It's finally here – the launch of Counter-Strike 2. Although Valve failed to keep the promised summer deadline, the delay was fortunately not too long. Oh, you see, out of habit, I wrote "fortunately," but everything indicates that it would be better if the premiere of CS 2 was postponed a bit longer, and the developers had more time to polished their product.
At the moment, the game is incomplete. It appears to have been released prematurely, making it difficult to view it as a worthy successor to the "king of shooters," which has been CSGO for years. This will most likely change with the upcoming updates, but the distaste after the first impression will stay with me for a long time.
Evolution of Counter-Strike
First of all, a few words about the gameplay. It's worth mentioning that Counter-Strike 2 is simply an evolution of what we have known so far. This is evidenced by the fact that this title appeared as a major update to CSGO, rather than a completely separate product on Steam. There have been some changes in the gameplay, but it's nothing that would turn the world of the game upside down. The most significant change is the modification of smoke grenades, which now react to bullets or explosions. This modification opens up entirely new tactical possibilities for the players.
However, this is something that will catch the attention of the most dedicated players. If you play CS from time to time and you're unfamiliar with fancy tactics, different smoke grenades won't attract your attention. Changes have been made to the maps as well. Some adjustments have been implemented in specific locations to refresh the gameplay. You have to position yourself differently or lean out, and at some spots, it's impossible to serve as a stand. However, again, this will catch the attention of the most dedicated players. Changes as such aren't bad – just don't expect many. If the last time you played CS was a few years ago, the aforementioned upgrades will likely not be very noticeable.
The game interface and purchase menu have also been updated. Since I usually play different games, getting used to these elements wasn't a problem for me. However, people who played CS almost every day say that it was difficult for them to accustom. In terms of usability, in my opinion it is much clearer now, especially in the purchase menu, which is reminiscent of the one in Valorant and which finally allows you to return an accidental purchase.
Among the things worth noting is also the new Premier ranking system, based on something similar to the formerly known ELO system – the ranking is set according to the points gained, and the map selection takes place through the ban phase – and the selection of opponents has thus been improved. Additionally, the traditional ranking designations were discarded – although "discarded" might be too strong a word, because they remained, albeit in a somewhat altered form. They are currently available in tournament mode, where each map has a different rank assigned, making the pairing of players different depending on the map we want to play on. This is a very nice feature for anyone who would simply like to train in new locations, because the level of opponents will not be too far behind our own.
Counter-Strike 2 uses the capabilities of the Source 2 engine, so it's impossible not to mention the new graphics. And although it is an element that receives very little attention from avid players, it can definitely be said that the game is prettier. The biggest changes can be seen in lighting, water, and smoke physics. Most textures have had minor or major improvements, so overall, the maps look much better than in CSGO .
They've also upgraded the weapon models (although I've heard rumors that not all skins are using them yet) and the sound settings. It's just a shame that the new engine didn't come with a bit better optimization. If you don't have top-shelf hardware, you have to remember that CS 2 will not run perfectly, and lowering the settings unfortunately results in visuals that are downright horrible in some instances. This is especially bothersome in a game where the FPS count and clarity are key.
I've outlined the main changes, which we've seen with the arrival of CS 2. I won't go into details because we've been talking about all this stuff for a while now. So, after reading the above paragraphs, one could basically conclude that CS 2 is a well-thought-out evolution of CSGO. They didn't try to reinvent the wheel here, instead, they just did a bit of a refresh to enhance the gameplay and offer new possibilities via the Source 2 engine. And in fact, one could say so, if only the release of CS 2 had not been carried out in such an ill-considered way, resulting in many shortcomings.
Why are so many things missing?
First, all CSGO servers were shut down, and then, in 1-2 hours, players could download the update that transformed the game into CS 2. The fact that these were ill-considered actions is evidenced by the fact that at the same time, the professional ESL Pro League matches were taking place and the players suddenly couldn't finish their matches! Valve turned off CSGO servers and did not prepare special access for one of the most important competitions, which caused them to suffer a significant delay. And yet it could have been so easily avoided.
Even if we wanted to turn a blind eye to this, there are many other elements that players have vocally criticized. Let's start by removing the modes or maps that were originally available in CSGO. If you were a fan of locations such as Danger Zone or Arms Race, you might be disappointed to learn that there not currently available in CS 2 (in CSGO either, because no one has access to this version anymore). If you enjoyed playing Wingman, then a large number of maps from there have also disappeared, such as the classic de_train or de_cache.
These may seem to be minor shortcomings (after all, who among us plays other modes than the traditional 5v5), but taken together, they start to be problematic, especially since the creators have not commented on their return, and CSGO practically doesn't exist. Interestingly, there are also some shortcomings in the commands – you won't be able to switch the weapon to your left hand and you won't get rid of various strange animations of the weapon model while walking, which were disabled in CSGO practically by everyone who played even remotely competitively.
The launch of CS 2 was also quite modest. Forget about any new operations, boxes, skins, and similar stuff. Even though Counter-Strike is not famous for these, I was quite surprised to find nothing new in this matter at the release of the long-awaited sequel. Moreover, not only is the cutting of content upsetting, there's also a problem with poorly functioning, new features.
I hadn't mentioned the new tick-race yet (now called a sub-tick) – which, according to Valve, is much better than the previous one – because I wanted to devote a separate paragraph, or even two, to it. Now, all actions are recorded in real time on Valve servers, and then compared with player data, and finally executed. In theory, this allows for precise calculation of when and where a shot was taken or a move executed. In practice, however, it looks like you could be facing constant frustration because, for example, your character might repeatedly die a moment after you've actually taken cover.
Why is that? The thing is that you *have* died a moment before, but all the animations were delayed, so it ends up looking like you've died after ducking behind a corner or a piece of cover. Dumb? I know. In theory, this should work better than before, but in practice, it's much more frustrating than one might assume. To be honest, I preferred playing the classic ticketrate at level 64, so I hope Valve quickly fixes this mess.
Not enough problems? Well, let's also mention the removal of Steam achievements from CSGO, the lack of any unranked modes, and all the technical shortcomings, such as incorrectly set textures or, for example, a bugged surrender vote. We also didn't get a new anti-cheat, which, according to the reports of top players, would really come in handy now. I'll repeat – even though some of these issues are really minor, together they create a very poor image of CS 2.
So how did it happen that the successor to the king of shooters (or rather his expanded "brother") arrived in such a defective version? I guess it's all because of the pressure – the creators promised a summer release and it seems like they really wanted to keep their word. Honestly, it wasn't a good move. I expected much more from Counter-Strike 2, but what we ended up with was an unfinished version of the favorite shooter of millions of players.
And sure, some of the introduced changes are a nice refreshment, especially for those who have spent thousands of hours in CSGO, but it's a pity that the premiere did not include much new content (on the contrary – some of the old content was removed without a trace) and was additionally burdened with technical problems. Now, all of this will likely change with the upcoming updates, because I can't believe Valve will just leave it like that. I believe this will happen and that CS 2 will be played (and watched) by millions of players around the world, while Valve quickly refines its flagship shooter.
Paul Wozniak | Gamepressure.com