Counter-Strike 2 is finally available on Steam, after spending months in limited testing. Billed as the ‘largest technical leap’ in the perennial shooter’s history, CS2 replaces the original CS:GO and is ready for download on the platform. Running on the Source 2 Engine, which powered the acclaimed Half-Life: Alyx, the successor now gets a graphical facelift with redesigns to certain maps, alongside some technical upgrades that strengthen the overall gunplay. Interestingly, while Valve never openly announced a release date, the official Counter-Strike Twitter account updated its header image with cryptic phrases like “Dawn of the Final Day” to signal its imminent launch.
CS2 functions as a free update to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, automatically transferring all purchased skins and cosmetics to the new version. All classic maps — Dust 2, Inferno, Mirage, and the ilk — come with lighting improvements that create reflections on surfaces like tiles and puddles, alongside more realistic shadows. Using Source 2, the maps have been rebuilt from the ground up to suit a modern aesthetic — the same tools will be available to community map makers so they can build and share their own creations. One of the major physics-based shifts has to be the inclusion of volumetric 3D smokes that are super-reactive to movement, be it any bullets passing through or a nearby explosion that causes the plume to change shape naturally. Previously, these used to be stagnant — like a grey mass.
Valve has also introduced a new sub-tick architecture, which lets the official servers know the exact timing at which you hurled a grenade or fired a bullet. CS:GO relied on a discrete time interval mechanic called ticks, which were set to 64hz by default, causing a chunk of ranked players to flock over to unofficial servers offering a more responsive 128hz tick rate. Speaking of ranked play, CS2 brings an all-new rating system that is split between two modes: the classic competitive and Premier. The former functions the same as before, allowing you to pick your choice of map and strive to gain the highest elo, going from Silver 1 to Global Elite. However, now the ranks are divided based on maps, so you could be a Master Elite on Dust 2 while simultaneously being a Gold Nova level player on Vertigo.
Premier is being touted as the main competitive mode, introducing an active pick-ban system that lets you ban certain maps before the start of a match. So, it’s ideal that you master certain maps on the standard ranked mode, before heading into the serious leagues. Upon finishing 10 placement games, players will be granted a numeric skill rating — called CS Rating — instead of a rank emblem, as a means to show where you rank among friends, the region, and even worldwide. As a general bonus feature, CS2 also lets you refund any weapons, equipment, or throwables you purchased on accident, as long as you manage to do it during the prescribed buy time.