Valve, creator of one of the most popular and long-running esports title Counter Strike, has recently announced Counter Strike 2 (CS2). This announcement is rumoured to be one of the biggest news coming out of esports industry in this decade.
Valve has confirmed the full-fledged official release for 2023 summer, however, the official date of the release has not been confirmed yet. Currently, the game is in limited testing, with many streamers and pro CS players getting access to test out all the changes and give feedback on them.
The limited test access is also given to player’s number of factors including playtime on official servers, trust factor, and the steam account standing. Players, who do get the access to beta test, will have the “Enroll” option in CS:GO menu.
CS2 is now using the Source 2 engine, which is making a lot of changes for how the objects interacts and shooting takes place. The core mechanics like the recoil and how guns shoot are kept the same, but there are a lot of changes under the hood.
Prior to CS2, the Source 2 engine was first implemented in DOTA 2 back in 2015 and since have been used in all the other Valve games released after 2015 like Half-Life: Alyx, Robot Repair, Dota Underlords, Aperture Desk Job, etc. Counter Strike was still due in this department, and is now being upgraded with CS2.
Along with visual upgrade, CS2 is also getting a heap of changes compared to CS: GO. The ones that are announced are some of the biggest changes that will affect the gameplay style for many players, while many more are yet to be revealed. Here are all the changes announced officially by Valve –
1. Smoke Grenade changes
Smoke Grenades are a staple in every CS: GO round, even during the pistol rounds there is at least one guy with a smoke. Smokes are used to block off vision off enemy team, be it for planting the bomb in Terrorist side, defusing the bomb on Counterterrorist side or any general tactical use like crossing a gap or fooling opponents.
Until CS: GO, the smoke used to be just a ball of visual blockade that did not interact with the environment. In simple words, ‘it was just there’, you throw a smoke grenade, and it popped a smoke bubble that even clipped through the surface and did not interact with anything.
With CS2 volumetric changes, the smoke is now a living thing inside the game interacting with the environment. It will now create a gap while shooting through and dissipate with shock wave from H.E Grenade for a few seconds. It will even fill an empty object’s shape naturally and reacts to lighting, making it look more realistic.
The changes in smoke will CS2 now allow players to make tactical moves. Instead of spamming in close quarter smoke encounter, players will be more careful as the one who shoots first and misses might give themselves up through the gap created. Long range AWPers can use H.E. grenades to clear out smokes blocking their vision for a few seconds.
One concern raised by players is that the performance hit due to smoke being volumetric. While CS2 is said to be a heavily optimized game, older PCs might struggle a bit. The requirements are not yet revealed for CS2, but considering it is an esports title, Valve might have optimized the game.
2. Tick Rates
One of the major things Valve has always been criticized by the gamers is the 64 tick matchmaking servers. Tick rate is the frequency at which the server updates the actions by players. The higher the tick rate, the better and faster response the players will receive.
With new Sub-tick updates, Valve is claiming that the servers will know the exact action a player is doing even if it is between the ticks. This is the first time a company have claimed that an online game movement and shooting will not rely on the tick rate.
The best example for tick disadvantage is shooting a moving target or spraying in general, since the tick rate is low, even a fraction of delay will make the bullet miss as the target might have moved a bit while there was a delay in server client response.
Riot’s Valorant has been highly praised in this regard, as the official matchmaking servers have 128 tick servers. While there are websites like FACEIT and ESEA that provides 128 tick servers for CSGO, they are not official MM servers by Valve.
If the Sub-tick updates work as intended by Valve, it will be one of the biggest achievement in the online gaming genre. Currently, Valve have not revealed how their Sub-ticks tech work.
3. Visual Updates and Source 2 tools
CS2 maps have received a huge visual overhaul with as the maps now look bright and clean compared to the pale and rough old visuals. The new source 2 engine provides a physically based rendering system for realistic materials and proper lighting inside the maps.
The maps that used to look dull now feel more lively and provide better visual information during gameplay. Earlier, it was easy for a casual player to miss an opponent in a dim corner even after clearing the area, but with new lighting, blending with the background is a bit harder.
Along with map overhauls, Valve is also providing Source 2 tools which can be used by the community to create their own maps or various other game modes. Source 2 Item Workshop will also be available late into the limited test.
4. In-game Items
Valve knows many players have collected several weapon skins, sprays and stickers over the span of CSGO year, and it intends to honour them. The CS:GO inventory of all players will be transferred to CS2 on release and will also benefit from Source 2 engine lighting and materials.
Players will still have the option to choose from legacy skins if they want to feel the nostalgia or can take advantage of the updated materials for a better looking finish on weapons.
5. VFX and sounds
All the visuals inside the game have been updated in CS2. Water, explosions, fire, smoke, muzzle flashes, bullet tracers, and impact effects are updated to give proper visual cue. Gun fights now leave directional blood splashes, which can give players a general idea from where the enemy and check corners on that side.
Along with this, the explosions, fire and other environment effects have also been reworked using the Source 2 engine. The player UI is also upgraded and made more reactive to the game. It also keeps track of kills for players every round, along with properly displaying the current state of the ongoing round.
Another big complaint of players was no proper directional sound in CSGO. While it is there, it felt similar for all footsteps, shooting and interaction. With CS2, the developers have changed the audio to better reflect the physical environment and the player interaction.
Addressing one of the main issues
While the CS2 update is very exciting and brings a lot of quality of life updates in the game, the developers still haven’t talked about the issue with cheating in-game. CSGO is famous for its satisfactory gameplay, but it is also well known for being one of the games with the highest number of cheaters.
Competitive queue players in the official servers face people with various types of cheats like Wall Hacking (ESPs) and Aim bots. The Valve anti-cheat have not proven very effective against such cheaters.
Some people use the cheats blatantly to ruin the game for others, while many use subtle cheats like ESP to know the position of other players. While veteran player can easily spot a cheater. Casuals can have a hard time identifying them, and thus, miss their chance to report them.