“The epitome of an addictive multiplayer game.”
Counter-Strike Xbox Edition (CSX) is a first-person shooter video game derived mostly from Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. The game was released on November 18, 2003 in North America and on December 5, 2003 in Europe utilizing the GoldSrc (Half-Life) engine by Valve Software. It is the first installment of the series released on consoles.
The game (originally before the April 2010 shutdown) featured multiplayer (via Xbox Live or System Link), single-player, and training modes with a variety of both bomb defusal and hostage maps. Unlike Condition Zero, CSX does not have a Tour of Duty mode with various tasks that need to be accomplished. Instead, the single-player mode integrates the Counter-Strike bot, providing a multiplayer-like single player experience. This is in fact the first title in the series with the bot officially integrated.
It is not known when exactly development on the Xbox version of Counter-Strike was started, but the game was originally developed jointly by Gearbox Software and Valve Software. Xbox was chosen as the platform due to its potential in online gaming. At this point, the game was to be based on the version of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero that was being developed by Gearbox Software and was to feature the single-player and multiplayer skirmish modes.
The game was announced in May 2002 at E3 and was slated to be released in 2003. Shortly after the event, Gabe Newell stated that they were pretty far "in terms of getting the game up and running", but that Gearbox and Valve were struggling with figuring out how to utilize the Xbox hardware to its full potential. It is likely that Gearbox Software withdrew from the development of the game in July 2002, at the same time as they ceased development on Condition Zero. No media or screenshots of this version of the game were ever released.
As Gearbox Software was no longer working on the title, Valve Software set out to look for a new developer to take over development in summer 2002. Ritual Entertainment had lost a major project in early August 2002 as Electronic Arts had decided to cancel a game they were working on. Thus, Ritual entertainment was eagerly looking for a new project or projects to work on. After negotiations between Valve and Ritual, a deal was struck whereby further development of the Xbox version of Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Condition Zero would be overtaken by Ritual Entertainment.
Ritual Entertainment likely started development on the Xbox version of the game from scratch. Originally, the design of the game featured the single player campaign from their version of Condition Zero and multiplayer via Xbox Live and System Link. However, to give players further incentive to purchase the Xbox version of the game it was to feature exclusive content. There were going to be two exclusive single-player missions plus a bonus space station mission (for a total of 23 missions) and two exclusive weapons (the machete and syringe gun). For multiplayer, there were going to be five exclusive maps. Maps would be edited to be somewhat more horizontal to compensate for the loss of accuracy with the Xbox controller. Notably, bots were not going to be featured in the port at this point, meaning that multiplayer-like skirmish games would not have been possible. The Xbox version as developed by Ritual Entertainment was originally unveiled in the May 2003 issue of Game Informer.
The game would be showcased at E3 2003 at a total of eight stations in Microsoft's booth. Only the multiplayer component was showcased, allowing attendees to play four-on-four rounds against other attendees or employees of Ritual Entertainment. The showcased version of the game featured only two maps, preliminary versions of Vostok and Dust.
There was a relatively small team working on the Xbox port at Ritual Entertainment up until June 2003 and it is likely that the content shown at E3 was most of what had been completed by that time. Media releases promoting the Xbox version of the game were in fact screenshots from Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, further supporting the theory that work on the single-player mode had barely been started.
However, in June 2003 the whole crew at Ritual Entertainment switched over to working on the game after finishing their work on Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. At around this time, Valve Software conducted internal playtesting of the single-player portion of Condition Zero and came to the conclusion that the gameplay had some serious flaws. This was likely the reason why the single-player design of the Xbox version was completely overhauled and the mission-based linear experience was dropped in favor of a more traditional skirmish type single player experience against the bots developed by Turtle Rock Studios.
Ritual Entertainment had a very short time frame to finish most of the needed work as the game had to be finished by late August/early September to give sufficient time for Microsoft to test and certify the game. On November 5, 2003 the game was declared gold and it was released on November 18, 2003 in North America and December 6, 2003 in Europe.
On December 16, 2003, Inferno and Office were released as free downloadable content via Xbox Live. Due to impressive sales figures, the game was also re-released on several occasions, including via the Platinum Hits series. In August 2006, the game was also added to the list of backward compatible games for the Xbox 360.
Counter-Strike on the Xbox features a single-player and a multiplayer game mode. Unlike many other console games at the time, Counter-Strike on the Xbox does not feature a split-screen multiplayer mode.
The single-player mode in the Xbox version of Counter-Strike is simply a traditional multiplayer-like game but against bots. Players can customize the difficulty and amount of bots present in the game. Additionally, it is possible to restrict the weapons which bots are allowed to use. A maximum of 11 bots are allowed in a single-player game.
In addition to the traditional single-player mode, Counter-Strike on the Xbox offers a training mode which consists of two separate maps: a hostage rescue training map and a bomb defusal training (officially demolitions training) map.
The primary means of playing Counter-Strike online used to be via Xbox Live. One could start a game via quick match, where the game automatically searched for any server with a game in progress, or one could use the OptiMatch option which allowed the player to specify options which included player count, map and player types (human or bot) for the server search. Xbox Live also featured a leaderboard where players could check their standing versus other players around the globe. Microsoft discontinued support for Xbox Live on the original Xbox on April 15, 2010, thus it is no longer possible to play the game online.
Multiplayer is also possible via System Link, which entails physically connecting Xbox consoles to each other via cables. By utilizing system link, it is possible to interconnect up to 16 Xbox consoles.
Regardless of the multiplayer method chosen, it is possible to host dedicated or regular servers. Hosting a dedicated server allows up to 16 players to join the game, but the hosting console will be unable to play. If hosting a regular server, the hosting console will also be able to join the game but the amount of players is limited to 10.
Split-screen multiplayer was prominently featured in console games at the time Counter-Strike was released on the Xbox. However, due to the way the GoldSrc engine is designed it would have been necessary to rewrite large parts of the engine to enable support for this feature. Due to the short time frame that the game had in development, this wasn't feasible.
Counter-Strike on the Xbox features the two most popular scenarios from the original Counter-Strike: hostage rescue and bomb defusal.
The hostage rescue scenario functions exactly like it does in the original Counter-Strike. Each map features four hostages that are being held by the Terrorists. Counter-Terrorists must attempt to rescue the hostages by approaching them and then leading them to the hostage rescue zone. Alternatively, the elimination of either team leads to the victory of the other team.
This game does not feature the updated hostage AI introduced in an update to Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, meaning that hostages are unable to climb ladders and will not attempt to escape on their own.
Exclusive to this release, the game features map specific hostage models. In Miami the hostages use the Blonde model, with Office hostages using the Businessman model. The models also have unique voice lines for each
The bomb defusal scenario is officially called demolition in the Xbox version of Counter-Strike, but it is exactly the same scenario as bomb defusal in the original Counter-Strike and has nothing in common with the demolition scenario in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Each map features two bombsites and one terrorist carrying a bomb. This bomb must be planted at either bombsite and it will explode after a certain amount of time, grating victory to the Terrorists. Counter-Terrorists may attempt to defuse the bomb and successful defusal will lead to victory for the Counter-Terrorists. Alternatively, the elimination of either team leads to the victory of the other team.
Bombsite decals in the Xbox version of Counter-Strike are not always red, but feature different colors depending on the map. For example, Chateau features brown bombsite decals and Aztec features orange bombsite decals. This is absent in Condition Zero
Counter-Strike on the Xbox features remakes of many classic Counter-Strike maps that were made by Ritual Entertainment utilizing higher quality (24- and 32-bit) textures. For some of the maps, Ritual didn't have access to the original source files and had to decompile the maps. The remakes feature quite minor changes to general geometry as some employees of Ritual Entertainment were against making big changes to the maps.
In addition to the remakes, the game also features several original maps that were originally exclusive to the Xbox version of the game when it was released. These original maps were designed by Ritual Entertainment during their development of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. Due to memory constraints on the Xbox, some maps were optimized by simplifying geometry to ensure that the maps would play smoothly on the console.
On December 16, 2003, Inferno and Office were released as free downloadable content (DLC), which was simply an unlock as the two maps were already present but hidden on the game disc (known as "Disc DLC"). The decision to make the DLC unlockable was made by the lead programmer at Ritual Entertainment, Joe Waters, because having the content already present on the disc meant that it wouldn't need to be separately certified by Microsoft. Waters summarized the experience of certifying the release build of the game via Microsoft as "a 72-hour non-sleeping stretch, which I never want to repeat on a project ever".
The game was designed to make it possible to release new maps that would've actually been downloaded to the console, but no such maps were ever released.
List of maps
Weapons and equipment
Counter-Strike on the Xbox features mostly the same arsenal of weapons and equipment as the original Counter-Strike. One notable difference is the absence of the Nightvision Goggles. Additionally, the Tactical Shield can only be used together with the ES Five-Seven.
Weapon models are mostly the same as the ones Ritual Entertainment created for Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (which would be released unmodified as part of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero Deleted Scenes). Minor differences do exist, such as the textures being of lower quality for performance reasons, some texture brightness adjustments, and different sound effects.
Factions and player models
A total of 12 factions are present in the Xbox version of Counter-Strike, six factions per side. Compared to the original Counter-Strike, the Xbox version introduces the Spetsnaz and NTO Militia factions which are also present in Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. In addition, the Xbox version has two exclusive factions in the form of the Kidotai Counter-Terrorist faction and the Akunin Terrorist faction.
This is also the first game in the series to introduce the concept of map specific factions. The decision to have just one player model per side for each map was made to save memory and to ease team recognition. Further uniqueness is bought to the player models by having mission specific outfits and head models for both Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists. There are a total of 37 unique player model combinations used in the game.
Music and sound effects
Counter-Strike on the Xbox supports Dolby Digital 5.1 sound output. The music and the new sound effects have been created by Zak Belica and were originally created for Counter-Strike: Condition Zero.
Only one music track is featured in the game which is played in the main menu. Sound effects in the game are mostly the same as the sound effects that are used in Counter-Strike: Condition Zero Deleted Scenes.
Interface and controls
As the Xbox version of Counter-Strike was the first appearance of the series on consoles, Ritual Entertainment were faced with the difficult challenge of transforming the very mouse and keyboard dependent traditional Counter-Strike interface to work seamlessly on a controller.
The main menu of the game has been completely redesigned and bears no resemblance to the main menu of the PC version of either Counter-Strike or Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. It uses a very traditional console type of interface where the pad is used to move between choices in menus and the menu itself consists of several sub-menus.
The briefing for maps is no longer given right before choosing ones team, but is instead given when the game is loading the map in the form of two separate screens (one for each side) which are shown sequentially. This briefing also gives a team-specific tip in addition to the mission objectives. Once the game has finished loading the map, the player may choose their side after which the player joins the game.
“We wanted to achieve the same fluency of input on the Xbox version, but without the need for an intrusive mass-binding of every button and button-like thing on the Xbox controller.”
Perhaps the most important piece was the buy menu which also had to be completely redesigned. Ritual Entertainment wanted to achieve the same level of fluency hotkeys allowed in the PC counterpart making it possible to purchase several items quickly using only muscle memory. This led to the concept of the pie-menu, which allowed players that were new to the game highlight an item and select it, while experienced players could hold down the selection button and use the analog stick to select multiple different directions in rapid succession allowing several items to be purchased quickly.
Translating the controls was one of the most difficult aspects for the team when working on the Xbox version of Counter-Strike. The decision was made to base the control scheme on the standard used by Halo to ensure that Xbox players would be comfortable with the controls. Slight auto-aim is also introduced to help with the loss of precision caused by the controller.
Counter-Strike on the Xbox utilizes the GoldSrc engine originally developed for Half-Life. As backwards compatibility was of no concern and consoles offer standardized hardware, Ritual Entertainment had more opportunities to improve the technology of the engine compared to when they were working on Counter-Strike: Condition Zero.
The game utilizes the bots developed by Michael Booth of Turtle Rock Studios. There are four different difficulties which can be chosen for the bots which are beginner, standard, professional and expert. Additionally, it is possible to restrict which weapons bots are allowed to use. While the single-player game is solely based on matches against bot players, it is also possible to use bots in multiplayer.
While Counter-Strike: Condition Zero was originally going to be the game that was meant to introduce this bot, numerous delayed meant that the Xbox version of the game actually became the first released installment in the series to integrate the bot into the game.
Detail textures were originally introduced to the GoldSrc engine via the Xbox version of Counter-Strike. These function by having a map specific text file which specifies textures that are blended on top of the actual textures used in the map, providing a simple and relatively inexpensive way of boosting the texture quality of maps. All maps included with the Xbox version of the game utilize detail textures.
Dynamic iris simulation
A major addition to the Xbox version of the game was the addition of dynamic iris simulation. This makes the brightness/gamma of the game behave much like a real eye, making it so that it takes a few seconds for brightness to increase after entering a dark area. A blur effect, high dynamic range filtering, is used to simulate the oversaturation of watching a bright area from a dark area. Due to the way the dynamic gamma/blur effect is implemented, screenshots taken of the game with official development kits are often darker than what the game looks like during actual game play.
The Xbox version of Counter-Strike uses several unique file formats that were introduced in order to optimize both game performance and loading times.
The game does not store game files in folders or the .wad format used by Steam GoldSrc games, and instead uses a custom .SXWAD container format. This format was developed specifically for the game to facilitate loading of map assets from the game DVD to decrease loading times of the game.
Textures in the game are no longer limited to an 8-bit palette (256 colors), but can use a bit-depth of up to 32-bit. The file format used is DXT1 (for regular textures) or DXT3 (if an alpha channel is needed). Models still include regular 8-bit bitmaps inside the model files themselves, but these textures are overridden by higher bit-depth textures located separately in the game container files.
Marketing and merchandise
Microsoft Game Studios released the first official trailer for the game just a day before the game would make its first major appearance to the gaming press at E3. This ended up being the only official trailer that was released to promote the game.
Closer to the release of the game, a marketing campaign for the game was launched by Microsoft Game Studios which at least included advertisements that were run in various gaming related magazines.
The official strategy guide for the game was published by Prima Games. It provides various tactics and tips for all maps that were included with the game when it was originally released. The guide also provides overviews for each map which is notable since the game itself doesn't feature any map overviews.
Counter-Strike on the Xbox has received an average score of 73-74, ranking it as mixed or average reception at Metacritic. Critics generally criticized the single-player experience of the game, with Greg Kasavin of GameSpot stating that the single-player mode is best suited for practicing before venturing online. Aaron Boulding of IGN stated that there's no point in owning the game without a subscription to Xbox Live as the game lacks presentation and there is no true single-player component in the game.
Reception for the bot AI was quite mixed, with Matthew Kato of Game Informer stating that they generally performed well with human-esque traits and that they understood the concept of sticking together. Kato criticized the fact that the same tactics could be used over and over to defeat the bots. Kasavin thought that the bots were generally quite incompetent about their primary mission objectives and concluded that the bots offered no replacement for actual human players.
Reviewers agreed that the part where the game really shines is its multiplayer component and Kasavin thought voice communication was a great feature for coordinating team efforts and that multiplayer functioned smoothly. Kato simply stated that "Counter-terroristing it up online is as hot as ever".
Level design was one part of the game that reviewers also generally liked with Boulding stating that the design was well suited for different potential tactics and that the choice of 18 different maps was a wealthy amount. Kasavin stated that the 7 new maps generally fit well in and were a welcome introduction as they provided some fresh content for Counter-Strike veterans.
Graphics were quite negatively received and Boulding thought they were the biggest disappointment in the title as the look was only barely upgraded from the original Counter-Strike. Boulding did think that the addition of the dynamic iris simulation was a nice touch that helped bridge the gap in graphics, but that the look generally fell short in other departments. Kasavin thought graphics were quite plain and simple and that the animations were nothing special. He also thought the game experienced some graphical glitches that further detracted from the experience.
Generally, the conclusion regarding the title was that unless one had access to Xbox Live, the title should be passed on. Boulding of IGN stated that "An Xbox Live subscription might as well be built into the cost of Counter Strike, because if you're not a subscriber you have no business bothering with this game".
Despite its somewhat mixed reception, the game exceeded initial sales estimates by Microsoft by a large margin. Due to its impressive sales figures, the game would later be re-released as part of the Platinum Hits/Xbox Classics line. The game was also released as part of the Best of Platinum Hits/Best of Classics series in 2006. As of 2008, the game had sold around 1.5 million retail copies.
A few Easter eggs were included in the game by the developers. The Easter eggs listed below can be activated by changing ones profile name to what is listed before the dash in bold.
- !!UNDONE!! - This causes most of the text in the game to have a shaky effect.
- PlumRugOfDoom - Only affects Prodigy by changing the NTO Militia Terrorist models to have a purple streak in their hair. This was a reference to a bad hair choice made by the lead programmer on the title, Joe Waters.
Behind the scenes
Early preview copies of the game were handed out to several gaming publications in September 2003. This version of the game featured only three maps: Dust, Italy and Vostok. However, as the press used debug versions of the Xbox that had 128 MB of memory, this version was less optimized and featured higher resolution textures than the final released version of the game.
- There are 5 hostage rescue maps and 15 bomb defusal maps in CSX, so the number of bomb defusal maps is exactly three times the number of hostage rescue maps.
- In Counter-Strike Xbox, the Tour of Duty bot names appear in this game, but do not use their assigned weapons and act like all other bots.
- Counter-Strike Xbox mainly uses the Counter-Strike: Condition Zero or Counter-Strike: Condition Zero Deleted Scenes firing sounds for the weapons, but most weapons use the 1.6 draw animation sound as well as the 1.6 reload sounds.
- This is the first Counter-Strike game to be released on console, as well as the only GoldSrc Counter-Strike game to be released on console.
- The CSX Pie-styled menu idea would be carried on to the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Buy menu.
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