This most-renown franchise of team shooters has peaked in this near-perfect instalment which perfectly balances engaging depth with easy-to-pickup mechanics and new quality-of-life improvements.
The tactical squad-based shooter franchise Counter-Strike has had a long and storied history from humble beginnings as a GoldSrc deathmatching mod, to years of loyal followers as a title officially picked-up and supported by Valve, to the massive gaming icon and economic powerhouse that the most recent instalment - Global Offensive, has become. While having been surpassed technologically by more recent instalments, in this lowly reviewer’s opinion, Condition Zero remains the best in the series.
Controls and gameplay ought to seem familiar to most-anyone who has played a Valve title or have looked at a first-person PC game in this last two decades; all very basic and easy to learn - WASD to move, mouse to look, and a handful of other simple buttons to do things like bring up the score table and such. These simple controls and gameplay mechanics belie the massive upper skill ceiling which has kept Condition Zero veterans enthralled with the game for more than a decade.
Gameplay objectives remain much the same as they were in CS1.6, pitting two teams of fully armed terrorists and counter-terrorists against each other across a number of tense bomb-disposal and hostage rescue situations in a test of strategic communication, flick reflexes, and tactical fund management. Where Condition Zero unquestionably excels over its peers is in all aspects of the singleplayer experience. CZ brings in full native AI bot support, and these cutting-edge-fourteen-years-ago opponents remain respectfully challenging in both organisational intelligence and in moment-to-moment gunplay. Furthermore, Condition Zero provides a new ‘Tour of Duty’ campaign wherein the player advances through eighty-four scenarios designed to test their mettle across every map and type of weapon.
Despite a not-uncomplicated development cycle and sales figures actually along Valve’s lowest at release, the recognisable excellence of Condition Zero has ensured a healthy fanbase and playercount more than a decade later, and given the inexpense of this game, either bundled alongside the original 1.6 release and an admittedly poorer expansion-sequel, or as part of the Valve Complete Pack, this is definitely something to look out for during any one of Steam’s frequent sales.
Very thoroughly recommended.