Reviewed: April 25, 2004
Released: March 23, 2004
Fed up with the American situation overseas? Still angry about September Eleventh? Well, if you’re hungering to exact revenge on those unscrupulous terrorists, then lock and load for Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. Sierra and the newer Half-Life boss Valve have released a one-player version of the most popular online game ever, Counter-Strike. The original Counter-Strike, despite being about 5 years old, is still quite popular today, with thousands of active servers still running worldwide.
The unfortunate result of making a one-player game is that it becomes the George W. Bush of games. You’ll either hate it, or love it. The first group will probably be comprised of advanced players from Counter-Strike. The second group will be less talented players and newbies. This reviewer is a relative newbie to the Counter-Strike lands, and is probably average among public players, and barely noteworthy among league-quality players. However as a member of a clan with some excellent players in the roster, more than one opinion has been garnered for this review.
First of all however, there are three parts to this game. When you load the game, you’ll get two different games loaded: Condition Zero and Condition Zero: Deleted Scenes. The second of these, Deleted Scenes, is the true one-player version of the game. It’s a little confusing, honestly. However, this version of the game is the one with a plot and objectives. This has none of the maps from the original Counter-Strike, and has features and toys only available in Deleted Scenes, such as the radio, blowtorch, and optical camera. The “plain” Condition Zero has the maps that old-timers will find familiar.
Under the “custom game” option, all of the old stock maps are still present, and three new ones have been added. The weapons have all been left untouched, and the flow of the game is similar to good ol’ fashioned Counter-Strike. Just add whatever computer bots (computer-controlled players) you want, armed however you want it, and have at it. The third section of the game is also under the “plain” Condition Zero. This is the default “Play Condition Zero” option. This area has five sections of three maps. You have to complete a list of objectives, which varies according to difficulty setting, and be two rounds ahead of the opposing team to move to the next section of maps. If the opposing team gets two ahead of you, you lose and have to start over.
Counter-Strike: Condition Zero has a couple of really positive things. The first, and most significant, are the bots. The AI for the bots is very good. Those old-timers will remember with fondness the various bot programs coded by amateurs in the past. Bots would mindlessly run about, and occasionally stop and examine the sky or floor for minutes at a time. The second you shot them though; they turned and killed you with an instant headshot. Before your bullet left the gun.
These bots, though, are very intelligent. They accomplish objectives without you. They follow directions, though you can check the option “bots can go rogue,” which will make the experience more like the old game, where some idiot thinks that playing alone will get him a better score. The bots make mistakes, too, but they are rarely an AI fault. About the only AI problem is that the bots will not do a good job of finding ladders to reach you if you happen to be above them. The new maps are interesting, too. The toughest thing about designing Counter-Strike maps is making them balanced and interesting. All three new maps meet that requirement, and each plays a little differently.
The challenge section is probably where you’ll find the most of your time spent with this game. The easy and medium difficulties aren’t too bad, but getting past hard is difficult. The frustrating task to complete is the hostage rescue maps. At these levels, the terrorists camp (hide and stay put near) the hosties (hostages), and it’s hard to complete that objective because your team kills their whole team, or vice versa, before you can rescue the hosties. The expert level is pretty darn tough, mostly because the bots start to possess some unholy skills at that point. Their bullets have a magnetic ability to find your dome (head).
The weakest points of this game are, sadly enough, in the one-player version. The levels overall are very easy, punctuated by a few spots that suck, usually because there was a trip wire and a “T” intersection all at one point, with exploding barrels all around you. The extra toys are practically pointless, and the relative ease of the levels make the one-player version rather lackluster. The enemy AI seems worse in this scripted game than the open custom games, and the few times you get teammates, they are practically useless.
The controls for this game are much like any PC shooter game, and you can customize the keys, as you prefer. You’ll find the controls to be intuitive and easy to adapt. The biggest challenge about the controls is adjusting your mouse sensitivity to what is best for you.
The engine for this game is years old, and it shows in this game too. The movements are choppy, awkward, and lacking in frames, and the skins (images of guns, people, and other moving things) are fairly basic. One big plus is that they updated and added a lot of textures to the old maps, so the once boring map de_dust is much more attractive and interesting.
The graphics for this game are similar to the sound—actually simple graphics are a secret blessing for Counter-Strike. The simple, clean images make combat simple and easy to follow. Too much complexity can make it difficult to make people out in the middle of an empty room. Plus the game is practically guaranteed to run on just about any gaming computer still in operation.
The sounds for this game are simple but profound. Gunshots are distinctive by gun, and all player-originated sounds, such as footsteps, are directional and variable by distance. That said, there are not a great deal of sounds in the game. The dialogue is okay, and the music in the few sequences where it’s played is fine, but they are very limited in scope and quantity. All in all though, most people don’t play a game like Counter-Strike: Condition Zero for the ambiance. It’s all about the shooting and tactics of the game.
You’re value on this game will vary, depending on the reason you bought it. If you’re new to Counter-Strike, it’ll be impossible to spend less than 50 hours on this game. Retailing at $29.95 at most stores, that’s a good deal. If you are a Counter-Strike veteran and just wanted to check this out, prepare for disappointment. The one-player plot game is fairly plain and easy, and the computer bots are good for bots, but will never be able to match other people in interesting play and unpredictability. If you are a Counter-Strike player looking for a good bot program to practice on, then it’s a decent buy. The bots aren’t the same as humans, but they are good target practice. It can be pretty frustrating to improve in the original game when you die first every round.
Whether you love this game or you hate it, some props are due to Sierra for attempting to make a one-player game from a multiplayer game. That’s a first, and daunting task. If you’re not a hard-core Counter-Strike player, Condition Zero is definitely worth a look. Veterans will probably want to stick with what they've already got.
A Note on Steam
Steam is a program that is a new concept in gaming, especially online gaming. When you install Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Steam will automatically be installed. Steam is a game-management windows-based program that provides a central location to buy or download games and patches, and a means to manage security on their games. When you buy a game from the family of Half-Life mods, such as: Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, Day of Defeat, or Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, it comes with the now-familiar CD-Key. All but the last can be downloaded for free if you purchase any of the others, but Steam will manage your account through your Steam ID.
When you next play a game, Steam will automatically update it with the latest patches and fixes. Steam also comes with a “Friends” network that is basically an instant messaging program for Steam users. Some people with unusual configurations on their computer have had technical difficulties with Steam. If there are any problems, the Steam-forums are available at: www.steampowered.com.