Now you're pissed - especially as those schoolgirls have gone. Kidnapped apparently. With the place swarming with counter-terrorists (CTs), you're ready to join with your compadres and pump your assainlants up to the fillings with lead. Sadly, only one other CT, Gerald the model-train entusiast, will come with you. He opens a door. You walk through. He closes the door behind you and wishes you luck. The bastard! Seconds later, you're cowering behind your riot shield (one of the game's new weapons) futilely popping away at a dozen or so terrorists with a cap gun.
Barely alive, you stumble past the corpses, blood smattered all around the white walls like vulgar graffiti, driving on to a bomb in order to defuse it, only to die immediately as two terrorists appear from nowhere and shoot you. Reload. You dive on to the bomb to defuse it, then die as two terrorists appear from nowhere and shoot you. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Rip off earphones, throw them at monitor. Reload. Die. Throw monitor out of window.
Where's the back up? There is none. Where's the teamwork? What team? Even after just this first mission, you're left in no doubt about two things. a) Those girls definitely weren't 16. b) This isn't Counter-Strike, it's a straightforward, arcadey, open door, shoot enemy, walk down corridor, jump on box, shoot barrel, scripted FPS. And not a very good one at that, either. Throughout the next few missions this suspicion intensifies as you're persistently sent off on your own to accomplish goals your team should be helping you with. And on the rare occasions when they bother engaging the enemy, their bullets prove about as effective as sponge blugs, with 30 of their bullets accomplishing what yours can achieve in two or three.
SPANNER IN THE WORKS
And what of the new tools we've heard so much about? The radio, the blowtorch, the fibre optics? One word. Pointless. All of the new tools can only be used in designated areas, which may as well come replete with flashing signs saying 'Use Blowtorch Here To Progress'. The missions are more scripted than the WWE, and within hours the whole affair becomes monumentally tedious, with an avalanche of glitches and shortcoming jumping out at you like a swarm of virtual fleas.
Levels regularly degenerate into laborious searches for where to go next, often forcing you to find an obscure box to jump on to gain access to an equally obscure ledge, while enemies materialise in front of you out of thin air, obviously transported into the game from some terrorist dimension unbeknown to us.
Add to this an abundance of barrels filled with high explosions which are always conveniently positioned right next to large groups of terrorists, the inability to pick up enemy weapons, not being able to shoot enemies while they're in the middle of a scripted animation and stealth sections which are lamer than a two legged horse, it's hard not to feel you're trapped in Clichesville (twinned with Crapsville) - a town where there's nothing new and little to get excited about.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
But even a little is better than nothing, and while the campaign as a whole will invite little more than derision from CS veterans, there are some merits to this section of CZ. While enemies' often flamboyant entrances (rolling from behind a wall, throwing over a table and taking cover) are all scripted, the level of intelligence they show during a firefight is sporadically impressive. When in groups they fan out and take cover, when in a position of superiority they close you down, caging in to prevent you from escaping. Throw a grenade at them and they'll run and cower, aim at their heads and they'll try to duck down. Then there are some of the more entertaining scripted sequences, like shooting down a Harrior Jump Jet as it strafes you from above, or reliving the final chase scene from Terminator 2 as you try to shoot down a pursuing helicopter. And the dated Half-Life engine has received a throrough makeover, updated to just about passable modern-day standards.
The weapons from Counter-Strike are all present and correct, as well as some new ones too, meaning variety isn't a problem, but sadly the buggy-like radio controlled bomb that we were promised, which can be driven into enemy encampments, is MIA.
THE REAL DEAL
"So, the 18-mission campaign's a real let-down, eh? So why the relatively high score Korda? Hmmm? You been taking bribes? You getting' a cut of the profits? Well?
Bloody hell, my schizophrenia-induced alter ego (Sharon) is getting impatient these days, isn't she? OK, let me explain. Remember, I said there were two parts to this game, and it's part two that lifts the score immensely. Even though all the features you're about to read about will be available as a free V1.6 download (see panel), the inclusion here and the fact you don't need Half-Life to run the game (as you do with the V1.6 CS download) makes it ideal for Half-Lifeless Counter-Strike newbies and those new to PC gaming.
Here's the deal. Imagine playing all the existing official Counter-Strike levels with bots. Intelligent bots. Who work together to win a level. Who cover each other, protect bombsites and use stealth when navigating corners. Bots who are fallible, but also learn from mistakes when certain tactics simply aren't producing the goods.
Imagine playing without the need to go online, without the humiliation of getting no kills. Playing at a standard that'll help you improve your game, have fun and not have to listen to the arrogant ramblings of loners who've quit their jobs, abandoned their families and piss in a cup so as to spend the maximum amount of time playing CS online.
Imagine playing with a couple of mates online or over a LAN, but still having a full server for fulfilling and challenging game. Having bots that, just like humans, each have their own playing styles, be they campers, rushers, flushers or pistoleers. Game that can range from a 30-second massacre to five-minute game of cat and mouse as you and the last bot hunt each other down. Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (and CS V1.6) makes all of the above possible.
Every game feels realistic, and the four difficulty settings mean you never feel overrawed. Put simply, it's the most entertaining, fulfilling and time-sapping team-based single-player shooter I've ever played, despite the occasional erratic bit of behaviour from the odd disoriented bot, and the now hugely dated graphics engine, which although slightly tweaked with better weapon models and more realistic particle effects, remains much the same. It's also the perfect training if you're a CS beginner, as you won't be put off by playing against veterans online, while even experienced CS players will appreciate the chance to try out the new weapons, such as the near-impenetrable riot shield and the FAMAS and Galil machine guns before risking using them online.
Valve - who (along with a new development company Turtle Rock Studios) is responsible for developing this part of the game - has shown up Ritual's shortcomings in the campaign missions with their sublime AI programming and unparalleled skill in creating superb games and gameplay.
So there you have it. Two games in one. One flawed, one available free (for HL owners), but deserving of a good score, which is why we've settled on 79 per cent. Had we been reviewing the CS bot game section on its own, you'd be looking at an Essential if not a Classic score.
Be warned. If you're buying this game fo the 18 new single-player levels, think very, very hard. The campaign - just like Blair Witch Project soundtrack (a film bereft of music), which was packed with songs 'inspired' by the movie - is a game 'inspired' by Counter-Strike. A barely passable shooter trying to pass as Counter-Strike, whose missions act as little more than a diversion from the sublime bot-filled Counter-Strike levels in which you can finally live the life of a counter-terrorist (or terrorist), and believe it.
"Honey, set the video for Neighbors
, I may be home quite late tonight..."
//PC ZONE VERDICT\\
- Great Bots to play Counter-Strike with offline
- New weapons
- Play online with bots and humans
- Excellent training tool for online sessions
- Cliched, glitched, dated and unoriginal single-player campaign
- Clipping problems throughout
Would have been Essential had the essential part not been available free.
Reviewed Issue 121, Score 78%
This WWII FPS is almost as bad in single-player as Condition Zero's single-player campaign, thanks to some atrocious bots. However, it's one of the best, and fastest-growing online team-based shooters around. With a huge selection of vehicles to pilot, it's a must have for anyone who loves to shoot online.
Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield
Reviewed Issue 126, Score 84%
The latest and best of the Rainbow Six special-ops series. Slow-paced, fiendishly hard and hugely tactical. This is the ideal alternative if you prefer to think before you shoot.
POINT BLANK MISSES
So many opportunities missed and so little space to write them in. Let's start with the campaign game. Scripting has its place in any FPS, but the beauty of CS is its unpredictability, with no two games every being the same. Why didn't Ritual let us use the tools in a freeform way? So we could use fibre-optics to look through any door in the game, rather than just the odd one here and there? The same with the blowtorch. There could have been secret passages to discover and open, allowing alternative access and escape routes from terrorist strongholds. Oh, and then there's the small detail of teamwork. Yeah, some of that would have been nice. When Gearbox brought in the game to the ZONE offices a little over a yearo ago, there were groups of CTs and terrorists shooting the shit out of each other. Now it's just you against the world. Finally, some new CS levels to play against the Bots and online would have been a nice touch as well.
==STILL FREE FOR MASSES==
If you already own a copy of Half-Life and a 56k modem or above and want all of the new Counter-Strike features for free, then you'll be able to download Counter-Strike V1.6 (which we've been informed by Valve will already be available for download when you read this) and enjoy all of the new weapons from CZ, as well as providing you with all the Bot features of the retail release. Which means millions of fans worldwide will be able to enjoy the evolution of Counter-Strike. Basically what we're saying is, if you're an existing Counter-Strike player, there's little need to buy Condition Zero, unless you want to play through a disappointed and hugely flawed single-player FPS.
==What KIND OF A CS PLAYER ARE YOU?==
JUST ANSWER THESE SIMPLE QUESTIONS TO FIND OUT JUST HOW DEDICATED OF A PLAYER YOU ARE...
1. While buying weapons, do you...
A) Hide behind a crate. You can never be too careful. (1 point)
B) Buy your favourite weapons without a fuss. (2 points)
C) Apply war paint to your real-life self thus passing on the chance to buy anything. (3 points)
2. The opposition has planted the bomb. You are the last surviving counter-terrorist. Do you...
A) Hide behind a crate. You can never be too careful. (1 point)
B) Approach the bomb site quietly and assess the situation. (2 points)
C) Write to the opposition telling them where you are, that you have no weapons, and that you'll take them all on and still manage to defuse the bomb. Oh, and that you've had their sisters and they were crap. (3 points)
3. You hear the words 'enemy spotted' come over the radio. Do you...
A) Hide behind a crate. You can never be too careful. (1 point)
B) Approach the next corner with caution, ready to engage. (2 points)
C) Select your knife and try to perform surgery on the bowels of the first enemy or friendly unit (they all deserve to die) you see, then hang their still twitching corpse from a tree by their entails. (3 points)
3 points: You're a snivelling little shit, with more camp than Dale Winton and less guts than a grilled fish.
5-7 points: You're a well-balanced player who can mix it with the best of them without going too far.
More than 7 points: Seek professional help. Now.
What happened? Did I die and wake up in an alternative universe? Condition Zero isn't the Condition Zero we've been previewing up to the point that Ritual took it over. Sure, they said they were completely rewriting it but I didn't think that meant completely changing the concept of the game as well. Instead of single-player Counter-Strike, Condition Zero is a bog-standard first-person shooter that shares a few cosmetics with the great online game but players very differently. (Linear, hardly any team-play, overly scripted and very poor AI in places.)
Thank the lord then for the new bots that you can play vanilla Counter-Strike, which enables you to play CS (or learn to play it if you've been in outer space for the past few years) in the comfort of your own home and without and fear of being humiliated and/or insulted, or even logging onto to the Net.
None of the CZ maps are included (they're built completely differently) so effectively you're paying for a solid set of bots to play Counter-Strike with. And seeing as they're going to be released free with the Version 1.6 download in the next month or so, I'd say that Condition Zero is strictly for the CS completist. One thing's for sure though, it's not the game I thought I was going to be playing a few weeks back. Roll on Half-Life 2.
- Brief cinematic sequences introduce each level.
- First rule of a drugs bust. Don't wait for the dealers to smoke them all first before going in.
- All of Condition Zero's more flamboyant enemy entrances are scripted.
- Never, ever tell a kebab shop owner his doner meat is made from dead
- Your team-mates in the single-player campaign are next to useless.
- Defenestration can be a wonderful thing.
- More blowtorch action is definitely needed.
- "Look buddy, I know you've got a bomb to plant, but can't you just give them one more minute?"
- A novel way to clear the snow from your porch. Simply blow the whole thing up.
- Bots display superb intelligence and teamwork in the Counter-Strike maps.
- While the graphics tweaks for Counter-Strike are minimal, the effects and models have received a polish.
- "Split into two parts Condition Zero's first half offers an 18 mission, worldwide campaign against terror"
- "Before you wade into the action, you're offered a training course"
- "Even experienced CS players will appreciate the chance to try out the new weapons"