No one in their right mind is going to argue if Counter-Strike still holds relevancy in the shooter market today as just about every single competitive FPS fan to date has been weened off of the classic shooter. In fact, CS is arguably the reason that any sort of competitive FPS scene exists today, there's really just no fighting the fact that many of the liberties we enjoy today from iconic modern gaming weaponry to level design all stem from the good old fashioned Counter-Strike. In 2004, Counter-Strike: Source came along and more or less redid the classic CS style with a fresh coat of paint and a fancy new engine powering the backbone, but since then there really hasn't been too much word about the classic shooter. It may simply be because a few years since, following FPS games would take a forcible turn into another direction altogether, one that may threaten the relevancy of any Counter-Strike offensive, global or otherwise.
In the grand scheme of things you would think that I'm directly talking about Call of Duty, but it's not really all about the Modern Warfare franchise. The rise of the console FPS scene and the twists and turns that PC gaming has taken over the years mean that this classic shooter may be entering an age that it's really not ready for. Not that CS fans won't be flocking to this new game by the dozens, but developing any kind of game today means more than just satisfying old fans but also drawing in new ones. The games that survive the best of years are the ones that perfect both their existing formulas and find new ways of delivering the experience to players. Looking back at the style of FPS that defined CS (or CS:S), it's hard to imagine a place for such gameplay.
There's something to be said about simply joining any old team-oriented death-match (or objective) style match and raising hell. However, today's shooters have a hard line drawn between them that consumers have fondly come to consider as an easy way of being able to differentiate between the masses. On one hand you have the Halos, Call of Duties, and Medal of Honor titles; games where teamwork can exist, but most players are literal interpretations of the Terminator come to life, capable of holding down entire platoons of the enemy with one to two weapons over distances and level layouts that oftentimes reward brutalizing the opponent for deciding to even play the game. On another you have the Battlefields, Operation Flashpoints, and Team Fortress style games, which are around almost to balance out the first hand entirely. Teamwork is paramount to success and most players that are simply in the game to score kills fail, quit after the first month of the titles release, or are torn apart by an enemy that's more balanced than the average commercial breakfast.
These two mini-genres within first person shooters have been the guiding light for players for a long time now, and even this holiday season's Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3 isn't really about which game will sell better because it's more fun, it's about which game will sell better because they're two completely different mediums. The sales will settle which style of gameplay consumers will more happily accept, which is an admittedly strange way to measure 'success.' Even taking that into consideration, all of these titles have taken the time to incorporate mechanics that extend beyond the bounds of traditional gunplay. Requesting airstrikes, manning tanks, flying imaginary spacecraft and wielding melee weapons have turned the FPS scene into more of a twisted version of Black Hawk Down where the cast was half pulled from Braveheart and the other half from We Were Soldiers. I can only wonder where CS:GO plans to fit in all of this in the long term.
It's not that gamers as a whole won't want to participate in the recreation of a classic (and iconic) franchise come back to life, but perhaps their expectations will be set too high, or worse, too low. Will consumers outside of the obvious core fans be interested in investing in a game where the fanciest piece of technology may be a grenade? Or a game where most of the core community will not only be situated on PC, but have possibly had over 12 years of practice on the series? The biggest challenge may be in giving gamers the opportunity to try a game that isn't absolutely riddled with mid-combat gimmicks such as Killstreaks or Perks, something that's become near-ubiquitous in multiplayer these days.
Perhaps in one way, CS:GO will represent a group of gamers thought long forgotten. People who define skill as being able to simply pick a weapon and go out into the world, claiming kills by virtue of hard work and natural talent. No crazy skills to assist players who aren't good at timing their reloads, or assisting them in being able to snipe someone with a bit of aim-assist. It's almost awkward to consider that I've been playing FPS games for the last five years that have all in some way perpetuated mechanical add-ons that in some way had nothing to do with guns. Not that it made any of those titles bad by any means, only it's nice to think that around the corner may be an FPS that will be clear of anything except a few guns and an easy to define objective. There's something to be said about stripping away the complexity of todays shooters, I can only hope that the rest of the world is ready for it.
Naturally we're all excited to see what those currently testing the game have to say about it, fans in particular are going to want to know how true to CS and CS:S this new iteration will be. Already we've got some news about how original maps are being reworked and modernized to match the new standards they've implemented and how Portal 2's engine is going to be put to the test this time around; it's all well and good but the real meat and potatoes has yet to even be touched. Over the next few months, it's going to be important to note what changes "“ if any "“ are being made to the core gameplay, and how they plan on using what many may see as an outdated style of gaming to draw in new blood. Perhaps it's not as hard as it seems. Starcraft II did just fine after all, and Blizzard barely touched the mechanics behind the popular RTS. Then again Blizzard wasn't launching a game into one of the most flooded genres on the market, they simply let the reigning champ back into the ring. I just have my doubts that Counter-Strike is much of a contender anymore.