Surely this installment of Penny Arcade is a falsification of the worst sort! Friends, if only that were true. When he started telling me about Dust, as though it were a topic that was somehow alien to me, alien to the tens of thousands of people that play every day on "Dust Only" servers, I felt something pop inside my mind.
I showed him the Goddamn thing years ago, starting with Beta 3 - as soon as he saw that text based buy menu, he was done looking at it and nothing could redirect his attention. The next time he paid even a moment's notice to Counter-Strike was Sunday at Lanwerx, where they're currently running the new version mounted on Half-Life 2's Source engine.
Nowadays, you can detest Counter-Strike and come by it honestly. Somewhere near your thousandth round of Aztec, it might occur to you that other games have been released in the intervening period. Or you think 1.6 is bullshit, for example - you don't like the Riot Shield or something. Some people left when they introduced dual pistols, every patch had something abhorrent to this or that demographic. Whatever. That's cool. But you had the phase, you played the most popular online shooter with your friends and then got out. That's a matter quite apart from looking up briefly from a Star Wars novel and then shrugging your shoulders.
The new version of CS is open now to anyone who owns Condition Zero, so I've had a chance to check it out from home now as well - and I'm glad I did, because it was a different experience. The machines I was on at the cafe weren't rendering the game in DirectX 9, which gives a somewhat faulty impression of the visual improvements. We only have one map to judge it on, and de_dust as you might imagine has no water, so there isn't much to be blown away by in terms of effects just jumpin' out at you. The room in the middle where everything happens, I'm sure there's a colloquial term for it, is now in the base of a dome filled with glowing sunlight and lazily drifting dust. That was nice. But there's not a river or something running through the middle of the map, deforming the crystals stuck in the silt beneath, accurately reflecting you as you look them. I'm not saying it should have that. I'm just saying that every inch of Dust is yellow rock, so it really isn't a platform for bold technology. There's an interesting thread on the Steam forums regarding the points where CS: Source diverges from canon, and is required reading for mortals fascinated by the topic.
Being able to see CS:Source running on two wildly divergent classes of machine makes me think you could get it going acceptably just about anywhere, which I think is probably Job One as far as Valve is concerned. The graphical improvements are not of the Doom 3 "look at this shadow" variety - they tend to be fairly subtle touches even under the best circumstances, adding drama and fidelity when available and simply improving on the original in other circumstances. I find the new flashbang highly disorienting, its overwhelming light a precursor to my own Damascus conversion. We expect physics now, flying bodies and whatnot, but I have yet to see this game render them in the ridiculous poses we've been treated to thus far - no terrorist marionettes doing calisthenics in the desert.
It still feels exactly like Counter-Strike to me. Maybe you'll like that and maybe you won't. I'm sure someone will start talking about Innovation soon and how there Isn't Much Of It, and how mankind used to Innovate in the perfect world before history. But even for a person who has made a point of escaping the game altogether, I'm in desperate danger of a relapse. When you've played that map as many times as I have, as you have I'm sure, it ceases to be a game exercise and approaches some kind of meditation. The base and rodentine portion of my brain threads that yellow maze and my pure being is ready for utter contemplation.
He and Kara play the new CS nightly now, I believe. His wife, who currently contains a viable human being, is an absolutely lethal sniper. Reconciling those two things is always a bit odd.
the ones with hearts on the outside