Have You Played… Counter-Strike?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Not Global Offensive. Not Source. I’m talking the original Counter-Strike. The Half-Life mod; the game that was more popular than its online competitors combined; the game that in many ways pioneered both games as services and games as playable alphas; the game that spawned two follow-ups but which even right now, as I’m writing this, has 20,211 concurrent players through Steam.

In the late ’90s it wasn’t unusual for popular online game modes to come from community work, but Counter-Strike grew larger and more quickly than anything that had gone before it. It’s remarkable when you look at the timeline now: beta 1 was released online on June 19th 1999, and Valve’s retail release followed November 9th 2000. That’s 18 months to go from “why do the character model’s arms not really connect to their torso?” to “This is one of the most popular games in the world.”

I was a big enough Half-Life fan to be trying every mod I could get my hands on when Counter-Strike started to gain in popularity, and I ran up enormous phone bills playing it – and downloading its patches – on a 56k modem. The classic maps and weapons remain popular now, but I also have a soft spot for those maps that were cut before the final retail release, such as John Attea’s cs_foption and cs_zoption, and the ever-imbalanced cs_mansion. Many of them represent routes not taken in the game’s development, perhaps most significantly in the knockaround vehicle fun of Jeepathon2k, which hinted at ideas that developer Minh Le would revisit years later with the messy, free-to-play Tactical Intervention.

Yet it’s testament to the weapons, maps and mechanics that the development process produced and settled on that its followups Source and CS:GO are as much remakes as they are sequels. Counter-Strike may outlive us all.

47 Comments

  1. Kemuel says:

    Do people still player Nipper maps? I get itches for crazytank and the huuhhhhhhh series every so often, but have never gone hunting for a fix.

    • bjohndooh says:

      People do, but rarely I think.
      Recently he’s been into CSGO, I’ve played a few of his maps, and even run into him.
      Most of them are more standard fare because there’s no func_vehicle.

  2. GallonOfAlan says:

    I have. Never got into it, or any later incarnation of CS. Don’t have the time required.

  3. Freud says:

    I actually haven’t played it, but I can see why it’s attractive to people. Short matches with lots of action.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Qazinsky says:

    I played a few versions of CS back then, but I prefered other Half-Life mods, Action HL, Firearms, The Specialists, Wasteland HL and I feel a bit sad that these disappeared in Counterstrikes shadow. Jeepathon2k and that big house (cs_mansion?) was great fun though.

    • Kemuel says:

      I loved Firearms so much! It was such a mad grab bag of ideas- classless weapon loadouts, character perks and customisation, location-specific injuries.. everyone new to the game struggled to tell the two sides apart at first because both used realistic camo. Definitely up there with Science and Industry and The Specialists in my mind as the highlights of Half Life’s mad golden age.

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        Aerothorn says:

        Science and Industry! Oh man, I totally forgot about that. So amazing.

        I wonder if future gamers will ever experience such a cornocopia of multiplayer mods? These days it seems like just the retail multiplayer games struggle to find players – this 20-games-in-one permutation seems unlikely to repeat.

    • FriendGaru says:

      I loved Action HL and The Specialists. Diving around, crashing through windows, desperately scavenging for equipment when you run out of ammo at the wrong time. I’m sad that there haven’t really been any worthy successors.

      • BathroomCitizen says:

        Action Half-Life is still fun today, if you can find some people on the servers.

        Also, let’s remember that the first version of Pirates, Vikings and Knights spawned from Half-Life 1; Sven Coop, Vampire Slayers, Scientist Hunt, oh my.

        • BigEyeGuy says:

          And Fire Arms, Wasteland Half Life, The Opera, Front Line Force, the original Natural Selection, Box Wars.

          I still play Pirates Viking Knights, they keep updating too.

    • rodan32 says:

      Ah, good old Jeepathon2k. We used to do scouts-only on that map. Got ridiculous.

    • Asurmen says:

      I think it’s somewhat inaccurate to say they disappeared in CS’s shadow. They were niche but still popular. Then again, anything released on HL was popular.

      I miss those days, and the excitement to the release of Natural Selection.

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      Wisq says:

      Yeah, never did understand why Counter-Strike got so much love when the Half Life modding scene was so full of much better games. It was such a genesis period for fun takes on the shooter genre, and CS was just the (inexplicably popular) lowest common denominator.

    • apa says:

      CS wasn’t the thing for me, I liked AQ2 lot more. And I’d been mostly burned out of online FPSes by too much of the original TF already by then.

      • BathroomCitizen says:

        BTW, I can’t believe how good was Team Fortress Classic. Fast, good mechanics and physics (even though the players learned to use the medic and his concussion grenades a bit too well) made for a superb shooting experience.

        After playing some older shooters like Quake 1 or Half-Life, playing Team Fortress 2 makes me feel like stiff and stilted, even while using the Scout class.

  5. Isometric says:

    Ooh yes I have fond memories of cs_mansion. Fy ice world was a laugh too. I remember there being a star wars hoth themed map with a working bunker door. Good times with friends.

  6. Synesthesia says:

    yes. Yes! So many hours playing hooky and going do the local cyber, and spend the entire afternoon there. I got pretty good too, got kicked of a few places because they thought I was cheating.

  7. baozi says:

    I used to play a bit socially back in the day but was always more of a UT fan. Then a few years ago I was introduced to gungame servers and have been playing on those since. Of course, other than the weapon handling, it’s no longer CS, but it’s loads of fun, and can give you a giddy rush at the end of a match when you’re on nade or knife level and close to winning.

    As only a very casual player I thought CS:S was quite alright – basically CS with nicer graphics and some weapons and perhaps movement changes that I wasn’t good enough to notice and that I had no emotional investment in – but my friends didn’t want to play it, and CS:GO felt like a console game, with an HUD that was way too big and all your choices stripped away. It was quite buggy in the beginning, too. So we didn’t play it for long and moved back to 1.6 before all these new things like skins came along.

    But I do have to say that those scripted practice maps like training_aim_csgo2 etc. are pretty cool.

  8. DrollRemark says:

    Counter-Strike arrived right at the perfect moment of me being a teenager with a new, shiny computer to run it on.

    The Half-Life mod scene really was something else. Like many other people at the time, so much fun was had in just trying all the wacky shit out. I would get magazine cover discs full of them, or links to random sites hosting zip files. CS was just one of many. I remember spending an entire evening downloading beta 5.2, only for beta 6.0 to appear two days later.

    I loved the slightly less popular, unbalanced maps. Oilrig, 747, arabstreets. Yes, yes, yes. All of these in CS:GO please.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      I loved oilrig too. That one vent that allowed T to rush the spawn and come up from behind… priceless.

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      Al__S says:

      yeah, I used to love the odder maps.

      And there were the “rats” maps- entire servers of comically oversized furniture and mousetraps. Great fun, though prone to having massive sniper death zones.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Indeed I was playing a lot of CS off and on from 99-04 or so. There was a really good server in Chicago called Chi-Mayhem. Maybe around beta 6? Its so long ago its hard to remember. Played that so much. prodigy, mansion, tons of fun.

      • duns4t says:

        Yeah, I played dozens (hundreds?) of hours on Chi-Mayhem, especially the summer of 2000. My name here is a shout-out to my old handle and clan…

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Oilrig!

  9. Cinek says:

    Aaye, I did. Back then… back before CS:S even existed, not to mention CS:TF2GO.

    Really had some great time with this game. One of the finest online shooters ever made.

  10. rodan32 says:

    Yes. Used to just rotate Inferno and Dust2 over and over. Sometimes throwing in Office, why not? I had this fetish for the mac-10; I was best with the AK, but I could get in a rhythm with the mac-10 and just spray you with it at close range after some devious move got me behind you. That set me up nicely for the backburner in TF2 =).

  11. deiseach says:

    Impossible to take Counter-Strike seriously because lol ur gay fag – link to screencuisine.net.

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    Bluerps says:

    I played this with friends, fifteen years ago, when we all carried our PCs to an available living room and did a LAN-Party. We played other stuff too, but Counter Strike was always there.

    We stopped doing LAN-Parties when we all finished school and I haven’t really played it since then.

  13. ansionnach says:

    Played this a lot. Didn’t really like Half-Life but loved Counter-Strike. Wasn’t that great at it, mind, but it was still great fun. Not as much as running around in Quake 3 killing everyone with only the gauntlet, but I may have played this one more, nonetheless.

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      Qazinsky says:

      With you there, I only bought Half-Life for the mods, I found vanilla too bland.

  14. caff says:

    With my trusty Diamond SupraMax 56k modem, I owned a few noobs back in the day.

  15. three60mafia says:

    I remember playing/seeing this for the first time in a LAN cafe in Ukraine, early 2000-2001. The games played at the cafe were mostly Quake 3, HL1 Deathmatch (crossfire-best map!) and a lot of Ultima as well as HL1 mod called Team Fortress.

    Then one day, someone told me that there’s a new HalfLife mod called CS.

    I remember starting to play it and it was crazy competitive and also really fun.

    I remember when people didn’t call the guns by their actual titles, but rather by the Quick Buy Key Presses. So the Colt would be B-4-2, followed by O-2 for armor, and O-4 for nade.

    I also remember when the Colt used to have the Zoom function as a right click function instead of silencer.

    • DrollRemark says:

      I still can’t get the hang of the fact that CS:GO has the buy menu set up differently :( My 1.6 buying is hard-wired into my brain.

      • goods says:

        Omg yeah that happens to me to, makes it incredibly hard to buy shit. I also can’t seem to figure out why I always have a defuse kit and where the armor is.

  16. three60mafia says:

    CS_Militia and CS_Assault were like the top maps for first few years.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Great maps, though I personally got sick of assault.

  17. vlonk says:

    My my CS. Good memories of Beta 3.0 and onwards. Found friends online and started a competitive clan. We had a good run, tournament wins even. Then school became serious and we all made the right choice to ditch the “e-” in sports.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Yeah, tried it out when it came with the Orange Box. Only game I can remember where having a book on hand was basically mandatory.

  19. kwyjibo says:

    It was de_foption, not cs_foption. It was awful and enormous and had 3 bomb sites.

  20. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    Never played it but the sounds will be etched into my brain forever. My brother played it around the clock for years in the room next to mine…
    It was probably a really good game because he always got a new keyboard and mouse to keep howling and smashing like a pubescent caveman. Until the tower under his desk decided it had enough of the kicking and (thank gods) he couldn’t afford a new computer.

  21. sharkh20 says:

    The first and best entry of the series.

  22. Bweahns says:

    I only recently got back into CS with CS:GO. I played a lot of CS back in the day as well but devoted most of my time to Quake2. I played CS Source for some time but after awhile the only maps that would get played were dust2 and office which I was utterly sick of. With CS:go you only play dust2 every second round. I dislike casual mode but in turn people take competitive mode way too seriously. I just want to play casual mode but you have to buy armour and defusers. I would be happy playing that all day.

    • Untruth says:

      This is definitely the strangest thing about the arc of Counterstrike. There were a good few later years where it got homogenised to about 2 maps which killed it for me as I loved the map roulette where you’d suddenly get cs_assault or desperately waited for cs_militia!

      These days CS:GO has brought back that map roulette, with more and more maps, which is nice to see… but now I TOTALLY suck and I have no chance of even understanding how to play anymore!

  23. tonicer says:

    CS 1.6 and to some extend CS:S is where it’s at. CS:GO sucks it feels even more arcady than CS:S.

  24. goods says:

    CS 1.6 is literally responsible for the career path I chose to follow into my adult life. I used to mod the shit out of it, run my own dedicated servers (with all sorts of fun stuff, and some just straight competitive ones), make maps regularly (speaking of which, 747 was one of the best maps ever, and I am depressed that there has been no reincarnation of it, at least none that I know of). I became interesting in modding because of valves hammer editor, and became interested in programming (my career field) when I was a bit older and the half life 2 sdk was released, and I started to learn to make full HL2 mods by following the RPG tutorial and tweaking it to move much slower (i think tutorial was faster) and use a chicken model instead of the grenade. I also played cal O, IM, and then one season of M in 1.6 but could never get farther than that, though one of my friends older brother was a really well known cal I player who played for ZEX, which I always thought was pretty sweet even tho I only met him once or twice.