Within the months following the announcement of Counter-Strike 2 in March, the typical variety of energetic World Offensive gamers grew by almost 30%. That quantity remains to be holding, as the brand new version has utterly revitalized the sport, including some sheen to a shooter that was starting to tarnish. It has re-entered the zeitgeist and asserted itself in a style that’s been co-opted by battle royales and extraction shooters. Counter-Strike is again, child.
There are vital visible upgrades at play right here – lighting, textures, smoke results – and quite a few quality-of-life updates relating to the buy-menu and consumer interface; however the true story right here is that we’re even speaking about Counter-Strike in 2023. It’s topping livestream charts once more. YouTube is lit up with Counter-Strike 2 movies. There’s a buzz, and the sport deserves each little bit of it. If all goes easily, this buzz will roll over into aggressive play with expanded leagues and prize swimming pools. The group appears poised for Valve’s shooter to flourish as soon as once more.
A part of Counter-Strike 2’s early success is in how easy the transition from World Offensive to sequel has been. Valve has achieved an exquisite job easing the participant base into the entire modifications all through a prolonged closed beta. What’s extra, all of my weapon skins and upgrades have seamlessly transferred. A lot of Counter-Strike 2’s modifications could seem minor, however in reality, Valve has pulled off a monumental process.
As a result of, in fact, this isn’t simply an replace. Valve has rebuilt Counter-Strike from the bottom up utilizing the Supply 2 engine. Whereas the overall guidelines of gameplay don’t stray removed from the earlier title, there’s a big swath of visible and physics enhancements that supply the sequel a brand new total really feel. The aesthetics are extra vivid and brilliant. Colours are additional saturated and the lighting is closely improved, incentivizing a quicker playstyle and fewer tenting as hiding spots with low visibility are non-existent. The brand new weapon audio is implausible, with the close by crack of computerized fireplace and distant pop of shotguns reducing throughout the map with ferocity.
Water physics have additionally been overhauled. I spent a few minutes simply messing round within the muck as I waded via among the bigger swimming pools on maps resembling Historic. There are some unbelievable distinctive properties, resembling moss separating and reforming on the floor of ponds. You can too see the alcohol inside Molotov bottles really shift and alter to the way you’re holding it. The presentation is top-shelf and spectacular.
Smoke, however, has been re-worked into a definite entity that wraps across the 3D atmosphere. It’s additionally reactive: Taking pictures via it would briefly open a niche and permit you and your staff to see the opposite facet. Grenades utterly evaporate the impact, albeit just for a second. This opens up new concerns, resembling a teammate briefly clearing smoke so to spot a foe and remove them. The smoke surpasses easy aesthetic taste by introducing additional tactical depth.
Above all else, a very powerful profit to this engine replace is how terribly easy the gunplay feels. Weapon dealing with is snappy and satisfying. Counter-Strike 2 boasts among the greatest hit recognition in any on-line shooter I’ve performed. This can be a results of the netcode enhancements, together with a brand new sub-tick price for servers that will increase response time and accuracy. That enchancment alone is a large enough win to justify the switchover.
In Counter-Strike 2, nearly the whole lot feels good. The one unsettling high quality of this replace is foot motion. It’s as if a brand new inertia system has been carried out — there’s a way of enter delay and sluggish responsiveness. It took me a break-in interval of a day or two simply to get used to all of it. Whereas gaining consolation, you will have bother touchdown jumps or swiftly traversing terrain that was trivial in World Offensive. This new system is just not terrible, however it would take an adjustment; as of now, shifting round these maps creates an odd and uncomfortable feeling. Even after gaining familiarity and re-learning the fundamentals, I can’t assist however word that it feels inferior to CS:GO’s motion mechanics. That’s considerably disappointing, nevertheless it’s a commerce I’ll make each time in change for the entire different exemplary enhancements.
With such a wide selection of tweaks, updates, and iterations, Counter-Strike 2 is a big transfer ahead for the franchise. The group is alight once more, and I’m as excited as I’ve been for Valve’s shooter in additional than 10 years. Counter-Strike is again, and if the present pattern of enhancements continues, it’s solely going to get higher from right here out.
Counter-Strike 2 was launched on Sept. 27 as a free replace to Counter-Strike: World Offensive on Home windows PC. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. Yow will discover further details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.