My Counter-Strike Background
Counter-Strike is my most played game series, aside from maybe RuneScape, but that's an addictive MMO so I categorise that differently.
I haven't played it consistently over the past 18 years or so, but it's a game I always come back to. I started maybe a year or two after the final release of CS 1.6, I played on-and-off for a few years, enjoyed it a lot - especially whenever I could scrape together a traditional CS game - but most of my play back then was on casual servers.
But as became a pattern, I then stopped playing for a couple of years, in that time I barely if at all used Steam and then lost my login somehow. Still irritating to this day, but by the time I started using Steam a lot - Counter-Strike: Source came around.
It wasn't well received by the competitive community, but as someone who by that point wasn't particularly competitive, I liked many of the changes in Source and particularly loved the community mods and maps that popped up on it. I spent hours in all the random game modes, surf, bhop maps, zombies, scouts & knives, and some of the traditional play. I played that a fair bit on and off through the years.
Then Counter-Strike: Global Offensive came about. I played an early beta on PS3 at Eurogamer Expo back in 2011 I think, got a beta key handed to me and played the beta on PC when it came out. It was poor. It felt strange, it was all kinds of broken for competitive play, and the community mods didn't take off quite so quickly.
It launched and eventually fell behind CS 1.6 and sometimes even Source for concurrent player count. It looked dead, and in an industry obsessed with Call of Duty and the style of play that brought, I thought what we loved about Counter-Strike was doomed to extinction.
But, they improved it quickly, introduced matchmaking, fixed the game up with lots of balance and mechanical tweaks, they kept at it. They introduced gun and knife skins that were tradeable/sellable for real money - it was an excellent game and also brought in lots of new players due to the new monetisation.
I'm not a fan of the gambling mechanics, but it ensured Valve invested enough time and energy into restoring Counter-Strike to arguably the best eSport game in the world. It has no impact on the competitive integrity of the game, so I'm all good with it. Plus, I managed to earn a fair amount of money from it - so I won't complain too much.
This combination took Counter-Strike: Global Offensive from a game struggling to maintain 20,000 concurrent players, to one that peaked and sustained 1.6 - 1.8 million concurrent players. It became perhaps the best all around competitive FPS of all time. I know some will cling onto some of the classics like 1.6 or Quake, but I think overall - CSGO reached tremendous heights.
CSGO was the game where I took the competitive aspect of Counter-Strike a lot more seriously, because matchmaking made it way more accessible. No longer did I need to use external services, join IRC channels or hang about on forums.
Going from a game I thought was dead, and believed was likely going the way of Quake and other 'old school' competitive FPS games, to one of the absolute biggest games in the industry is something I'll always be grateful for CSGO for. It saved my favourite style of competitive game.
It also got me into watching eSports for the first time. Professional CS is a brilliant eSport to watch and after all these years, I remember some moments like I remember big moments in 'real' sports.
It has been a few weeks since Counter-Strike 2's official release and I have a few thoughts that I'd like to note down so I can revisit in the future when Valve have hopefully further refined the game.
My headlining thoughts are:
- The game still needs a fair amount of work. There's too many issues around the netcode - where you'll sometimes be headshot by a player peeking you before you even see them on your screen. It's immensely frustrating because you can't do anything about it. But I'm sure they'll fix that.
- The game is still quite barebones, one of the casualties of CSGO was the reduced emphasis on community servers. Losing the wackiness of all the mods and various maps on those. I hope a community does form overtime, taking advantage of the new Source 2 engine and tools.
- I'm nowhere near as good as I used to be, I haven't played CSGO consistently since maybe 2017. Even before CS2 replaced CSGO, I wasn't playing particularly well. I've been improving recently, my aim is coming back to me a bit, but I'm still far below what was my usual level in CSGO. Annoying, but I'm enjoying learning the game again.
- It's fun, despite all the issues - some of them being quite severe - I still look forward to playing at least one or two games a night.
- CS2 has a load of potential on the new engine, with the things like volumetric smokes, molotovs and the sub-tick system (the latter needing a fair amount of refinement), so I'm really excited to see how it changes and how the meta evolves with it.
Unfortunately, I have a few other games I've been wanting to play recently (Starfield, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, Baldurs Gate 3, etc), but they've all taken a bit of a backseat whilst CS2 rekindles my Counter-Strike addiction.