There is an alternate universe of games. There’s a StarCraft FPS and there’s a Halo RTS on the PC, and vying for five dimensional shelf space in that universe is a version of Counter-Strike that has attack dogs, rappels, and highway chases. I wanted to know more about that other-worldy CS, so hopped into my traversinator and yanked the game to our universe: Counter-Strike, meet your brother from another motherverse: Tactical Intervention.
It has a deeper connection to Counter-Strike than you’d imagine: it’s been developed by Minh Le, co-creator of Valve’s venerable series. He’s building hisversion of of the game that built Steam: a terrorists versus counter-terrorists shoot-out. Valve aren’t even miffed at his work: it’s being built on the Source engine. It’s even stepping on another toe they’ve dipped in the water: it’s free-to-play.
So it has a lot of what you’d expect: gun choice, hostages, small arenas with obsessively thought out angles. It’s not just Counter-Strike with a funny walk (although some of the current animation is hilariously awful), though: loadouts, while piling on shotguns and rifles, also include NPC attack dogs: awkwardly animated pets that you buy and use to draw attention from your character. Note: if I’m alone with you in a corridor, I’m launching that Pedigree Chum powered missile to watch you panic as it chomps its way towards you. He’s also useful back-up if you’re a camper: he can guard a door, or anywhere you’re unable to keep tabs on, and leave you with one less opening to worry over, or he can be used as flanking friend, running ahead of you into a deadly situation, as you take a route around.
Another tweak: the terrorists have a lot more interaction with the hostages. In CS you’re there to stop the CTs from taking the NPCs to their base, but you just hold back and react when they finally assault. TI’s take means you can grab the dummies, move them from position to position, keeping them in certain zones for a specified amount of time. It takes that basic template and enlivens it, as you bash the herded AIs around with your rifle butt, watching for the eventual ambush. When it happens, and when your team dwindles against the rappelling, dog-toting CTs, you take the hostages as inhuman shields.
Even with the newest Counter-Strike’s updated locations, there’s still a familiar feel to the spaces: Office is Office, Dust is Dust. The world of CS is ever-updating, but static: you know roughly where you’ll die in each map, what the deadliest corridors are. Tactical intervention has one map, a highweay chase, that’s the antithesis of that: the CT’s are driving a VIP along a highway, in control of the car, while the Terrorists run interference. It’s chaos. There’s no knowledge of the map that’ll help because you could crash your car anywhere along the two-minute drive. The fights happen around an ever-increaasing scrapyard of dead cars, burning from RPG fire, while ducking out of view of the watchful helicopter that spins overhead.
It’s Counter-Strike, but updated. Really added to, rather than the incremental tweaks that Valve have had to apply over the years. You can see why CS has stayed as static as it has: the basic formula still grabs, and it’s the game that the community obsess over. Touching it has massive implications for thousands of players, both profession and amateur, and even makes a developer as well-thought of as Valve nervous. Which makes Tactical Intervention all the more appealing: a fresh start from the originator of the biggest, most-played online shooter? I’m excited.