CounterStrike (2000- now) is a multiplayer FPS (first person shooter) where players are divided into teams and work together to achieve certain tasks in a counter-terrorist/terrorist environment. At your disposal are a number of weapons, such as rifles, submachine guns, pistols, and other weapons of modern warfare, to assist you in your missions. I have played several incarnations of CounterStrike, starting in 2003 with CounterStrike version 1.5, CounterStrike version 1.6 (September 2003), and ending with its current form, CounterStrike Source (2004). I bought the game with Half Life 2 (2004) for $54.99 from Circuit City when it first came out, but you can find the game for much cheaper now ($30.00 or less).CounterStrike Source is so named because it is rendered graphically with the Source engine, which contains more advanced and realistic graphics never before seen in other CounterStrike versions. A physics system, named Havok, has also been implemented.
I generally play Source now for several reasons. I like the upgrade in the visual department, which exploits the use of HDR, or high dynamic range lighting, among other things. The physics system adds a slightly new dimension to the mechanics of the game. For example, throwing a grenade has become a more complex task than in earlier versions of CS. Because of the physics integrated in the game, lobbing an explosive can be done in many ways, such as bouncing them off the wall to hit an opponent waiting behind a corner; a person also has to be careful not to accidentally throw a grenade at themselves.
The gameplay of previous versions is still intact though. Two teams are divided into terrorists and counter-terrorists with each faction having their own objectives for a map. Maps are divided into several types, ranging from escort missions (where terrorists must assassinate a VIP the counter-terrorists are protecting) to bomb planting/defusal by respective teams. While these may sound like simple tasks, the unpredictability of your human opponents and their tactics diminishes the chances of repetitiveness. Custom maps, made by members of the gaming community, add more replayability to the game and ensures no shortage of content.
There are some potential drawbacks to the game. CounterStrike is exclusively a multiplayer game; if you prefer to play alone or do not have a substantial Internet connection, this game may not be for you. Its emphasis on multiplayer also means that there is virtually no storyline, main characters or anything related to a narrative, so do not expect an engrossing background with the game.
One of the biggest problems with multiplayer games is that there is always the possibility of hackers, or players who cheat by using illegal software in-game to gain an unfair advantage. Fortunately, I play on a server where an admin, or adminstrator, is responsible for removing hackers from play; not all servers are run with the same standards of conduct, so I would advise that you find an equally well-managed one as well if you want to avoid cheaters. In addition, you will encounter various types of people while playing. Some are of decent character and play with sportsmanship, while others thrive on the anonymity of the internet to harass players that are on or off of their team. Again, it is a matter of finding the right server to play on; it may take some time to search for one you prefer.
CounterStrike Source also requires authentication with Steam, a digital platform used to distribute and register games over the Internet. Some people view Steam as an intrusive program that is installed on your computer, but I do not currently define Steam as a negative aspect from my experience; research the pros and cons of Steam and decide for yourself if you want it on your computer before buying CounterStrike.
On a side note, CounterStrike Source has an ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating of M for Mature. The game depicts deaths, explosions, and blood, and it is not a game tailored for children.
I have been playing CounterStrike for more than 6 years, although I do not play as consistently as I did when I was first introduced to it. Still, playing it is always amusing, especially when friends are involved. The learning curve is not that steep compared to others of its kind, and there are plenty of novices populating servers, although you will find just as many experts to learn from and be defeated by. I would recommend this to people who are beginners with multiplayer shooters but are also looking for a game that can be challenging. It can be an engaging and fun experience, depending on where and who you play with.
Update On Jul 18, 2010: A major update for Counterstrike Source was released on June 23, 2010 including new achievements and small changes to the graphics engine.
The update has had mixed reviews in the Steam forums. Although I do not mind the alterations, I have experienced some minor problems concerning slowdown during headshots (an occurrence where I or another person is shot in the head) and other slight performance problems. Patches have been occasionally released to address issues as they appear.