Modern Warfare and Battlefield 3 may be near-constantly forced into the colossal, cyclopean public eye these days, but make no mistake: Counter-Strike is still huge. Competitive gamers, especially, perform the eternal dance between terrorists and counter-terrorists with the lithe grace of swans. Swans with guns. And bombs. With CS:S recently reaching the ripe old age of seven, though, it's even getting a bit creaky in Valve Time. Enter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It's new and different – but, er, not. In a good way!
You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you just know something's about to go horribly wrong? Like when someone says “This can't possibly go wrong!” or “Let's buy iPhones”? Well, that's how we felt when EA and Valve started taking their toothbrushes back from each others' houses. Obviously, Battlefield 3 wasn't going to benefit from the divorce. And so, predictably – but no less regrettably – here we are.
There are several different ways to increase your net worth by seven figures. You could rob a bank, though that comes with a huge downside. If you have a killer jump shot, the NBA pays obscene amounts of money to its players, only the league is currently in a lockout. You could toil away for the man, only there's not much of a fun factor there. Yet another way is to participate in, and conquer Valve's newly announced "The International" tournament, and that's exactly what 16 teams will do.
Gamers love oppositions. PC versus console. Mario vs Sonic. Dude from Modern Warfare 3 vs Other Guy from Battlefield 3. And so on. So when gamers spotted EA lumbering toward the digital arena and even throwing around some fightin' words, they assumed things were about to get ugly. Bets were placed, dukes were put up, and... nope. According to EA's David DeMartini, it's all just a big misunderstanding. We're still keeping your bet money, though.
Portal was something different. It was compact, flawlessly designed, witty, and unexpected. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on it. Sure, it was a puzzle game, but in the process of ushering you gently through the puzzles it gradually transformed into a wickedly funny piece of sci-fi storytelling. The genius was in the thrill of this discovery, as a puzzle game flowered into something amazing and unpredictable.
Sounds like EA's pretty serious about this whole “having its own digital platform” thing. How serious? Well, that's a silly question; didn't you read the headline? Oh, fine: it wants to take the crown for “worldwide leader in digital publishing.” Care to hazard a guess who's wearing that particular piece of royal bling right now? Let's just put it this way: it rhymes with... xalve?
First, a quick recap: A couple weeks ago, EA announced its brand new PC gaming download service, Origin. The publisher then took Origin to E3 and promoted it until our dreams began telling us to “download the rest of your innermost desires on Origin!” Days later, Crysis 2 went into invisibility mode and crept away from Steam's hallowed halls – permanently. Hell of way for EA to declare war, huh? Well, it would have been – you know, if EA had actually done anything.
Steam's penchant for spit-take-worthy sales is well-documented, but in the past, we've at least been given time between bouts of purchase lust to re-amass our fortunes so we can once again blow them on a million games we'll never get around to playing. Now, however, Valve's elected to add daily deals to the mix, ensuring that we'll perish poor, alone, and in possession of every game ever conceived. Oh well. Could be worse.
Let’s get one thing straight right away: Portal 2 is not Portal 1. Don’t get us wrong: Portal 2 is still completely brilliant—just in entirely different ways. If Portal 1 was an incredibly witty one-liner, then Portal 2 is a whole night of stand-up. That is to say, it’s still smart, subversive, and riotously funny, but it does manage to drag in a couple areas—if only briefly.
Valve's generally incredible at keeping secrets (we think they may actually be removing knowledge of Half-Life from our brains at this point), but we thought we had Portal 2's main feature set pretty well figured out. Single-player, co-op, custom levels. Yep, that about covers it. Turns out, we were wrong. There's more. In this case, though, it's not necessarily a pleasant surprise.