Patrick has continued defusing bombs, rescuing hostages and buying obscene amounts of weaponry in this sequel to the classic Counter-Strike...
Sensational tournaments with millions of dollars at stake. Players who are visible in almost all digital channels are just a small part of the phenomenon that Counter-Strike has become over the years. I have been lucky enough to experience it from the beginning. I played the series back when it was just a mod for Half-Life. Time passed and I have been able to follow a constantly updated series. Now we have reached the shift between the success of Global Offensive and what Valve calls an official sequel to the original. Is this Counter-Strike 2 or Global Offensive 1.5 is the question I will try to answer and what I think of the experience we are offered.
Counter-Strike is based on two teams taking turns playing as counter-terrorists and terrorists. The objectives vary depending on the game mode but the most common game mode revolves around defusing a bomb as the former and planting it as the latter. To facilitate each side, there are weapons in different categories you can buy for different price tags. By winning rounds, you can buy better and better equipment. The first team to reach 13 round victories wins the match. This is a bit of a difference from previous instalments of the series where the goal was to win 16. The change means that the series moves closer to its competitor Valorant in just more than the number of rounds per match. Even the weapon system is similar. It is based on an armament system where you choose a number of weapons in different categories that you can then buy during the match. Thus, you cannot bring all the weapons in a single match but have to switch between matches.
The most obvious change from before is the graphics. The Source 2 engine creates a brighter and visually impressive image. The sound is upgraded and the weapons sound much better and less like shoe boxes hitting a wall. Unfortunately, though, some of the sounds can be misleading. It lacks the precision that was present in its predecessor. I think this is something that will be fixed, but it bothers me that the sounds do not come from the locations they were created from. It doesn't happen all the time but more often than I would like. Another issue I have is the hitboxes (invisible boxes you shoot to register hits in the game) which feel unfinished. The third criticism concerns the courses and game modes. Counter-Strike 2 launched with far fewer maps and game modes than its predecessor had. Iconic maps like Train are not included and others like Militia are gone. Valve has removed content and forced you to play with less than you had the day before the second game went live.
This is an ad:
Still, most of the essentials are in place. The popular system for changing the appearance of weapons, loot boxes and other items can be accessed directly. The skins system characterises the whole experience. It's more in your face than before. You have your traditional training mode, competitive mode and premier mode. Some of the casual modes are also there like deathmatch but sadly not favourites like Arms Race. It's a strange overview as Global Offensive is no longer available to play. It's unclear if those game modes are making a return. Leaks suggest that this is the case and that new game modes like Surf are on the way but that's not the package we have now. It's not all negative, it's easier than ever to hit enemies thanks to the redesigned tick rate system. Whilst not fully in place, Counter-Strike 2 feels like playing on Faceit versus the old experience in the main client. The smoke grenades are an evolution of the grenade game and I love this change. The smoke flares up and takes up space on the map dynamically and you can also counter with regular hand grenades to temporarily blow the smoke away. It sounds like a small change but it has made me rethink how I play from the ground up.
While I'm sure we'll soon get bright red hand grenades thanks to new display animations for these, pretty much everything else is intact. A small but good improvement can be seen via the purchase system. I'm not entirely sold on the circular menu you used to buy from being replaced, but there's no denying the overview you have when you see everything. You can also now see what your teammates are buying as dots on the purchase menu in their colours show what weapons and other items they have bought. By holding down a button, you can now also buy and automatically throw weapons to a mate in need without first throwing the weapon you are carrying. These are changes I can live with. It's simple, clear and I like seeing what team players are buying without having to ask, or try to look around. Once the matches start, it's the Counter-Strike you're used to.
Some other key changes are the user interface and how the ranking system works. Premier allows you to accumulate points with wins and you get a number rather than a medal that shows skill. The usual competitive mode from its predecessor now gives you a rank for each map. It may sound like a pain in the arse but I believe in the system. We are differently good on different maps. I don't play nearly as well on Dust 2 as I do on Office, nor as well on Vertigo as I do on Train. By getting a ranking on each individual map, I can have a better experience when matching with other players. It's noticeable already and I appreciate this. It also means that you can see for yourself the contrasts between levels and what you need to train more on. The last change I want to highlight is the user interface. I like the simplicity with which we can customise this by adjusting the visibility and other things. However, I'm not sold on the card system that glitters and shines at the bottom of the screen. It blends in a bit with the environment and doesn't really work for me. I hope that this can also be customised. Other updates that are easy to miss are that the radar now shows how large an area can hear the sounds you make. This is great and gives a player important feedback.
This is an ad:
Counter-Strike 2 is a solid package in many ways. It's still the best in its sub-genre and I can see myself playing it for thousands of hours, as I did with its predecessors. It has its flaws and doesn't always feel like a full package. It lacks maps, game modes and ways to customise its entire user interface. I myself hope to play Train again soon. In other ways it is a development, for example with its new ranking system, where individual maps give you a unique ranking. I would like to highlight the new and improved tick rate system. It feels both quicker and more accurate when you shoot. Bullets don't magically disappear and duels feel more fair. A large portion of the ecosystem for competitive Counter-Strike is in place, but the casual side has been given the short straw. With lots of content on the way, it still feels a bit poor at the moment. If you liked Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, I see no reason to skip this, it is on the whole an improvement even if it was released with a few maps and game modes. Currently, it is a platform Valve needs to build and expand with more maps, weapons, game modes and more.
8 / 10
Timeless design, free, the new smoke grenades are great, improved ranking system, good sound on the weapons and nice graphics.
Few maps, few game modes, reduced content, some bugs