“God dammit, it was worth it.”
Following weeks of teasing, Valve today announced Counter-Strike 2 (opens in new tab), the next step for perhaps the greatest and most popular competitive FPS in history. Counter-Strike players are their own breed, both deeply in love with the game and always grousing about its problems, and one thing Counter-Strike 2 did right off the bat is address longstanding complaints and get those fans excited. The reaction is almost universally positive, though naturally, bear in mind very few people have played the game itself at this point.
I could just reproduce dozens of different variants on all-caps “let’s goooooooo” and various internet goblins talking about what Counter-Strike 2 does to their sexual organs, but beyond the anticipation there’s some deeper appreciation for what Valve is trying to do here and how it’s approached updating the game: I mean, it looks like my dream Counter-Strike (opens in new tab).
Just look at those smokes… they’re so beautiful. “Counter Strike 2 has some seriously impressive gameplay driven GPU usage,” says Digital Foundry’s Alexander Battaglia (opens in new tab). “This reminds me of the cool ambition in graphics we saw back in ’05-11. Movable and deformable volumetrics.” Volumetric af!
Everyone loves the smokes. “These new smokes completely change everything,” writes SixFU (opens in new tab). “Like fighting around a smoke is now a whole ass chess match itself.” Sauce Science Guy (opens in new tab) sees through the whole thing though. “There is no smoke if my team has p90s taps head”
“They better add the liquid in bottles tech next,” says Karsvolcanospace (opens in new tab). “Check the website, that’s in too,” says the helpful RaptorDotCCP. Karsvolcanospace is happy: “This truly is an upgrade now.”
Another minor change, which will seem laughable to non Counter-Strikers but is Very Important OK, is that you can now see your avatar’s legs. Game-changer! Valve, of course, has leaned into this on social.
Here’s the feet pics you’ve been asking about: pic.twitter.com/l41NqAs5wnMarch 22, 2023
This incidentally shows a Glock fade skin, from CS:GO, in the new game. Doesn’t she look pretty.
Even more impressive, as can be seen at one point’s in Valve’s explainer videos, is that you can also see your own shadows being cast. Another notable change, and one of the few that instantly seems less popular though that’s probably to be expected, is a new HUD.
“OMG I hope original HUD is an option,” says BusinessAd_9721, no doubt speaking for many (opens in new tab). One detail in this new HUD that’s neat, however, is it seems to have ‘kill cards’ tracking how you’re doing in a given round.
Many figures in the competitive scene have known this was coming for a while, and naturally how Counter-Strike 2 will land as an esport is an open question. What’s important to remember, though, is that Counter-Strike is not merely a game to such folk, but a way of life.
“Counter-Strike 2 had me crying on the stream for the first time in my entire life…” says ex-pro Jacob Winneche (opens in new tab). “I’ve been living, breathing and loving Counter Strike for the past 15 years of my life. I wanna live, breath, and love Counter Strike for the next 15 years as well.” Amen brother.
Some esports figures, like Shroud, reckon this is going to blow Valorant away. As he says (joking) to one of his friends in this stream clip, “Quit Valorant, it’s done. It’s fucking over.”
One of the best players of all time, Get_Right, played in a closed beta at Valve HQ. “I was so happy to get the try it out with mucho cool people and it’s been hard to be quiet for some time… But god dammit, it was worth it. Thanks once again to make me happy @CounterStrike (opens in new tab).”
Popular Counter-Strike streamer fl0m was also one of those invited, and discussed his experiences in a rather shouty manner—not my cup of tea, but this guy has played it and I haven’t, so…
Meanwhile, I quite enjoyed how accidentally existential some of the moments in this clip of FaZe Clan get, as the players digest the enormity of what the new smokes mean.
OUR HONEST REACTION TO COUNTER-STRIKE 2 pic.twitter.com/o9eaz4V86vMarch 22, 2023
And fair play to Fnatic, this one is good.
the counter strike 2 hopium is real pic.twitter.com/7KjckDI3rZMarch 22, 2023
And while I’m embedding the tweets… this is kinda my favourite, even though it was made about a week ago.
pic.twitter.com/FcdNpdvFtXMarch 14, 2023
How the wider scene reacts when the game is in peoples’ hands we’ll know very soon. “While players have been begging for tick updates for years and will surely be satisfied by the updates to weapon response rate, the biggest impact on the professional scene will be the dynamic grenades,” esports host Frankie Ward tells PCG.
“Honestly, when I saw the video reveal, my jaw hit the floor; no more waiting out for smoke walls or “smoke criminals”. Players bring able to shoot through smoke grenades, or blow a hole in them, will quite literally change the game forever. The behaviour of the smokes mean players adapting line-ups tried and tested over years and experimenting with new ones. I can’t wait to see them in action. Hopefully at the second Major championship of 2023…”
Getting back to more specific changes and community reaction, I quite like the change in aesthetic: This is a brighter and cleaner looking game. Others are not so keen, preferring the more muted palette of CS:GO.
“I’d prefer if it kept the depressing looks of the maps tbh,” says Guccigang Crook (opens in new tab). “This looks a bit too vivid and bright imo. Remember, we’re talking about a game that’s about terrorists blowing up cities, not some Hello Kitty browser game.”
Clearly Hello Kitty has changed somewhat since I last checked-in. One point here, though, which Valve has not explicitly addressed and I can’t see in the videos unless I missed it, is whether Counter-Strike 2 will re-name the teams. The point has often been made that, while this is the most-popular competitive FPS around, the ‘Terrorist’ and ‘Counter-Terrorist’ designations may prevent it being even more popular. The character models are the same, the atmosphere and goals are the same, but a small change to ‘Attackers’ and ‘Defenders’ may be part of this package.
Well that all got rather serious. Other reactions are more… esoteric. “While I was watching the news about CS2, the shelf my wife just built broke above her head as well as the head of my son, who is five years old,” writes Lushlanie (opens in new tab). “My wife was literally hit by Karl Marx’ second volume of The Kapital while my son got the best of Marx’ letters. Her head was still bleeding while i was pondering about gas grenades, my son screamed like there was no tomorrow. He is well and she is angry, tried to argue with me, cause I told her weeks ago, this shelf wont be good enough for the 42 volumes of Marx’ Ouvre (opens in new tab). I will never forget this day.”
DisguisedPrime, on the other hand, is asking perhaps the only question that matters: “We are getting new chickens, right?”
Counter-Strike 2. pic.twitter.com/ln953G1u3AMarch 22, 2023
As for Valve, the studio has played something of a blinder here, and I especially enjoyed the new Twitter bio (opens in new tab) for Counter-Strike 2, which no doubt comes after years of being sick of hearing the same. This game is “the CS:GO killer.”
That remains to be seen. But Counter-Strike 2 is real, Counter-Strike fans seem thrilled, and 2023 just got a whole lot more exciting.