Counter-Strike was originally a modification for Valve's 1998 first-person shooter Half-Life. Where the original game put you in the shoes of mild-mannered scientist Gordon Freeman and tasked you with blasting your way out of a besieged scientific facility, a group of dedicated fans from around the world took the Half-Life engine and created a team-based game that let you play as a terrorist or a counterterrorist to complete tactical objectives. The game's fast-paced and surprisingly realistic action, and the fact that it was and continues to be free of charge to the public, helped make it incredibly popular.
Some years ago, Valve announced Condition Zero, a new single-player version of Counter-Strike. While it was an intriguing prospect, the game itself has been delayed a few times, and very little has been heard about it. We have updated details on the game from Jess Cliff of Valve Software.
GameSpot: It's been a while since we've heard about Condition Zero, which was originally planned to be a single-player Counter-Strike game that would include a new set of multiplayer enhancements. Will Condition Zero still be the game it was planned to be? How has it changed over the past few years?
Jess Cliffe: The original intent of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero has remained pretty constant over the development cycle: to create a compelling single-player experience for Counter-Strike while adding new dimension to the multiplayer game. Our experiments with the Counter-Strike bot and player feedback led us to concentrate on an objective-oriented single-player game that centered on the classic gameplay. And the bots can also be included in multiplayer games.
GS: Tell us about the single-player game and the new career mode. Will there be other modes that present different challenges to players, such as playing through terrorist and counterterrorist ops--possibly as training or practice for multiplayer? What role will the CS bot play in the single-player game?
JC: The new campaign, which is called "tour of duty," lets you select a skill level that determines the skill levels of both the opponents and teammates you will meet in-game, and, subsequently, you also determine what level of challenges you will face. In multiplayer games of CZ, players can populate servers with bots of any skills and can include any number of humans and/or bots. Finally, CZ also includes 12 story-driven missions in the "deleted scenes" section.
GS: Condition Zero will let players take on missions accompanied by a computer-controlled squad of friendlies. Give us an overview of what we can expect from these computer-controlled teammates and what sort of tactics they'll use and how they'll change over time and across missions.
JC: The new tour of duty gameplay is based around the official Counter-Strike bot. We worked with Michael Booth and his team from Turtle Rock Studios to introduce an AI-controlled bot that is surprisingly human. The bot will learn to navigate the map just like a regular human player; it will use the CS arsenal intelligently; it will work as a team; and it can even act surprised. For instance, if a lone bot happens upon a team full of enemies, he will run away and try to regroup with his squad, if possible. Our objective with the official CS bot was to make it a challenging opponent for both seasoned CS veterans and neophytes alike--and we've accomplished that.
In tour of duty, you are the commander of your AI-controlled team and are pitted against a team of bots. You can communicate with your bots, and they'll also keep you informed about what's going on in the game through their eyes. This mode of game play is interesting in that you're not only responsible for your personal success but also the success of your teammates. This is what Counter-Strike is all about--the social, team-based aspect of combat.
GS: Will Condition Zero introduce new weapons and equipment to the Counter-Strike series? Will this equipment be available only in the single-player game, or will these items also carry over to regular multiplayer, as originally planned? If this is the case, how are the new weapons and equipment being balanced for use in what continues to be one of the most often-played multiplayer games around?
JC: The story-driven deleted scenes portion of Condition Zero does include brand-new weapons and equipment. New weapons include the LAW rocket launcher as well as the Galil, Clarion, and FAMAS rifles. There's also a slew of new equipment to master, like the riot shield, a blowtorch, and a fiber optic camera. We will release many of these incrementally, over time, into the multiplayer game.
GS: Give us an overview of Condition Zero's new maps. Will they be available in both single- and multiplayer?
JC: The tour of duty mode contains 18 maps to play through in tiers, and you can eventually unlock them all based on how objective-savvy your team is. Brand-new maps include tides, stadium, downed, and fastline. Classic Counter-Strike maps, like dust Aztec, Italy, and inferno, have been beefed-up considerably with upgraded geometry and new higher-resolution textures. All 18 tour of duty maps will be available for Condition Zero players to host on a server.
GS: And now, the tougher questions. Counter-Strike has been, and continues to be, popular not only because of its gameplay, but also because it's free to download. With Counter-Strike now appearing as a retail game on Microsoft's Xbox console, and with so many other impressive PC shooters coming out these days, how is Condition Zero going to stand out from all these other games as a worthwhile purchase? What will set it apart?
JC: From those who entered the game as Half-Life owners playing CS as a mod, to the more than 1.5 million people who purchased CS at retail, Counter-Strike has become something of its own entity in the game world. With that said, the gaming community has been hungry for a helping of single-player Counter-Strike for quite a while now. The core CS gameplay will set it apart, and we've stuffed so much different content into the box that there is literally something for every type of player.
GS: How far along is Condition Zero at this point, and what parts of it are you working on now? When can we expect to see it on store shelves?
JC: We are done with development on the English language versions of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and have submitted replication masters to Vivendi for manufacturing. Vivendi has not confirmed retail release dates for these products, but we hope they will be available shortly.
GS: Thanks, Jess.