Counter-Strike Nexon: Zombies is a weird thing. A zombified free-to-play version of dear old CS 1.6 made by not-Valve always would be but gosh, this video game! I’ve inadvertently played a good five hours since Nexon launched it into open beta on Tuesday. I’m baffled but fascinated. It feels like a cover-disc collection of mods passed through a portal from a world where Valve released source code for Counter-Strike, not Half-Life, so CS became the base for loads of odd mods.
It’s a big collection of PvE and PvP modes for CS with everything from zombie wave survival to one like Enemy Territory’s vehicle escort, only the vehicle is transporting a giant mutant you can free. It’s such a weird load of things to see in CS that you might want to download it out of curiosity.
CS is at the bottom of all this–its movement, weapons, and buying run through them all (that I’ve seen, at least)–but the modes feel quite different to each other. All they really have in common is those monster models. Some have custom maps, while others are on old favourites like de_dust. I’ll tell you about a few modes I’ve played.
Zombie Shelter has players constructing, upgrading, and defending a base across quiet days and dangerous nights as the zombies mutate, grow stronger, and attack in large hordes. To reel off unexpected features: it has scavenging, levelling, skill trees, and crafting; it has a noise system triggering zombie hordes; zombies have bases with defences you can knock down; stay away from your own base too long and you’ll take damage from what I think is low sanity (building a campfire restores sanity too); some maps have two rival human teams. And this isn’t a quick thing, I lost one round after an hour-and-a-half. It’s so odd to see in CS, but enjoyable with an organised team to survive the night and see your base grow.
Zombie Escape mode sees humans chased by a horde of zombies, racing towards an exit. Attacking the zombies only slows them a little, though, so really it’s about mastering CS’s movement and optimising your pathing. It’s almost a tutorial for moving, only competitive and with zombies.
What I didn’t mention about that Enemy Territory-ish mode is that the great mutant strapped to the back of an armoured vehicle is the leader of the terrorists. In this mode it’s the CTs who run around planting bombs, trying to blow up roadblocks the Ts have errected. See, if Ts get next to the vehicle, they can deactivate the mutant’s restraints and free him to win. He roars triumphantly when freed, because he’s a ridiculous monster out an xtreme gnarly radical ’90s cartoon. Rounds turn into a huge mess of people throwing themselves at the objective, but it’s sorta fun.
Zombie Scenario also has co-op story campaigns. Another mode is similar to that FIFA thing, but first-person and you only control one man. The game has jump maps. It has PvP humans vs. class-based zombies on CS maps. It has CS team deathmatch.
And, yes, it has good old Counter-Strike hostage and bombing modes without zombies or anything.
As far as I can tell, it’s a repackaging of the Counter-Strike: Online that’s been out in Korea for yonks. Technically, it’s a shambles. It uses a horrible menu system with a fixed resolution that may well muss up your Windows windows. There’s so much confusing junk in these menus. CS Zombies uses its own anti-cheat system, not Steam’s, and you may well see a Windows User Account Control popup asking permission for that every time you launch the game. Sometimes, for one reason or another, the game will launch, load, then ask you to relaunch it–prompting that UAC popup again. The microtransaction looks like a huge load of guff, though I certainly had a fair bit of fun without feeling pressured to pay. Selling ability boosts for certain PvP modes is gross, but there you go. You do slowly earn its microtransaction cash by playing, at least.
Look, it’s a big old mess in many ways. These modes do feel like mods wedged into a game not made to support them. They are explained poorly. They can be buggy and some are simply bad. However, this whole package is such a weird thing I’ve hugely enjoyed poking at it. If you like CS, ignore the terrible menus, the daft anti-cheat, the microtransactions, and all that stuff about missions and rewards. Hop into the server browser and play a few maps and modes at random. It feels like blindly installing and playing mods from another world. What even is this?