CS or spelled out Counter-Strike was originally a mod for Half-Life. Today there are a lot of variations of it, as the game has been developed further and further. The (most) played ones are CS 1.6, CS: Source (CSS) and CS Global Offensive (CS:GO).
|1.5 and earlier
|12. Juni 2002
|This is the original mod version of CS. Up to this version, the game was actually a mod for Half-Life, but was also available as stand-alone version, to so-called retail version (at least since version 1.0). Counter-Strike can be played without Steam only up to this version. This is why many players distinguish this version from its successor, 1.6.
|15. September 2003
|This is the first version only available via Steam. This is one point of critics from many hard-core players from that time, that the game was not that free as it used to be as a mod. From a game play point of view it is not all to different from 1.5
|5. Dezember 2003
|Condition Zero (CS:CZ)
|23. März 2004
|Another incarnation of CS based on the HL 1 engine.
|7. Oktober 2004
|This version is based on the Half-Life 2 engine, changing the movement and graphics/physics capabilities of the game a lot.
|Global Offensive (CS:GO)
|21. August 2012
|This is the latest variation of CS and the gold standard of CS gaming. Although there are still ladders for the other versions since 1.6, this is usually what games today mean, when they say, they are going to play CS.
Between the 1.X versions there are bigger and smaller differences (e.g. Aiming, Movement and Graphics). You can only find out which one you like best by trying it out. There are bigger differences of the movement between CS 1.X, CSS and CS:GO. CSS is perceived a bit slower paced than 1.X and CS:GO. The newer versions are characterized by all kinds of additional game modes, or new graphics and maps. But classic Counter-Strike is at the core always the same game.
CS is available in all variations from 1.6 on via Steam. As Half-Life mod it is only available up to and including version 1.5. CS CD keys of version 1.5 and earlier can be used via Steam (they are actually Half-Life CD Keys), but are then patched to version 1.6 with automatic updates. Half-Life is also available via Steam. However, it might be worthwhile to go straight for the Anthology, which also contains Half-Life: Blueshift and Half-Life: Opposing Force. That costs only 5 € more. You should be careful with sales from private sellers, because the most important thing about the whole story are valid CD keys. If such a CD-Key is already linked to a Steam account, it is practically worthless (at least for Steam). But you can't tell from the key when you buy it. So if you do, then only from retailers or if you are really 100% sure that the seller won't cheat you.
With the CD key from CS:CZ you can install and play CS 1.6.
There are always two teams. The terrorists and the counter-terrorists. The two teams differ mainly in the weapons they can buy and the task they have to do on a map. The winning team gets more money than the losing team. From the “earned” money you can buy weapons at the beginning of the next round (press
b, then the respective keys (
8)) whereby better weapons of course cost more money than worse ones.
In CS there are different map types or game types, which can be recognized by their name prefix. A list of the most important ones looks like this:
|Defusion or Demolition, Terrorists must plant and detonate the bomb, CTs must disarm/prevent the planting of the bomb. There is a time limit within which the Ts must have detonated the bomb. If the bomb is armed, the CTs have a predetermined time until they have to disarm the bomb again. But if the time of explosion is after the end of the round, the Ts still lose.
|Hostage-Rescue (it is the original game mode, “cs”, because of Counter-Strike), CTs have to save the hostages, they get money for just trying, and they get extra money for saving them in the rescue zone. The time limit's playing against CTs. T's gotta stop CTs from saving the hostages.
|Aim-Map, mainly meant to help players improve their aiming. Mostly you will find the corresponding weapons laying around and the map objects provide cover.
|AWP-Aim-Map, a derivative of the aim maps, for the AWP weapon.
|Assassination, Ts must keep the VIP from the rescue zone (time limit) or kill him, CTs must accompany/protect the VIP to the rescue zone.
|Escape, half of the Ts must escape (they cannot buy weapons) CTs must kill more than half of the Ts or prevent them from escaping in the given time
|Fun-Yard, Lashing out at anything enemy without a underlying mission, most of the time weapons are lying around and can't always be bought, but if, then usually not at the spawn point.
|Gun Game: You have to make a certain number of kill, and after pre-defined numbers you switch the weapon. Goal is to be the first to get the required number of kills.
|High Explosiv or Grenade War, kind of on purpose grenade spam. No other weapons are available.
|Knife Arena, only knives are available.
|Kreedz, it's about reaching a given point, more in the style of a platform game. Normally you only get one knife (because you can run faster and jump further with it). It's not about shooting others, but about reaching the hard-to-reach target point before everyone else.
|Single Player, a mission-like map.
|Surf map, the goal is to traverse the map to a certain point in as little time as possible by »surfing« the map, usually by falling off of high positions and sliding along leaning walls.
|Jail Break, terrorists must escape from a prison, counter-terrorist must keep them from doing so, depending on the CS version, maybe even taser them.
|Zombie: terrorists are »zombies«, having only knives, trying to prevent the counter-terrorists from reaching a certain point on the map (usually far away of not easy to reach). When kniving counter-terrorists, ct's turn into zombies (switching to terrorist team).