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April 2004
Useful for Counter Strike virgins maybe?
Counter Strike Condition Zero screen dump
Condition Zero seems little more than a stopgap, albeit a fun one

Bushby casts aside his bitterness about slow broadband rollout and takes a step backwards to look at Counter Strike: Condition Zero

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  Counter Strike: Condition Zero
Release date:
  Out now

Online gaming in Europe hasn't really turned out to be the next big thing. Despite the praise Xbox Live! regularly receives, it remains the pastime of a minority, the entry requirement being a broadband connection and a knowledge of home networking. In other words, you need to be a geek. Broadband is law in Live! and unwritten law in the world of online PC games. Perhaps we can look on Condition Zero as a step backwards, a concession to those unwilling to embrace broadband or not in an area where they can receive it thanks to BT's horribly slow rollout. I'm not bitter, not bitter at all.

Counter Strike is still one of the best examples of online gaming, well into its sixth year after being born of the mod community's love for Half-Life. For those unfamiliar with the format, it involves two teams (terrorists and counter-terrorists) trying to win in two different game types. The first involves bombs, the terrorists try to plant one in an arranged site, the counter terrorists try to foil them. In the second, the terrorists must stop the counter terrorists from rescuing the hostages in the map. In both, matches end up being quick-fire rounds rather than drawn out tactical fights. First to three victories with a two point gap wins. Simple.

In this, the single-player version on the online classic the AI is crucial. Thankfully then it serves it function very well. Of course for new players (which presumably the game is aimed at) the entry grade 'Easy' level redefines the term with terrorists waiting until they finish 7-down on their crossword puzzles before shooting. The maps too are a mix of claustrophobic corridors and more expansive spaces that, while graphically nothing to write home about more than serve their function. It's a blessing too for those with less than top of the range PC's (if you could run Blue Shift, Condition Zero will be fine).

There's also Deleted Scenes, a different single-player campaign that was canned in an earlier stage of development but included in the package anyway. It has some nice set pieces but really offers little in the way of originality. Treat it like a DVD extra and you won't be disappointed.

And now we come to the let downs, firstly the strange necessity to be online whilst playing the single-player campaign. The game crashes repeatedly when trying to load a level when offline, which makes little sense. A major annoyance for dial-up users who'd rather not tie-up their phone line and completely defeating the object of an offline title. Secondly no matter how realistic, playing against soulless bots is never as satisfying as defeating real people. It's also a shame that in these socially sensitive times the ability to play as the terrorists in the campaign has been dropped. We can't help but think this is a little too over the top, perhaps Sierra didn't want to be accused of encouraging suicide bombings by the Daily Mirror.

So what reasons are there for buying what used to be a free game? Maybe this would be useful for Counter Strike virgins who want to practise before heading for online servers. Perhaps it can help others make the wait for Half-Life 2 a little less painful, because Condition Zero seems little more than a stopgap, albeit a fun one.




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