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CS:GO to CS2: What Changed and What You Need to Know

Published On:: 15/08/2023

Nearly a decade after CS:GO first launched, the advent of Counter-Strike 2 aims to breathe fresh life into the series with cutting-edge visual effects, revamped lighting, and a reimagining of iconic CS:GO maps.

Nearly a decade after CS:GO first launched, the advent of Counter-Strike 2 aims to breathe fresh life into the series with cutting-edge visual effects, revamped lighting, and a reimagining of iconic CS:GO maps. Preserving the franchise's fundamental fast-paced, team-based first-person shooter gameplay, CS2 is poised to offer an enhanced, more responsive experience. This new CS, while thrilling, raises some questions.

To get to the bottom of the fresh new Counter-Strike, we went in-depth with two of Counter-Strike's most esteemed personalities, Erik "fl0m" Flom and Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund. Beyond their achievements in esports, both are renowned FPS content creators that were among the first to beta-test Counter-Strike 2. They provided us with a peek into what awaits both seasoned veterans and newcomers.


Counter-Strike 2 | Initial impressions

What are your initial impressions of Counter-Strike 2?

fl0m: When we first played in the offices, it was like kids in a candy store. We were astounded, and the developers waiting behind us could see our excitement. Our first impressions were positive; it felt like they weren't just trying to mimic the previous version but genuinely trying to add new elements. 

As the playtesting has continued, people are becoming more critical, myself included. You naturally want to see the game progress, but change is slow, and perfecting things takes time. Our initial play was full of shock and fun. As time has passed, the focus has shifted to ironing out the kinks. There are improvements, but as a player, you're always eager for more. You understand its potential and just want to fast-forward to the finished product. But overall, I'd say the first impressions were good.

GeT_RiGhT: It was a very pleasant showing in the beginning. Both Erik and I had first-hand experience of CS2 before most. I still remember fondly, Erik and I playing the first Mirage game, seeing the smoke disappear at the same time, both of us reacting similarly. I was thinking, “What is this, what's happening with the game?” But the more you play with it, the more it becomes fascinating, especially before it's officially released. 

It's quite an interesting game. It will open up a lot of different ways of thinking about CS, a game that's been here for a long time and essentially maintains the same feel for many, many years. It's going to be an interesting time for the next couple of years to see how much the game will change due to the new things that are introduced.

In addition to their initial reactions, the two CS veterans noted many other fundamental changes. One of the first things to note was the significant shift in the game's aesthetics. CS2 broke away from the darker visuals of CS:GO and adopted a more vibrant and discernible environment. This change in the visual realm not only freshens the game’s ambiance but introduces a new mood.

Another noteworthy change was the removal of skyboxes, which served as invisible barriers when lobbing grenades. This change could dramatically influence utility usage, reshaping traditional strategies, especially in the professional sphere.

However, for GeT_RiGhT, the standout modification was in the game's smoke mechanics. Smokes now span a larger area, reducing the opportunity for exploiting one-ways, a mechanic where a Smoke could allow one player to peer through it, while the other couldn’t.

The new one-ways in CS2 could change the dynamics in the game, making one-ways less of bugs and more consistent. The appearance of smoke in CS2 remains constant, irrespective of a player's position relative to it, breaking away from CS:GO where smoke could act as an uneven shield. These changes mean that new players could still be outplayed by the one-ways veterans learn, a frustrating aspect in CS:GO. Still, new players might pick up one-ways a little easier than before, given the smokes should be more visually consistent — and one-way spots more intentionally designed. 

For GeT_RiGhT, CS2’s new sub-tick concept is a massive change too. To illustrate its impact, he drew a hypothetical gunfight where the fallen player’s character looked the same from every perspective. This represents a stark contrast from CS:GO, which operates on a 64-tick rate for matchmaking and a 128-tick on the professional stage where gameplay outcomes were often skewed by things like ping and tick rates.

The sub-tick concept introduces a level of consistency in the game never before seen in CS, but the concept isn’t without its issues. European players in particular compare the sub-tick in CS2 to the less responsive 64-tick rather than the professional-grade 128-tick. GeT_RiGhT, however, suggested that the sub-tick makes CS2 so distinct from CS:GO that players need to acclimate to the increased gun movement. Perceived issues with shots not registering, GeT_RiGhT argues, are more likely due to players adjusting to the new mechanics rather than a system error.


Counter-Strike 2 | Problems (and patience)

What are some of the problems with Counter-Strike 2, and what should people expect?

fl0m: If you think back to the launch of CS:GO, a lot of people are lucky they didn't experience that. The original CS:GO maps, the initially cheap and overpowered molotovs that couldn't be extinguished, the evolving meta – it's funny to look back at. Things gradually changed, updates rolled in, and people began to appreciate the game.

This is why we need to be patient. Transitioning from something as polished as CS:GO to the early stages of CS2 is inevitably going to feel like a step back. But it's important to remember that it's only a temporary step. Hardcore fans might find this change difficult, but it's essential to remain calm and critical, understanding that CS2 is still being developed.

[...] Development takes time. For anyone worried about the future of CS2, I would recommend comparing the early stages of CS:GO to how it is now. The transformation is staggering, and that's what we can expect for CS2.

GeT_RiGhT: Reflecting on the early days of CS:GO, it wasn't a great game initially. I'll admit that. I was among the few who transitioned to it early on, but I held strong beliefs. I knew that the developers were committed to making the game better. They wouldn't want to lose to other competitors because Counter-Strike has such a rich and significant history. No one wants to mess that up. 

Therefore, I'd advise patience. It won't feel the same initially, but trust the process. In two years, we may look back and laugh about the early days of CS2. We'll recall how this or that was bad or terrible, and by then, those issues won't matter anymore. In my opinion, anyone trying out the sub-tick and the movement should give it time before judging it as bad or otherwise. It could be six months later, and everything might change.

While fl0m and GeT_RiGhT's main point was to be patient, that didn’t mean they were afraid to speak their mind. 

For example, fl0m was not pleased with the absence of audio feedback during the initial playtest. He felt it was similar to playing without hearing at all, and sound (footsteps, AWP shots, reloads) are something vital to the tactical FPS. But when fl0m made it clear how big the audio-related issues were, the developers gradually found a fix.

The most striking difficulty that GeT_RiGhT encountered was the different 'feel' of the game. He spoke about the challenge in adjusting to the game mechanics, particularly the shooting and recoil. GeT_RiGhT identified the game's current movement dynamics as a prominent issue but noted that the developers already seemed on top of it.

Even more important for GeT_RiGhT was the need for stronger community integration in CS2. Counter-Strike, in his view, was much more than just traditional 5v5 matches. It was a vibrant platform with a wide array of game modes and mods, like KZ, Surf, and Zombie mods, that formed the bedrock of the CS experience. His main concern revolved around the integration of these community elements into CS2 through the game’s beginning stages moving forward.

The two even stopped to reminisce about the rich community-driven culture of the earlier versions, 1.6 and Source, where a multitude of mods and active player communities transformed CS from a traditional game into a dynamic social space. These aspects might even be unfamiliar to players who started with Global Offensive, due to its comparatively limited range of community mods and servers. They believe that Global Offensive missed the opportunity to nurture the community’s full creativity, but they hope that CS2 will embrace it.


Counter-Strike 2 | The future of the esport

What are your expectations for competition in Counter-Strike 2, and what differences would you like to see compared to Global Offensive?

fl0m: I advocate for more region-based tournaments. One aspect I appreciate is building up regions like North America or the Asian scene, perhaps even including Australia, to engage more players. A concept in the Counter-Strike scene is to unify all the Americas, Asian and Australian scenes into one pro league that stands against Europe. This could bolster communities and regions outside Europe, which I believe is crucial for Counter-Strike's long-term health. The game is vast but heavily European-centric.

Compared to other games, I feel they've done well in regional development. To ESL, Blast, and Valve's credit, they were doing well before COVID and the dissolution of the North American pro league. It seemed we were diversifying in a positive way, and we appear to be regaining that momentum. 

To me, expanding the game outside of Europe is crucial. While I'm North American and naturally want to see growth there, I believe the expansion needs to be global. Europeans love Counter-Strike, it's undoubtedly their home, but for the game to grow, it must reach beyond Europe. Other games have done a better job in this regard. 

GeT_RiGhT: I believe that when CS2 officially releases, it's going to bring a lot of changes, even for the current pros. [...] Don't be shocked when your favorite team isn't the top dog in CS2 like in CS:GO. In the beginning, the game will change significantly. Some teams will adapt quickly, and others will be slower. That's why we're seeing a lot of roster changes happening now; it's a bit of a wild west situation.

I foresee a lot of changes, especially when it comes out. I expect some of the current VALORANT players — those who transitioned previously — will want to experience CS2 and see if they can make a future out of it. When the pandemic hit, and VALORANT came onto the scene, many American players shifted because it provided salaries and a chance to continue their gaming careers. With CS2, I think that door will open wider with all the impending changes.

When it comes to esports, GeT_RiGhT and fl0m both see CS2 as a potential source for renewal and expansion. GeT_RiGhT predicted a notable influx of players from other games, particularly VALORANT, but also Overwatch and Rainbow Six. The new blood, GeT_RiGhT believes, will come from the changes to the game’s systems and how those will shift the professional level of the game

It’s a change that the CS legend looks forward to. For GeT_RiGhT, top level CS has grown tiresome due to the fatigue of seeing the same teams on repeat and he looked forward to the way the sequel could shake up the orgs and brands.

 It’s a sentiment fl0m was on board with too. While the NA streamer doesn’t expect top players like Nikola "NiKo" Kovač to lose their prowess when CS2 rolls out, he anticipates a leveling of the playing field. 

When discussing his own NA scene, fl0m identified opportunity, rather than talent, as the critical factor. The appeal of guaranteed salaries in games like VALORANT outweighs the vague possibility of a career in Counter-Strike. CS:GO’s shift away from a separate pro league for North America, in particular, triggered a wave of players seeking greener pastures.

If CS2 offers good opportunities, fl0m believes all kinds of NA players could go for pro, but if the NA landscape stays barren, we’re more likely to see the same faces shuffling around different rosters.

Though he lives in Europe, GeT_RiGhT also agreed with fl0m that CS2 needs global opportunities. The Swedish streamer even pushed for fewer European tournaments and more in NA, Asia, and other regions, making it easier and less costly to run a CS team in NA. He knows this strategy is risky, possibly lowering quality and viewership by moving away from the EU. But it could be essential if CS wants to recuperate the presence it lost during the pandemic.

GeT_RiGhT and fl0m both underlined a hopeful yet realistic outlook for the esports scene as CS2 takes shape. There's a real chance for CS to regain lost ground, but also to yield even more of it.


Counter-Strike 2 | Better for beginners?

How do you contend with the relative simplification that Counter-Strike 2 is set to have?

fl0m: I see those adjustments more as quality-of-life improvements. Anyone attempting to exaggerate their significance might be missing the point. Comparing one game's changes to another's, in my opinion, is trivial. It's about improving the experience in CS, and I fully support any alterations that make the game more accessible without lowering the skill ceiling.

[...] To me, these features are guides rather than crutches. The more you play, the more attuned you become to the sounds you're making, reducing the need for visual aid. But it's still nice to have. So, in my view, these changes to the buy menu and sound visualization are positive quality-of-life updates that don't compromise the skill ceiling in any significant way.

GeT_RiGhT: These new tools primarily serve to make the game more accessible to newcomers, who lack our depth of understanding about the game. They're not threats or unnecessary add-ons, but rather welcoming features that help onboard new players.

The changes introduced in CS don't diminish its essence. I welcome all modifications that, to some degree, simplify the game because, in essence, CS is a game anyone can play, have fun with, and even excel at. However, mastering it is a completely different story.

When we asked the two streamers about the simplification and added accessibility features, both were completely on board. But for them, the real issue is matchmaking — an area CS has been behind in for a decade.  

For years, CS players have had to use third-party platforms just to queue up for a competitive match. Introducing an upgraded matchmaking system would be a substantial step toward improving CS2's accessibility, just by making it easier for players to hop into a game. While they couldn’t say what this new system should look like, GeT_RiGhT, fl0m, felt that any improvement would be a welcome change.

Counter-Strike 2 represents an exciting juncture for both seasoned veterans and new players. It showcases the best of what had made the game a classic while introducing features that make it more accessible and enjoyable for all. The simplified buy menu, added sound visualization, and addition of nuanced elements borrowed from other popular games, are all pretty simple additions that don’t change the game’s core identity as much as they modernize it.

The enduring enthusiasm of veterans like fl0m and GeT_RiGhT for Counter-Strike 2, despite their decades-long journey with the franchise, speaks volumes about that core identity. Where many games have come and gone like fads, CS remains. And so fl0m and GeT_RiGhT remind us that patience is key, that there’s a lot of evolution to come, and that a bit of accessibility isn’t going to drastically change the grandfather of the tactical FPS. As a new Counter-Strike chapter unfolds, it's not just the game to look forward to either, but the movements that will happen within the entire community. That’s something every esport fan should have their eye on.

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