PAX 2011: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Hands-On Preview - New Gear

In the battle between terrorists and counterterrorists, no matter who wins, we also win in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

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Since its initial release as a humble mod roughly 13 years ago, Counter-Strike has grown into a first-person shooter icon built on quick matches and hair-trigger reflexes. At this year's Penny Arcade Expo we got the chance to play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the latest chapter in the ongoing struggle between terrorists and counterterrorists. The game is being developed by Hidden Path Entertainment, which codeveloped Counter-Strike: Source and runs on an updated version of the Source engine. The result is a crisp and smooth FPS that's every bit as frantic as we remember it.

During our hands-on time with the game we made sure to sample the three new pieces of gear that were on display: the Molotov cocktail, the decoy grenade, and the Taser gun.

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Just like its many other video game incarnations, the Molotov cocktail laid down a bed of flames that would gradually damage those who dared to pass through. While we were limited to one per round, we found that the Molotov was great for cutting off key areas of the map. Setting one hallway ablaze meant our opponents had to either wait the fire out--which lasted about five seconds--or funnel into the obvious alternative path. And if we were feeling extra devious we could drop it near the bomb site and make the counterterrorists' job that much harder.

Next up was the decoy grenade. When thrown, it placed a marker on the enemy's radar (falsely) indicating that someone was firing a gun. To help maintain the illusion, the grenade also emitted gunshot noises depending on what weapon we were carrying. After roughly 10 seconds, it would explode. Our trick when using this item was to catch the enemies' attention, duck behind cover, and drop the grenade at our feet. By the time our foes realized the ruse, we had already rolled up behind them for a sneak attack.

Finally, there was the Zeus x27 Taser gun. This weapon could be fired only once before being automatically dropped and could kill any enemy in a single hit. It also required that we get pretty close to our target, almost within knife range. New additions aside, CS:GO felt every bit as intense as its predecessors. After being spoiled by years of cover mechanics and regenerating health, we found our character's vulnerability jarring. However, after a few rounds, we settled back into the series' iconic, white-knuckle tension. From the heavy boom of an AWP to the bark of "Counterterrorist win," the game felt like classic Counter-Strike at its core.

A skill-based matchmaking system will help ensure that players find appropriate opponents to compete against.
A skill-based matchmaking system will help ensure that players find appropriate opponents to compete against.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Mac sometime next year. In the meantime, PC players will have the chance to get their hands on the game early with a beta for the game starting in October. For more information on CS:GO, be sure to check out our interview with Valve's Chet Faliszek, including details on cross-platform multiplayer between the PC, Mac, and PlayStation 3.

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