Condition Zero is a woefully uneven package that’s hard to recommend to most people.
How do you make Counter-Strike a single-player experience? That’s the difficult job developer Turtle Rock Studios had when they got the rights to work on Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, a spin-off that features a handful of unconnected missions with different goals. Although the game’s main draw is playing a series of missions where you need to fulfill specific objectives, the game also features a campaign called Deleted Scenes and a traditional multiplayer portion. The result of such a unique combination is a bizarre game that you’ll either love or hate.
Let’s start by describing the core campaign. In Condition Zero, you play a series of unrelated missions where you complete different challenges with the help of bots. As you progress through the “Tour of Duty” (this is the fancy name for the different tiers of levels,) you spend points on bots and as you clear levels, you receive more points. So to assemble your team, you choose from different bots, each with his weapons and equipment. Bots also have statistics associated with them and these are divided into skill, co-op and bravery, so this helps you choose the best bots available at any given point.
Once you’ve assembled your team, you complete challenges such as kill two enemies with a pistol, win a round in less than a minute, rescue all hostages, be ahead of the opposing team by two rounds and so on. These objectives add a level of depth and strategy to the Counter-Strike experience. It’s worth pointing out that you assume the role of a commanding member of the Counter-Terrorist team (you can’t play as a terrorist in any of the single-player campaigns) and as such, you can give orders to the bots. So you can make them camp in a specific part of the map, you can tell them to follow you, call for help, ask for reinforcements and so on.
Condition Zero has some strengths. For starters, the spin-off is an accessible version of Counter-Strike, so if you’ve never played the team-based shooter before, you can play this game and feel like you’re learning some of the basics. Another advantage is that if you play with bots, there’s no toxic behavior, so this immediately eradicates one of the most serious problems with Counter-Strike. But there’s more, there’s a wide range of difficulty modes, there’s a variety of maps to play in and more importantly, some of the classic maps have been updated, the challenges are varied and the game forces you to use weapons you wouldn’t have chosen otherwise.
But for all its strengths, there are some problems. This isn’t a true Counter-Strike experience, so while defeating bots in challenge-based levels is entertaining, you’re not exactly learning how to play against human players. For whatever reason, you can’t play as a terrorist, so you can’t practice setting up the bomb or protecting the VIPs from the Counter-Terrorists. Also, bots behave erratically and even if you practice for hours, they’ll never feel like human players. I also ran into some obnoxious bugs that hurt my experience. There were instances where I threw grenades, but they didn’t explode or times when the game said I rescued all hostages, but they weren’t following me. But there’s more. On harder difficulties, completing some of the challenges is almost impossible, since the AI-controlled teammates behave like idiots and on top of that, your enemies always know your location. Naturally, this makes missions extremely frustrating and it’s only a matter of time before you give up trying to finish all of them. Or maybe you’ll move on to the Deleted Scenes campaign, which unfortunately, is the worst part of the game.
In Deleted Scenes, you play a series of missions that are completely unrelated to each other. In the first mission, for instance, you find yourself in the middle of a battlefield and you need to shoot anything that moves with the exception of your teammates. These missions are boring, simplistic (they feel like a shooting gallery and the enemies rarely react to your presence,) I ran into constant performance issues while playing them and there are some missions that can be considered stereotypical and offensive (you liberate a Latin American country from a dictator, for instance.) What makes this campaign so lackluster is that it incorporates elements that you don’t associate with the Counter-Strike series, including infiltration missions, new weapons (taser, flamethrower) ammunition and health packs and the fact that you’re almost invincible. Additionally, the Deleted Scenes content seemed antiquated back when Condition Zero came out and by today’s standards everything about the campaign seems laughably bad.
Finally, playing online is harsh and time-consuming. Although there are hundreds of servers to choose from, not only are most of them empty, but also I couldn’t find a single server with low ping, since none of them were physically close to me. An alternative is playing locally with friends or creating a server to play with them, but that would take too much time for a game that’s not worth the hassle.
Counter-Strike: Condition Zero features a handful of promising ideas that didn’t pan out. If you want to learn how to play the game, there are newer and better options, such as Counter-Strike: Source or Global Offensive. In the end, Condition Zero is a woefully uneven package that’s hard to recommend to most people.