by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 17th December, 2018
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive just went free to play and at the same time the game got its own version of Battle Royale mode called Danger Zone. And Danger Zone is pretty good.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was Valve's staple multiplayer title until it was surpassed by Dota 2, a free-to-play game that, logically, garnered noticeably higher player counts compared to CS: GO, a pay to play title.
But during 2017 both games were surpassed by a new kid on the block called PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, a Battle Royale multiplayer title that proved that gamers got tired of tried and true formulas seen in countless Counter Strikes, Battlefields, and Call of Dutys of the world.
They wanted something different and they showed that by launching PUBG to the stratosphere and making it the most popular game on Steam by a huge margin despite the fact the game retailed for $30, which is a pretty high price for a simple multiplayer game that came out with just one map, stupendous amounts of bugs and glitches, and horrid optimization. But it was so fun that masses crowned it the most popular game in the world.
And then Fortnite happened and took the crown but it was too a Battle Royale game only this time a free to play one. So, Valve took the feedback and incorporated a Battle Royale mode into its most popular offering, called it Danger Zone, and at the same time made CS: GO free to play. So, is Danger Zone any good?
Before we ride into the Danger Zone, let's explain how this new, free to play version of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive works. Firstly, the game is free for everyone to download and play and that means that all game modes are available.
If you bought the game back in the time when it was a paid title you got some trinkets like a "commemorative Loyalty Badge," an MP5-SD submachine gun, Prime status, and exclusive Prime drops. Now, Prime status means you will be matched only against other Prime players (meaning only with other players who purchased the game before it went free to play), and that you receive special drops meaning you will get crates that have a higher chance of dropping rare skins.
And well, that's all. We suppose that it is possible to play with friends in case they own free to play version of the game. That didn't go well with players and CS: GO now has a Mixed recent reviews rating but oh well, it would go the free route eventually so that's not a huge disappointment. Valve should just watch for those freebie cheaters and hackers and all will be just fine.
Now, once you fire up the game you will be welcomed with a start screen that is all about Danger Zone and from there you can jump into the Battle Royale action, CS: GO style right away. The Battle Royale mode can be played solo or in teams of two and three and it pitches 16 players (18 when playing on teams) on a new (and by CS: GO standards, huge) map called Blacksite.
You will first have a chance to chill and prepare during the 2 minute-long warm-up period during which you can exercise your shooting skills and get to know the map. After that, the game starts and right from the beginning you'll notice that Danger Zone is a pretty unique take on the Battle Royale genre. First of all, each player has a tablet (which can be activated by pressing Tab key) that provides a plethora of information and is a very important tool in Danger Zone.
So, once the game commences you and other players won't fly inside some plane, waiting to hover over your drop point of choice. Instead, you will mark your drop off point by clicking on an area on your tablet. The game is divided into hexagonal tiles and each player can land into one tile on the map. That means that two players cannot land on the same hexagon and it also means that you will know where other players are spawning because all landing sports are visible to all players, which is pretty interesting. After everyone picks their landing spots the match begins with players being dropped from choppers.
And again, you can see where other players are landing meaning that you pretty much know where everyone is when Danger Zone starts. And then, of course, the loot battle begins. But this time, you won't look for weapons; instead, you can find money which is used to buy weapons. The map is filled with crates - which contain various bombs found in CS: GO as well as healing packs - and ammo stashes and melee weapons but guns are extremely hard to find.
You can only find pistols and that is if you're lucky. In Danger Zone, you use your buy menu (which can be accessed by pressing B) to buy weapons from your tablet which then are delivered to your location with flying drones. And this is another mechanic that allows players to locate other players on the map. Just follow a drone and you will get the location of your enemy. On the other hand, drones can be used as a great ruse by luring enemies to one spot and then killing them once you notice them following your drone.
The interesting thing is that you can't simply order any weapon you like; the buy menu is unique for each match and is made out of a limited selection of weapons. Weapons are the same as in the main game and they behave the same. That means same spread patterns, the same lack of scopes on most weapons and the fact that you cannot find and attach various attachments (like scopes, suppressors, grips, etc.).
This makes for one bare knuckle Battle Royale game many gamers won't like, especially those who love PUBG or Blackout, the Battle Royale mode found in CoD Black Ops IV. But we have to say that we really like this simplistic weapons system. You simply loot some cash; buy a weapon you like (and know to play with) and then simply wait for it to be delivered.
Drones can also deliver all kinds of cool goodies like bombs and armor (the game contains just one armor+helmet combination known from classic CS game modes), a radar jammer that makes you invisible to other players (your tables shows each hexagon that contains at least one players in bright yellow), health shots, and upgrades that improve your delivery drones and your tablet map.
Ammo is extremely scarce in Danger Zone and any weapon your order comes with just one full clip with Ammo stashes containing extremely small amounts of ammo (about a clip and a half, depending on the weapon you used them for) but the good thing is that you can order extra ammo to be delivered via drones from your tablet shop. All this makes a simple yet effective Battle Royale formula that prevents players from camping (because they can't loot money needed for buying weapons or looting ammo from stashes) and makes the experience more dynamic than in other games.
And in most cases, you won't be able to kill other players from the get-go because you probably won't find any weapon (except some pistol with six or so bullets, which is useless unless you are extremely precise with your shots) making looting money your primary concern during the early game. And when you kill someone their whole inventory simply explodes (like in Fortnite) and then you can simply collect their equipment and money. The one important difference to other Battle Royale games is that there isn't any ammo available to collect after you kill someone; you can either take their weapon and that's all.
And once you get a proper rifle the fun starts. The map is pretty large by CS: GO standards but it is tiny compared to other Battle Royale games. It can be fully traversed in a couple of minutes making matches noticeably shorter than in other Battle Royale games. You can learn the whole map in just half a dozen matches and we like the fact that Blacksite goes against the dominant trend in Battle Royale games where maps have to be huge areas populated by 100 players. The small map size leads to short and dynamic games; a regular match can last less than ten minutes, which we really like.
There're no idle and dead periods where you search for weapons and gear or simply search for players to shoot at. As the battlezone shrinks (it shrinks by making more and more hexagons red and deadly) and it shrinks pretty fast, you can see where other players are by looking at your tablet and will always be able to simply go to a part of the map occupied by other player(s) and start a shootout; or you can avoid those areas and let enemies kill each other.
The choice is yours but even if you avoid hexagons occupied by other players chances are someone will come to you meaning that Danger Zone does not allow for quiet periods where nothing is happening. Using tablets often for gaining intel makes you vulnerable because you won't have time to react in case someone starts shooting at you. This tradeoff between always knowing where others are and practically being a sitting duck in case you always stare at your tablet is an interesting high risk, high reward gamble that can mean the difference between the victory and defeat.
Despite the fact that the game promotes action we would like to see more players on the map because after the early slaughterhouse the mid-game can be a bit boring because the large portion of the map is still safe to roam through meaning that even if you go after other players by looking where they are on your tablet, they will be gone by the time your reach the said area. Of course, in the context of Danger Zone ten-minute-long matches these idle periods last for maybe a couple of minutes but still, something like 24 players would really liven up the mid-game and make it way more interesting.
Next, we don't really like the map because it is simply too flat. While other similar games feature lots of hills, tall buildings, and other types of ways to get to the higher ground (like building it yourself in Fortnite), Battle Zone features mostly flat terrain without really tall building or hills that allow players to see huge portions of the map.
On the other side, this makes for a tense gameplay filled with close quarter and mid-range combat which puts sniper rifles at a noticeable disadvantage (and thank god for that!). The other thing we didn't like is the fact that armor can really be a game changer. Players carrying armor are much harder to kill (especially when we take into account ammo scarcity) and armor is relatively hard to find.
Yes, you can buy it and get it delivered (it's really cheap at $500) but that means you will make yourself a vulnerable target because someone might follow your delivery drone and no, you cannot buy equipment in batches, each item is delivered separately.
Overall, CS: GO Danger Zone is a pretty unique Battle Royale mode. It allows you to select your landing spot, it shows location of other players at all times promoting constant action, it supports just 16 players per match (and again, something like 24 players would be much better), it doesn't feature randomly placed weapons, and it plays on a map that is extremely tiny compared to other Battle Royale games.
It also features bare-bones weapon system without any attachments or any kind of inventory (all that you have is always shown on the lower right part of the screen) but that just makes the game even faster paced. And we love it! Matches are much shorter and you can play more than a few in just half an hour; you cannot randomly find an OP weapon and you have to buy one instead. Delivery drones give so many possibilities to both sides and are a great addition, and the simplistic nature of the game makes for a simple, unrefined fun that is free to play.
If you like Battle Royale games you should definitely try Danger Zone; it is a simple yet addictive Battle Royale derivate that provides a unique experience no other Battle Royale game offers.