After plenty of teasing, Valve has officially announced Counter-Strike 2. The next iteration of the world’s most popular tactical shooter will arrive this summer, and it’s ready to overhaul CS:GO's maps, mechanics, and more. With a limited test now live and plenty of teases for what’s to come, here’s everything we know so far about Counter-Strike 2.
Is Counter-Strike 2 a new game?
Yes and no. Counter-Strike 2 will effectively replace Counter-Strike: Global Offensive when it launches this summer. The game will be available as a free upgrade to all CS:GO players.
Will I lose all my skins?
No. While CS2 is overhauling plenty about the game, you’ll keep access to all your skins and all other inventory items. Valve likely doesn’t want to crash CS:GO’s lucrative Steam Market economy ahead of CS2’s launch. Expect skins and weapons to look a little different though, as they’ll all benefit from improved Source 2 lighting effects and materials.
How do I join the Counter-Strike 2 Limited Test?
If you’re in, you’ll already have an invite. The only way to know if you’ve been invited is to load up the game and see if you received a notification to enroll on the main menu. The Counter-Strike 2 Limited Test has been made available to a select number of prominent players and community members, as well as a randomized pool picked based on factors including account age and recent history playing the game. There's an FAQ here on details relating to the test including how players were invited and what progress carries over to CS:GO.
The Limited Test will help Valve in “evaluating a subset of features” ahead of release. So if you’ve watched any streams or videos of the game, bear in mind that they aren’t showing everything that CS2 will offer.
Counter-Strike 2 differences
CS2 will maintain the tactical gunplay of CS:GO, but a large number of technical elements are undergoing significant reworks. The shift to the Source 2 engine improves visual and lighting effects, but there are plenty of changes that will impact the gameplay as well. Here’s what’s been unveiled so far.
Smoke grenades will hit different in CS2. No longer guaranteed sight blockers of a uniform size, they’ll now deform and react to both the terrain and effects within them. Smokes will expand more naturally to fill space, with parts of them being blocked off if objects get in the way.
More crucial for gameplay, perhaps, is that smokes will react to gunfire and grenades. In addition to nearby muzzle flares lighting up smoke, bullets will tear temporary holes in the cloud, offering a brief moment of visibility. Need a larger window? Grenades can be used to blow large chunks of a smoke cloud to the side for a short duration. Handy if you need to open up a lane for an AWP shot.
Here’s a clip of former pro player n0thing putting the new smoke tricks to use in the Limited Test:
Use HE grenade + smoke trick in CS2 pic.twitter.com/6ZIMx20YQk— Jordan Gilbert (@n0thing) March 22, 2023
Smoke grenades are now also team-coded. CT smokes appear dark grey, while T smokes will be a dusty light brown. That should make it far easier to know which team dropped that smoke on top of your position, and whether you should be congratulating the other team or complaining to your teammates.
Expanded training tools
While we're on the topic of smokes, learning how to throw them will no longer be so time-consuming. One new feature shown off in the Limited Test is a smoke boxout in training mode. Line up a smoke (or any kind of grenade) throw and you'll be shown a picture-in-picture box of the location it will land. That means it'll be easier than ever to figure out those lineups ahead of game time. Check it out in this footage here, though be warned that it includes bad language.
Tick rate waves goodbye
This is one for the experts. CS2 promises to introduce sub-tick updates to the way the server you’re playing on registers events in-game. Previously, the server would only update actions at set intervals in time. The higher the tick rate, the more frequent the updates. In extremely tight timeframes, that can lead to inconsistent results for actions like jump-throwing a grenade or rapidly peeking a corner to take a shot.
CS2’s servers, it’s promised, will “know the exact instant that motion starts, a shot is fired, or a ‘nade is thrown.” In short, that means less frustration for players and no need to spend ages mapping jump throw binds for all those smoke grenades lineups you’ve learned.
CS2 Maps will be overhauled or upgraded
With such a long history, CS has built up a seriously sizable map pool. CS2 will delve through the archives to deliver overhauls and upgrades across the board. For the launch of the game, maps are being split into three categories: Touchstone, upgrades, and overhauls.
First up are touchstone maps like Mirage, Dust2, and Train. These are classic maps that, besides a few lighting updates, have remained unchanged. Their purpose is to give players a familiar ground in which to assess gameplay changes in CS2.
Next are upgrade maps. These also retain the same layouts but integrate Source 2’s new physics-based rendering for lighting. That should improve how materials and reflections appear. So far, we know that Nuke and Aztec will be getting the upgrade treatment.
Last of all are overhaul maps. Valve has taken a look at both new levels and some of the series’ older arenas and given them full reworks. These have been fully rebuilt to make use of Source 2 development tools and rendering features – features which Valve promises will be available to community map makers as well. It looks like Italy, Overpass, and possibly Inferno will be the opening overhaul maps for CS2.
The full list of maps we've seen for CS2 so far is:
Visual effects and UI upgrades
Thanks to Source 2’s particle systems, the visual effects for blood splatters, explosions, fire, and more have been updated. Crucially, these changes have been made with gameplay in mind. Bullet impacts will always be visible at a distance over effects like blood, which fade over time. The C4 explosion also looks far more impressive, adding some oomph to the end of rounds.
UI has also been stepped up in CS2. We don’t know the full details yet, but expect to see plenty of fresh visual effects for rank ups, and what looks like a tracker to highlight when you’ve pulled off an ace.
Valve also promises that CS2 will improve the audio experience for players as well. Sounds should now “ better reflect the physical environment, be more distinct, and express more game state.”
That’s all so far, but Valve has been steadily dropping more information on Counter-Strike 2 and the changes it will bring following the opening reveal. Head over to the CS2 website to learn more.