One of the biggest draws at G4's G-Phoria this weekend was Valve's Counter-Strike: Source--a game that ironically seemed to overshadow the attention garnered by the company's own Half-Life 2, which was running on just a single demo station. Valve had a LAN set up so eager attendees could try out this new version of Counter-Strike, and a single map--the remade version of de_dust--was available. The level looked strikingly better than the original, but it still featured the same basic structure (trust us, we've played a lot of dust). Though GameSpot reported on this build of Counter-Strike: Source just recently, we're longtime fans of the original game and couldn't resist trying out the new version to form our own impressions.
The most impressive aspect of CS: Source, as stated in our recent hands-on report on the game, is, of course, the enhanced graphics. Bullets that miss their mark and hit the ground now pop up chunks of dirt and debris. Glass bottles, 50-gallon drums, and cement blocks litter the level, and while these are mostly aesthetic additions, they also serve as nice targets before a round starts. While the CS: Source version of de_dust seemed to be largely unchanged, the level's overall look was very impressive in terms of textures and detail.
Other notable effects that definitely give CS: Source an upgraded look include the flashbang effect that makes it seem as though your eyes have really been blinded by a bright flash. This is accomplished by burning the most predominant onscreen image onto your view for a limited time after the flash occurs. The game's rag-doll physics, which come into play when players are shot and fall to the ground, really do give the character models an organic feel that, after playing CS: Source, definitely seems to be missing from the original, to us. We even saw the rifle fly out of a slain terrorist's hand and clatter against a nearby wall at one point. Counter-Strike always felt like an action movie to us, and little touches like this serve to enhance that feel even more.
Best of all, the gameplay Counter-Strike fans have come to know and love remains unchanged. The only thing that seems different to us is that the game runs even more smoothly than before. Weapons like the Krieg now zoom in with one fluid, continuous motion that makes it easier to keep the target in the crosshairs; this effect is just like the weapons that zoom in, in the videos of Half-Life 2 that you've likely seen before now.
In short, CS: Source is hella cool. Let us say that many CS fans who have found games like Battlefield Vietnam and Unreal Tournament 2004 appealing due to their visuals will more than likely find their way back to Counter-Strike when CS :Source becomes available alongside Half-Life 2 later this fall.