...that doesn't feel quite right.
I've applauded the creators of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for their willingness to do what Valve seemed to be scared of doing years ago. By that I mean that they've actually added to the Counter-Strike formula with the addition of some new modes as part of the new Arsenal game type. Encompassing both Arms Race and Demolition, Arsenal has a little variety compared to what we’re used to. Despite me pining for variety in Counter-Strike, there are a couple of things which leads to disappointment toward the modes. Put simply, Arsenal needs a little work before it can flourish.
A huge factor in Arms Race’s dwindling amusement is the map design. When people used to play Gun Game in Counter-Strike: Source, there were maps designed for Gun Game specifically created by the community. I found myself troubled by some of the layouts, despite their specificity toward the game mode. A lot of the maps were heavily reliant on insanely tight corridors and other architecture that forced close combat. Need I remind you that Counter-Strike includes sniper rifles, and that the majority of the arsenal fares well at close range?
CS:GO's maps for Arms Race have a similar issue with the added problem of the maps being one hundred percent symmetrical. This leads to various issues, but let’s first take a look at what I believe to be one of the strongest offenders: a map called Shoots.
It is glaringly obvious that Shoots suffers from barely any long range engagement areas. The closest area they have to accommodate this sort of combat is at the very top and bottom of the map on a raised area in each spawn point, and an elevated area in the middle. Be that as it may, the majority of this maps action takes place in the middle due to the symmetry of the map. Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists are bound to run toward each other and, well, meet in the middle. The middle elevated platforms have areas you can run through beneath the actual elevation itself. Considering these lead straight to the action-packed middle, almost all combat is filtered through this middle portion. Whether you go via the left, right, through the middle or down from above you will always end up either dying or killing another player in that center zone.
So...where does that leave snipers? It leaves them to resort to sloppy quick-scoping and lucky no-scopes, or a kill on someone who is just plain ignorant. On pen and paper, it may seem like a good idea to have both teams meet in the middle for fast-paced action - but this isn’t Quake or some other arena first-person shooter. It leads to people running in with whatever they’ve got with their fingers crossed, desperately pulling the trigger only pausing to reload. All of the combat is focused in one specific way - fast, in your face action. This is a problem with all of the Arms Race maps. Why?
If you’re a Counter-Strike player (or have played any modern first-person shooter, for that matter), just look back on the maps you’ve been playing regularly. They’re probably considered viable for competitive play; and in Counter-Strike’s case, maps like Dust2, Nuke, and Train. None of these maps have areas that are all the same to the point of the same weapon types having dominion over the battlefield. There will be a location on the map that is better suited to be defended by snipers, there will be a middle ground where assault rifles and higher-end submachine guns are used, and there will be an area that is easier to take control of in the early game using sidearms and grenades. There isn’t one map that is all long-range, or all close-range and, in the case of Counter-Strike, this is definitely by design. Take that away and the balance of the game’s arsenal just slips away.
Above, I have highlighted what are typically considered as the four key areas of Dust2. Already, you should be able to spot some key differences to the areas and maybe even what weapons would be best suited in particular spots. With Dust2, there are actually quite a few spots where snipers can control the map, specifically Long A and Middle in this case, but there are also areas like B Tunnels and Short A that perfectly match those close range weapons. What’s beautiful about the design of this particular map is the ability for players to move quickly between one area and the next. For example, a Counter-Terrorist may be sniping up middle, but if a Terrorist were to come through either tunnels to the right or through an empty Bombsite B (top left), he could easily take out the sniper by removing his long range advantage. The are similar scenarios that can be accounted for across this entire map - and Arms Race maps should be designed with a similar philosophy in mind.
What Arms Race needs isn’t symmetry, or even fixed spawn points (though with a strong map layout, fixed spawns won’t become an issue). Arms Race maps need diversity that the player can choose from. Considering you start out with submachine guns in Global Offensive’s Arms Race, most players would either run for some sort of middle ground and if not, certainly a close range focused area. Tight corridors, small rooms, and objects like crates to briefly take cover behind - that sort of thing. Players should be able to get around to those areas via another path, if they should choose to. It would be a risk versus reward scenario, with submachine gun wielding players crossing into sniper lane territory with the hope that they can flank their opponents.
|The creator of Sugarcane needs to know a little something about clutter. I see what they were going for, but there's just too much...stuff.|
Once you’ve hit assault rifles, you should be able to choose where to go from there as more viable options will be available to you. Arms Race should reward the right choices instead of rewarding people running in like lunatics spraying, hoping to get awarded with their next weapon. It should also reward risky choices, like moving to a more long range focused area when you only have a budget assault rifle just so you can get the jump on someone elsewhere. At this point, you may wonder why they don’t just let people play Arms Race on the default maps if they so wish - and honestly, why don’t they? I always found it much more fun that way, anyway.
|Baggage. Symmetrical yet chaotic, and not in a particularly fun way either.|
But enough of Arms Race - what’s up with Arsenal’s Demolition mode? Though the CS:GO maps aren’t doing anything particularly amazing (and no, I won’t be attacking them as well), I find myself really enjoying Demolition except for a certain key design decision for the mode. Whereas in Arms Race your arsenal gets progressively better (until you hit pistols at the end, that is), Demolition starts you off with an M4 or AK first. That’s swell. Except players that join mid-game start on assault rifles like the beginning of the match. This creates a terrible scenario, with fresh players completing turning the tide of the match because the winning team are down to pistols like the Five-Seven and Glock.
|Arsenal Demolition has a short version of Train called...well, Short Train. If you're into that idea, it may be the map for you.|
A much lesser criticism than with Arms Race, yes, but a game breaking one nonetheless. But this, of course, is based on my experience with the mode - what about you, readers? Do you think the modes are fine as they are and if not, what would you do to change them? Until next time, you GO-getters!