Jannie 'Hellhound' van Niekerk has an outstanding list of achievements in gaming. Hailing from the legendary clan Damage Control (DC) he has had extensive experience in overseas tournaments (ESWC, Kode5 and others) and is one of the best in the country when it comes to Counter-Strike. Do Gaming caught up with him to find out his opinion on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).
In many ways, Counter-Strike (CS) – first released as a mod in 1999 – has always been the original competitive game. Sure, Starcraft and DotA have paid their dues, but when it comes to first-person shooters (FPS), CS was huge.
But the release of CS: Source in 2004 created something of a division in the community as many gamers went onto play CS: Source while others stuck to the original, CS 1.6.
That's why the CS community is pinning a lot of hope on Valve's new CS:GO as this might just be the title to merge the community. Van Niekerk, after playing the latest update in the closed beta (yes, he is one of the lucky few to have played the beta from its inception) feels that it just might achieve this.
“The problem we [van Niekerk and his brother Riaan] always felt with Source is that, from a competitive skill level, there was always too much of a ceiling. It's just more competitive to play 1.6,” he says. “I always felt that Source was more of a free-for-all (FFA) sort of title than a competitive game.”
So let's delve into CS:GO a little deeper.
“I was lucky enough to win a random draw and get a key quite early on with the CS:GO beta. I also got a spare key and gave that to my brother. The first time we tested it though, it was quite bad – there were a lot of things that we didn't like and didn't feel good. But Valve has been bringing out updates every week and you can really see they're listening to the professional players here,” van Niekerk says.
He adds that it's been a little difficult to test given that there are no local servers (and not a lot of local players in the beta, for that matter). But every week there have been fantastic improvement.
“If Valve continue to release updates like they have been it will be a really decent game,” he says.
“I didn't like the movement when I first played but this has improved quite a lot. The jumping mechanics are very different with the latest patch as well. But one of the interesting changes I noticed at first was that you can see your bullets fly – you didn't have that in 1.6 or Source at all,” he says.
This was quite distracting at first but Valve seemed to have toned it down. Van Niekerk says it doesn't bug him as much since the latest patch.
“There are a couple of new 'nades added to the mix which will be very interesting in a competitive clan dynamic (unfortunately, given our local constraints, I haven't been able to test them). These new 'nades include a molotov cocktail and a decoy grenade.”
The molotov cocktail does about five damage per second and makes fire on the ground. The decoy grenades make the sound of a gun or footsteps – so you can throw this somewhere on the map and try use it to trick your opponent.
“I think these will provide for some interesting strategies,” van Niekerk says.
The other 'nades are still there – smoke grenades, flashbangs and of course the high explosives.
“Also, in the current patch, you can only buy one grenade in each round. You could buy one heavy grenade, two flashbangs and one smoke in the other CS's. Now you can only buy one of each,” he says.
Matchmaking and modes
Valve is going to be bringing in a matchmaking system for CS:GO, so that gamers who log onto servers will be matched with other gamers of an equal skill level. This is something that Blizzard and Activision have seen quite a bit of success with in Starcraft 2 or Call of Duty.
“There's also a Quickmatch setting – much like Heroes of Newerth (HoN) – you just let the game know that you want to play a match and it finds you one quickly and off you go,” van Niekerk explains.
But interestingly, the game will have a number of different modes that not only provide a different kind of objective but also a different kind of experience altogether, so that both competitive gamers and casual players can enjoy the title.
This is being done through the introduction of a “Classic Competitive” mode and a “Classic Casual” mode. Even the maps and graphics will change in these modes – for example, with the competitive mode all the aesthetics and so on will be turned off, because competitive gamers will want the basics; while the casual mode has all these new graphical improvements turned on.
This also looks like Valve's way of bringing in both the CS 1.6 and CS: Source communities and provide a game that's a good all-rounder.
“They're also bringing in the fun factor with things like the gungame (originally a popular mod for CS 1.6 and CS:Source). Here you get a new gun every time you kill someone. It's a great way to test the game and the guns,” van Niekerk says.
So altogether there are four game modes – Arms Race (gungame); Demolition (win the round by eliminating the other team or completing objectives); classic casual (friendly fire turned off and less reward, also you have armour from the start); and classic competitive (you will need to buy armour). The Arms Race mode will also get some new and specific maps.
Speaking of maps, van Niekerk says the basic layout for the maps are as before (at the moment, at least). Here and there there are a few extra things. But there are hints that the maps will change depending on the modes, for example a Nuke Competitive or a Nuke Casual.
The current maps on offer include Aztec, Office, Nuke, Inferno, Dust 1, Italy, Train and Dust 2.
“On Dust there's a new section, because Dust was very one sided and there were only two places you could go, so they've added a third entry point.
“Obviously, since these maps will be running on a different engine, there are changes. Things are quite vibrant from a visual perspective. Valve are also experimenting with a fog / haze idea which could be interesting.
“They're adjusting the recoil every week and the spray patterns, etc., based on players' input,” he says.
Interestingly, Valve is developing a cross-platform scenario where gamers on Xbox 360, PS3 and/or PC can go head to head.
“What's been said is you will get ranked based on what platform you play on. So if you play with a motion sensor you'll get ranked with other gamers using the same control. You can therefore progress in the game in your specific grouping of device, he says.
Apparently some are already boasting that they can beat anyone on any platform.
“It's my hope that this will really bring in a big community,” van Niekerk adds.
UPDATE: Valve has dropped cross-platform play but CS:GO will still be available for PS3 and Xbox 360 in addition to PC.
The final assessment
Van Niekerk is quite excited about the prospects in CS:GO and is hopeful that this will be the title to merge what has for too long been a split community.
“Valve are finding a careful balance between CS 1.6 and Source,” he says. “Their constant updates and changes to the game, as well as the fact that they're listening to professional players throughout the process (you can see they really are listening when you see the changes made), is very encouraging.”
The game is set to launch in August thus far and van Niekerk says DC will switch to it.
“We're definitely going to move to CS:GO. We must embrace the new and work hard to try and make this as big as possible in South Africa. There's no future for 1.6 here. A lot will also depend on the international scene but we really want to see a big player base for this title,” he says.
Here are some more opinions from professional gamers. The video was posted in April, however, so there may be a lot of changes in opinion now.
A lot will also depend on whether local servers will come about in South Africa. It's likely, given its history, that Valve will have no problem with allowing local dedicated servers and making things as easy as possible for gamers to access servers at their local level.
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