Few video game series are as universally recognized as Counter-Strike. Starting out as a fan-made mod for Half-Life, the Counter-Strike series was quickly scooped up by Valve and developed to become the unofficial gold standard of competitive first-person shooter games in the world of eSports.

I spent a little time in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive closed beta taking place right now in anticipation of the August 21st release, and thus far I have to say that I’m thoroughly impressed. Not only has Valve kept to the classic gameplay that has defined Counter-Strike over the years, but the updated Source engine is nothing short of smooth. Even in a beta (where you might expect jitters and server issues), play is smooth and fast.

Counter-Strike hasn’t fallen into the same FPS category as Call of Duty and others that force players to switch between standard and sighted visuals in order to shoot accurately. The majority of Counter-Strike’s gameplay is done from the hip. Sure, you can pick up a sniper rifle and enjoy some sights a bit more, but you don’t have to. Counter-Strike is intended to be a very fast, reaction-oriented game. Iron sights are great, but it’s good to know that Valve has decided to stick to some of the details that made Counter-Strike great.

Speaking of classic details, fans of classic maps such as Dust_2 are in for a treat. These maps have been updated, but haven’t been changed all that much. You can still employ many of the strategies you’ve enjoyed over the past decade with Counter-Strike: Source and the new maps feel like welcome additions to the franchise rather than over-the-top graphics boasting nonsense.

Counter-Strike has held true to not being a game about storyline or heavy plots, but one where you can simply load and jump in, competing with friends and strangers alike. Rounds are organized with objectives, and a number of different game types are available for players to choose from. My personal favorite: Arms Race. This mode mimics the Gun Game of Call of Duty in that you work your way up through a series of weapons as you gain kills. It’s a great way to get a feel for what’s available without having to play round after round switching between guns manually.

Valve took a franchise that came directly from the community and made as few changes as possible to it. In my book, that’s a commendable position and perhaps one of the reasons Valve is such a big force in the gaming world. Sure, it takes longer to release updates, but those updates are typically exactly what the players wanted.

Could Counter-Strike: Global Offensive replace Counter-Strike: Source in LAN tournaments around the world? Absolutely. Like StarCraft 2 did for the StarCraft series, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has stayed true to the spirit of the game. It’s that very spirit and balance that has made these franchises such an important part of the eSports world.

What Do You Think?

Not everyone is entirely on board with the latest edition of the franchise. We took the question to the community, and here are some of the responses we received.

Rocky Batton: “Valve needs to go back to the drawing board and start over and bring out something revolutionary if it is going to continue with the CSS Brand.”

Luke Blaney: “I thought it was going to be better than it was.”

Still, there are some positive reviews coming out of our community.

Adam Landreneau: “It is definitely a worthy title in an already awesome series. The upgraded Source engine is very polished.”

Marco Alessi: “I tried it in closed beta and it’s a very good game; I love Valve!”

If you haven’t picked up Counter-Strike: Global Offensive yet, you can still save during this pre-order cycle and enjoy the beta.

Image: Valve