What's the big deal about Counter-Strike? Wasn't it just a Half-Life mod?
Well that Half-Life mod was so popular that Valve developed it into a standalone, multiplayer first-person shooter. People lost hours of their lives playing version 1.6 of the game. And then when Valve released Counter-Strike: Source, an update to 1.6 that ran on their new Source engine, people lost hours of their lives playing that, too.
Now, almost a decade after Source's release, that upgrade proved popular enough to bear what appears to be its carbon copy in Global Offensive, which happily retains the beauty of the knife kills.
So why were all those first-person shooter experiences so popular? It's simple: because they were simple. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive—just like Source, then 1.6 before it—is a simple first-person shooter. There are no perks. No levels. No unlocks. Your weaponry and gear are based on money you spend at the beginning of each round. Money that you accumulate with kills.
This design makes CS: GO unlike its first-person shooter competitors. The Call of Dutys and Battlefields that even the most infrequent of gamers recognize are vastly different from a game like GO. GO puts its players on a fairly equally footing. Your wins are determined by your skills as a shooter, and your ability to identify what weapon you're most proficient with. Not everyone is as handy with the infamous AWP, a one-hit kill sniper known all too well in the Counter-Strike community. Heck, I can sometimes score more kills with a Desert Eagle pistol than I can with my usual preferred M4 rifle. But I'm just weird like that.
It all comes down to how you play. And as you practice—burning through the classic mode of Counter Terrorist versus Terrorist in a plant-the-bomb, defuse-the-bomb, rescue-the-hostages scenario as well as the newer modes—you get progressively better. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is definitely a competitive first-person shooter. It's a competitive FPS that makes you feel proud of your kill/death ratio, knowing that it all had to do with raw skill. Even little details—like being able to run faster with a knife equipped rather than your bulkier rifle—solidify this claim. There's an emphasis on realism—like the new addition of your scope turning hazy while walking—but the emphasis on giving every player an equal footing is what really makes the game what it is.
That realism continues in one important, controversial way. The knife kill.
The Controversy of the Knife Kill
Unlike Call of Duty and Battlefield, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and its predecessors require you to physically equip your knife in order to use it. That one second required to switch over to equip the knife—either scrolling through on your mouse or hitting the hotkey—makes a significant difference as opposed to the automatically triggered knives in CoD. It makes the knife kill that much harder to pull off than the other first-person shooters of our world.
Another key difference is how many FPS games will send your body lurching toward the enemy with the click of a joystick. It's basically an aim assist. Especially with the addition of the commando perk in MW2, players would become annoyingly deadly with a knife attack. GO, on the other hand, requires you to run or sneak up to your enemy.
Requiring the knife killer to actually approach an enemy at normal speed is yet another example of GO's attempt to make the shooter experience less cheesy. You'll have to use a bit of tact, sneakiness, and finesse to catch someone off guard. It doesn't feel like CoD where you shoot someone to smithereens and yet the panic knifer still gets the upperhand. Before you know it, they've launched into your body with superhuman strength and speed, leaving you virtually flat on your back and cursing in real life. I've seen players wipe an entire team out in Black Ops using the ballistic knife, either skewering enemies from a distance or slashing them in closer range. GO's knife kills are more celebrated events, whereas in Call of Duty it might just be today's opted slaughtering method.
Then there are other issues. Should the knife kill be a one-hit kill from the back, two stabs required of the front? For lurching knife kills: what range should a game allow you to be in relation to your enemy to pull the knifing off? Knifing is an intricate art in first-person shooters, the nature of which is quibbled over by many FPS fans. Modern Warfare 2 introduced even more complications with the addition of attached and ranged knives. Now you'll have to contend with knife experts who have a new set of knifey options with varying damage statistics, behaviors, etc. Granted, at least players have to manually equip the knives in that new stock brought on by MW2 as opposed to the standard, automatically-equipped knife you start off with in recent CoD games. Though while tactical knives had to be equipped, throwing knives could be aimed. So there's that.
Counter-Strike has always employed a more tactful, measured approach to knife kills. You can pull off a one-hit kill from the back, and certain sweet spots will do enormous damage, but you can't always dominate a player just because you have a knife in hand and have managed to get within slicing range. Your enemy may just surprise you. A de-emphasis on the one-hit kill makes knifing in GO a much more complex procedure. You'll really have to plan it out appropriately to pull it off.
And since we're on the topic of melee kills: what happened to knocking people out with the butt of your gun? Halo encourages a gun-butt tactic to finish off a kill. The game will even allow you to one-hit melee-kill fodder enemies. I can appreciate that methodology.
The knife kill in first-person shooters is a point to pick with many gamers. It can be infuriating to dominate the shooting field just to be left sprawled on the ground from a lucky knife hit. People argue that there is no strategy, no skill involved in the lurch-knife (known as the panic knife) move. If you're one such player, you'd be doing yourself a favor to check out GO's knifing method. For once, you can actually appreciate being killed by a knife, knowing that you have to give your murderer props for managing to land the hit just right.