What Did This Game Bring to the Table?

Counter-Strike was originally a MOD of Half Life made by Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess “Cliffe” Cliffe (Wikipedia). A tactical shooter that became an instant online success, Counter-Strike would later be released in 2000 by Valve, the original producers of Half- Life. Most PC First-Person Shooters before Counter-Strike (CS) were unpopular compared to their futuristic, fast-paced brethren such as Quake and Unreal Tournament. All of that changed with CS.

Even today, years after its initial release, CS is the most widely-played PC shooter on the internet. Counter-Strike’s game play features two opposing teams, Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists, going against each other in three official game types:

Hostage Rescue: Counter-Terrorists must rescue non-player characters from a terrorist stronghold.

Bomb Defusal: Terrorists plant bombs at specific sites while counter-terrorists attempt to defuse them in a given amount of time.

Assassination: One counter-terrorist is a “VIP” and must be escorted to the escape zone before the terrorists can kill him.

Pubmasters – a CS Classic. These guys were great players who appreciated the fun of gaming.

Being a modified version of Half-Life meant that players were encouraged to continue the creative process by adding their own maps and game play features. This grassroots influence extended Counter-Strike’s competitive lifespan tremendously and, from the very start, the three default game types emphasized team elements of strategy and coordination.

How Far Did (Does) Its Influence Extend?

Counter-Strike has been instrumental in pushing the competitive gaming movement forward. It is the most globally-influential shooter of all time, with teams from all over the world regularly competing in international tournaments. The longevity of the title is unmatched in the realm of shooters. While fans will find any number of things that make its appeal long-lasting, there are certain factors that CS perfected. Firstly, weapon firing (with no auto-aim) rewards players for precision shooting because damage is realistically applied based on where on the body a player is shot. The choice to use only real-life weapons certainly had an appeal for fans that could never get into the fantastic nature of the crazier shooters such as Unreal. The quality of online play made it viable for competitive ladders, legitimizing the game and pushing it forward to the professional ranks. Once in the hands of top gamers, CS lent itself to innovation. Check out how some of these players somehow know that players are running behind exact spots in certain walls or about to turn a corner. Despite focusing heavily on teamwork, the level of individual gun skill was not diminished in CS. Lastly, the team-based nature of Counter Strike highlighted a level of teamwork other games had yet to possess. For this reason the top gamers all gravitated towards CS and once at the top of the shooter ranks, other games have yet to take its place.

Ruination – One of the best CS Frag Videos ever. Highlighting individual skill that melds with amazing strategy

In terms of online play, Counter-Strike eclipsed the popularity of titles such as Quake III and Unreal Tournament, making it one of the most recognizable games of all time. Popular online services such as “Steam”, a service offered by Valve, and GameSpy make playing online simple. Other independent services (WON, WON2) have also had their time in the spotlight. As CS remains the most popular online PC shooter in the world, it is still easy to hop online and try it out.

What Made it Legendary?

Today top PC leagues such as CAL still use Counter-Strike 1.6 (the most recent version of the original) in addition to Counter-Strike: Source (a new version of the game that has begun to supplant the original Counter-Strike) and international tournaments such as the World Cyber Games still host CS as one of its most popular titles. Like most great games, CS spread across the globe and found ways to grow in different cultures.

Rejecting the individual nature of traditional shoot-em-up games (Quake, Unreal, Doom), Counter-Strike pits teams of 4, 5 or 6 against each other in highly-intense scenarios where every bullet counts. While in Quake deathmatch was the name of the game, in Counter-Strike strategy takes the cake (that is not to say you can get by without insane individual skills, just look at some of the kills in the videos). Similarl to a game such as StarCraft, where other real-time-strategy games had come before it, other tactical shooters had come before CS. But the perfect elements of physics and game play melded together and from there a dedicated fan base took the game to its legendary status. For the first time, the fast pace and high-pressure decision making processes of a first-person shooter were combined with a level of teamwork and strategy that became all-the-more intense because of the game’s realistic environments. Teamwork made CS legendary and gives it a nearly timeless appeal that only truly legendary games can attain.

Where is it Today?

Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Source (the Half-Life 2 Counter-Strike mod) still thrive on the internet and in tournament settings. Gamespy Charts reports some impressive numbers: 90,000+ users for CS and 70,000+ for CSS can be seen online at any given time (other PC shooter games have trouble meeting a third of those numbers). GotFrag has excellent coverage, essential downloads and some of the most in-depth competitive analysis surrounding the Counter-Strike scene.

Some impressive “actions.” Counter-Strike players still find ways to innovate years after its release.

Counter-Strike and its follower, Counter-Strike: Source, remain by far the most popular PC Shooters in the world. Until a new game comes along to sweep away one of the most dedicated video game fan bases to a new game, we can expect to see Counter-Strike continue to dominate the competitive PC shooter sector.