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Counter-Strike: Condition Zero

After three different development studios, countless delays, and three long years, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero was finally released. Based on the most popular mod of all time, Condition Zero had high expectations to live up to. So many people (including myself) read the previews, downloaded the screenshots and devoured any information about the game they could possibly find in hopes of one day playing the next great FPS. Well, much like life itself, the end result didnít live up the anticipation. Not by a long a shot.

Most people already know that the original Counter-Strike mod was all about realistic weaponry, quick action, and most importantly, teamwork. Two sides, the counter-terrorists and the terrorists, would fight against each other while trying to complete a certain objective on the map map. Planting a bomb, rescuing hostages or protecting a VIP are all part of a dayís work in the fast-paced world of Counter-Strike.

One would expect a massive singleplayer campaign considering the massive delays Condition Zero underwent. Instead, the campaign weíre given is a joke. After picking your squad, you start the match and you get a feeling of dÈj‡ vu. Itís exactly the same thing weíve been playing for years, but now with bots. All you have to do is win a few matches, then move onto the next map. And most of the maps arenít even new! Well, there is something new at least. A poor attempt at depth was added with the all-new ìsecondary objectives.î These inane objectives include killing a certain amount of people with a certain weapon, rescuing a set amount of hostages or winning a match in a certain amount of time. As the difficulty increases, so does the opposition and objectives. Blah.

I wanted to hate this poor attempt at a singleplayer mode, but I couldnít because of the great A.I. in the bots. At first the bots seemed incredibly incompetent on easy mode, but then as I progressed and was able to recruit stronger characters, I noticed how smart they actually are. They almost always reacted realistically to most situations, and they are also a challenge to face on the harder difficulties. You have some control over your squad with a decent amount of radio commands at your disposal. They listen a lot better than the occasionally dim online players. The only real flaw is that they sit there while waiting for you to defuse the bomb, even when youíre at the other side of the map with no way of defusing it in time, making you lose the match.

For the people who grow tired of ìl337î hackers and whiny kids, you can set up an excellent LAN server for just up to thirty-one bots. You can limit them to certain weapons and change their difficulty; though for some reason you canít have some of the bots be on easy mode with the others on a different difficulty. You also canít mix and match different weapons for different bots. Another minor fault is that once in a great while the A.I. sort of messed up when there are lots of bots in a small area. For some reason the bots just sat around and didnít move at all for a couple minutes, but then they started acting normal again. This only happened twice to me, so odds are the next patch will fix it. Aside from those problems, the LAN servers are a fun alternative to logging online, but there are times when youíll miss dominating all the kids who try to talk trash.

Some of you are thinking ìwait a minute; this game sounds nothing like the previews and screenshots Iíve seen.î The reason for this was that a whole game was created, then cancelled at the last minute when a few publications obtained review copies and absolutely trashed the game. That game comes with Condition Zero in the form of ìdeleted scenes.î

The deleted scenes have you traveling around the world playing as various counter-terrorist forces. The levels are incredibly linear and full of sloppily implemented scripted events. Most of the realism has been scrapped and a more ìarcadeî feel has taken over. Itís so unrealistic that in one part you take out a harrier jet with a sniper rifle. Iím not kidding. This is a disappointment, but the game does have some good points. Best of all is the greatly improved graphics and the excellent voices and music. There are also some exciting moments, such as being stuck in the middle of a two rival terrorist factions and another portion where you have to quickly defuse a nuclear bomb.

But none of this matters too much because the game is incredibly buggy and thereís little hope of a patch to fix everything. Also, the A.I. is horrendous. Bad guys just stand there as you shoot them in the foot repeatedly or as their friend is just blown away. The sense of teamwork in the original game is totally absent here. Itís easy to see why this game was ìdeleted.î Aside from the weapons, this doesnít feel like Counter-Strike at all.

The biggest crime Condition Zero commits is that the graphics and sound are barely updated at all, and theyíre nearly five years old! All of the levels have new and slightly improved textures, but they canít even compete with any games released in the past year or two. The skins have remained exactly the same, which is inexcusable. The skins in the deleted scenes look great, so why arenít they used in the full game as well? Fortunately, some people made a mod where you can use those skins. The sound effects are pretty much the same, and for the most part they arenít that bad, though an upgrade would have been more than welcome. The only new addition the audio is the radio chatter that the bots use. They always manage to be helpful and informative, and they occasionally say ìowned.î I love that word.

After so may delays one would expect the second coming of Jesus, but instead weíre given a disappointment (although a fun disappointment it is). The singeplayer is laughable, though I couldnít help but having a somewhat enjoyable time with it. The deleted scenes are a nice distraction, but Condition Zero definitely should have been a budget title. The whole thing can be beaten in a few hours since there are only eighteen maps. With a free download you can get so much, so paying full price for this isnít even worth it. Wait for the price drop on this one.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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