When Counter-Strike: Condition Zero was first announced three years ago, it seemed like a decent enough idea. The definitive first-person shooter mod was at the height of its popularity, so having a single-player game based on the winning formula sounded like a good way to win a new following and perhaps entice even more people to venture online. However, those who have been reading up on the game over the years know that development has been a bumpy ride. The duty of making Condition Zero has practically been passed around more than the collection basket at Easter Mass. What started internally at Valve Software quickly moved to Gearbox, then to Ritual Entertainment, and finally over to Turtle Rock Studios. Given such an unusual development path, Condition Zero is surprisingly enjoyable, thanks mostly to some remarkable artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, the game will be remembered as a victim of its own delays. While the core gameplay is timeless, Condition Zero's release is overshadowed by no fewer than three technologically advanced, highly anticipated shooters, which all cast a harsh light on what is essentially a 6-year-old game--albeit a classic one.
Bombing maps are one of the classic gameplay types available in Condition Zero.
By now, most FPS fans at least know what Counter-Strike is and have likely played it or have seen it. For those of you who have recently been paroled from a lengthy incarceration or have awakened from a coma, Counter-Strike is a team-based tactical shooter that pits terrorists versus counterterrorists in round-based match play. In the game's current incarnation, there are two game types--bombing and hostage rescue. Bombing maps require the terrorist team to plant and detonate a time bomb in one of two bombing areas while the counterterrorists guard these sites. Hostage rescue involves having the terrorists guard computer-controlled civilians while the counterterrorists try to rescue them. In practice, both game types often result in one team or the other being eliminated in bloody, fast shoot-outs.
Players earn money based on their performances in the previous rounds, and with this money, they can buy weapons at the beginning of each subsequent round (and those who survive the last round keep their guns). The game's arsenal is based on real-life weapons, including Desert Eagle pistols, pump-action shotguns, AK-47 assault rifles, and even some exotic equipment, like tactical shields that deflect bullets.
Single-player Condition Zero is just like the multiplayer version of Counter-Strike that's been played for years, only your teammates and the enemies are replaced by computer-controlled bots. You assume the role of the commander of a counterterrorist force, and you choose your teammates from a menu of named bots. The bots vary in skill, aggressiveness, choice of weapon, and tendency to cooperate with the rest of the team. Those with greater skill and more-powerful weapons cost more points to hire, but you'll earn points steadily as you make your way through the game's campaign.
You'll choose your teammates from a menu before each map.
The campaign is divided into six "tours of duty," each of which consists of three maps, thus offering you a total of 18 maps for gameplay. Most of the maps are drawn from Counter-Strike's classic collection, so veterans will be familiar with classics such as Dust, Aztec, and Italy. Some of the maps have been tweaked greatly, however. For example, Militia is now vastly different from the map longtime CS players are familiar with. The above-land approach from the counterterrorist spawn area to the house has been shortened and adorned with additional rocks to hide behind, thus making life more difficult for terrorist snipers. A handful of new maps have also been included, like Stadium, a multilevel demolitions map that features a lot of narrow hallways and stairwells. Fastline should also be new to PC players, since it was borrowed from the Xbox version of Counter-Strike. It's a very small bombing map, set in a Tokyo subway, that encourages quick rounds and a frenetic pace.
Beating each map requires you to win at least three rounds against the terrorists, and you must be ahead of the terrorists by at least two successive wins while also completing a number of special challenges. These challenges usually involve getting a certain total number of kills, getting kills with a specific weapon, rescuing hostages, and/or winning a round under a certain amount of time. You don't have to complete all these challenges within the three rounds, so if you're beating the terrorists 3-1 and still have a challenge left unfulfilled, the match will continue until you've satisfied all the requirements.