Counter-Strike 2 is live on Steam

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Counter-Strike 2

Counter-Strike 2 has officially completed its testing phase and has now taken over the realm of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). This marked the end of the line for the decade-old version of the legendary 5v5 competitive first-person shooter (FPS) on Steam. In its place, a sequel, built on Valve’s latest engine, has emerged.

CS:GO, as we knew it, appears to be a thing of the past. Players who may have been nostalgic for the older version find themselves unable to revert, as Valve seems to have made it clear through gif-based mourning that the torch has been passed to the new game.

CS2 brings the classic shooter into the Source 2 engine, ushering in a wave of changes, both subtle and groundbreaking. These changes include the addition of volumetric smoke grenade effects and “cleaner, brighter” maps. While these might seem like minor updates in a different game, they are nothing short of seismic events in a competitive shooter like Counter-Strike, which has remained remarkably consistent for over two decades.

Here are some of the major features that Counter-Strike 2 debuts with:

  1. Upgraded lighting, materials, and mapmaking tools, thanks to the transition to the Source 2 engine.
  2. “Overhauled” and “updated” maps, alongside the preservation of beloved “touchstone” maps such as Dust 2.
  3. A complete visual overhaul with new effects for elements like fire, bullet tracers, and muzzle flashes.
  4. A new ranking system known as CS Rating.
  5. Revamped audio.
  6. A new “tickless” server architecture.

For most of the year, CS2 has been in an invite-only “Limited Test” phase, which introduced some of these new features. A recent survey of professional CS players revealed cautious optimism for the launch of CS2.

“It’s not competitive-ready at all, I’d still prefer to play CS:GO,” mentioned pro Counter-Strike player Héjja “kezziwow” Kászandrá. “I haven’t played any competitive matches on it yet, and there’s a lot of room for improvement to make it feel like CS:GO.”

Another pro, Sebastian “volt” Maloș, stated, “I think CS2 is heading in the right direction, but in its current state, it still needs some improvements before it can truly replace CS:GO. If I had to choose right now, I’d stick with CS:GO, but the prospect of CS2 is refreshing, and I’m excited to dive into something new.”

The initial map set for Counter-Strike 2 includes Mirage, Overpass, Vertigo, Ancient, Inferno, Nuke, Anubis, and Dust 2, along with Office and Italy, which are not part of the current competitive map pool.

The notion of transformative game updates replacing their predecessors is a relatively recent and somewhat controversial trend in the gaming world. This transition is exemplified by titles like Overwatch 2, which we previously dubbed as “a mutated sequel” in our review. In the case of CS:GO, players don’t lose any of their valuable gun skins in the transition to CS2, but they also don’t have a say in whether they want to make the switch in the first place.

It’s worth noting that previous versions of Counter-Strike remain accessible, and there was once a humorous period following CS:GO’s 2012 launch when three different versions of the game coexisted, each with roughly equal concurrent player numbers. However, such a phenomenon has become increasingly rare as live service sequels tend to absorb their predecessors, with the intriguing exception of Path of Exile, whose sequel plans changed course due to player feedback.

As of now, CS2 is available on Steam and remains free-to-play. Counter-Strike consistently occupies the top spot on Steam’s concurrent players chart, and this significant update is expected to drive player numbers even higher. It has already peaked at an impressive 1,265,615 concurrent players on its release day.

Stay tuned for more coverage of CS2 as we dive into the immersive experience of its volumetric smoke effects and explore the new era of Counter-Strike.

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