‘It’s not better than CS:GO yet, not even close’—What Counter-Strike pros think of CS2

Today is that once-in-a-decade moment when Counter-Strike’s soul is transferred to a new body. 

Counter-Strike 2 will replace CS:GO at some point later today (Valve hasn’t specified a launch time). Plenty of Counter-Strike’s most devoted pros have been playing a pre-release version of the game for months, preparing for changes that, though quite miniscule on paper, can upend a decade of habits. The feel of an AWP flick is a sensitive thing.

I spoke with my contacts across the CS:GO esports community to get comments on the state of CS2. Some of their complaints naturally stem from the fact they have spent tens of thousands of hours becoming the best in the world at CS:GO. Now they have to relearn much of that and in some areas, it can almost feel like starting from scratch, which would probably annoy anyone that relies on the game to make money. But some of their concerns and issues are more closely echoed by us lesser-skilled players, suggesting that CS2 still has a few things to work on before it’s universally accepted by the community.

Where Counter-Strike 2 stands at launch

Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen—G2 Esports

“It’s not better than CS:GO yet, not even close. It is way better than when CS:GO came out [in 2012] though. There are a lot of things we will have to get used to and then there are some things I think are just straight up good and bad. One example of a good thing is the buy menu and the fact that you can buy both M4s (suppressed and standard). One example of a bad one is the HE + smoke mechanic.”

Héjja ‘kezziwow’ Kászandrá—GL Prism

“It’s not competitive-ready at all, I still rather play CS:GO. I have not yet played any competitive match on it, [and] there is a lot to improve on to make me feel like it’s CS:GO.”

“If I had to choose right now I would still go for CS:GO.”

Sebastian “volt” Maloș

Sebastian “volt” Maloș—Gamer Legion

“I think CS2 is heading in the right direction but in its current state, it still needs some improvements before it is a good one-to-one replacement for CS:GO. If I had to choose right now I would still go for CS:GO but having CS2 coming soon feels refreshing and I’m excited to grind something new.”

Dan “apEX” Madesclaire—Team Vitality

I think that for now, CS2 is not better than CS:GO, but with more balancing, for sure it could be. The game is not done yet, and it’s not easy to play it. The sensation between the two games is different. I would say it will need a bit more time to become a better version of CS:GO. I’ve been playing, and a few things look strange for now. Right now you can’t compare the two, it is a different game.

On CS2’s new smoke grenades

“I think that’s bigger than just a gimmick because you will need to hold the smokes, whereas before you didn’t have to sometimes.”

Dan “apEX” Madesclaire

Easily the biggest on-map change to CS2 are the new smoke grenades and how they interact with the world. Instead of being a uniform shape every time they will expand to fill space and can be impacted by things such as bullets and HE grenades, which will create holes or cause parts of it to disperse. Since the first reveal, people have been theorising how the pros will end up using this new tech, and it seems even they aren’t entirely sure just yet.

Héjja ‘kezziwow’ Kászandrá—GL Prism

“The biggest change is probably the smoke and graphic changes. The smoke gameplay will lead to a completely new meta and I’m curious to see how the new smokes will change the meta and if the terrorists will save HE grenades to prevent smoke defuses.”

Sebastian “volt” Maloș—Gamer Legion

“I don’t think the bullet holes through smokes will have much impact, but using HEs to make them disappear does and will have massive influence on the meta. From what I’ve seen already, people are finding smart ways to use it to their advantage. I can think of many ways they can be used so it will be interesting to see it in pro matches.”

Dan “apEX” Madesclaire—Team Vitality

“I think that the shooting [though smokes] part is not a big deal because it doesn’t make a big gap in the smoke, but I think throwing a grenade through it will change a lot. On some maps you will get way more information, and you can use that to your advantage. I don’t know exactly how we’re going to use it, but we will need to think about it. I think that’s bigger than just a gimmick because you will need to hold the smokes, whereas before you didn’t have to sometimes. You will have a new way to play.

Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen—G2 Esports

“The HE + smoke mechanic is the biggest change because it changes a fundamental thing in the game that has been there forever. You’ve always been able to shoot through a smoke, but the fact that it creates holes in the smoke is really good I think. It makes it more risky to spam and in today’s meta there are almost more kills through smokes than straight-up duels, at least on some maps. The HE + smoke mechanic is terrible and I’ve been saying this since the day it became official. It will change a lot and I don’t like it.”

Sub-tick servers and shooting

Though it might not bother ordinary players enough to notice, pros for years lamented that CS:GO’s in-game matchmaking was played on 64-tick servers, whereas all pro matches were played on 128-tick, which you had to use a third-party service to access. Valorant launching with 128-tick servers put Counter-Strike a step behind in this technical category.

CS2 continues that networking arms race with what it calls “sub-tick servers,” where events can happen in between server ticks. “As a result, regardless of tick rate, your moving and shooting will be equally responsive and your grenades will always land the same way,” Valve promises.

It’s hard to compare one-for-one the difference that this new architecture is having on shooting and movement, but pro players are noticing some major differences in the feel of Counter-Strike 2 that may be attributable to this change.

Sebastian “volt” Maloș—Gamer Legion

The biggest change, alongside the new smokes, for me is how it feels to spray weapons. Bursting and tapping is nice but spraying just feels more random/different and reminds me of spraying in Valorant so I’m not the biggest fan of it.

Dan “apEX” Madesclaire—Team Vitality

“The game is in bad shape at the moment when it comes to the way that you peek. You have a really big advantage when you peek someone, you see him before, and that’s not really good for the game overall, they should find a way to change that. The feeling of the game is also very different. There’s a new engine behind it, so it feels very different to the game that I’ve played for more than 15,000 hours, and it looks very different.”

Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen—G2 Esports

“I like the changes to the matchmaking ranking system, but if they want us to take it seriously they need much better anti-cheat and they need better servers, not this 64 tick/sub tick thing.”

Reworked maps

While some classic Counter-Strike maps have just received small visual improvements like improved lighting, others have been totally reworked and look almost unrecognizable from their CS:GO counterparts. CS2’s new Premier matchmaking system ranks players per-map, which will probably encourage most players to pursue a balanced understanding of the whole map set.

Sebastian “volt” Maloș—Gamer Legion

“My favourite map on CS2 so far is Overpass. The new textures and details on the map are really nice so even though it’s pretty much the same, it feels new. I think most of the maps are cool, but there are some things I don’t like on them like the many shadow advantages on Ancient and most of the smokes not working the same on Vertigo.”

Dan “apEX” Madesclaire—Team Vitality

“My two favourite maps in CS2 are Inferno and Overpass. I think the way they look is just so good, Inferno especially, they’ve changed a lot about all of the maps. The way the map looks is really insane, and it’s really nice to see that. When you are used to playing even older games than CS:GO, and CS:GO, a fun part of CS2 for us CS:GO players is just watching the water on Overpass, it just looks so nice and we’re not used to having such a beautiful game.”

Source: PC Gamer

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