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Valve announces Counter-Strike 2, a free replacement for CS:GO

Valve announces Counter-Strike 2, a free replacement for CS:GO

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The new Counter-Strike is overhauling every system and moving to “sub-tick” gameplay in a bigger, brighter, more responsive refresh to the long-running first-person shooter.

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generic art depicting two figures with red eyes on a white and orange background in promo art for CS2.
Image: Valve

Counter-Strike 2 is official, and for some, it’s coming today. In a post on Twitter, Valve writes that a limited test for CS2 is starting today, which it describes as an “overhaul to every system, every piece of content, and every part of the C-S experience.” A website for the game describes it as “the largest technical leap forward in Counter-Strike’s history” and promises years of updates and new features.

The full game is expected to release in summer 2023, according to the game’s FAQ. It will be free to play.

CS2 is based on Valve’s Source 2 engine and includes updates to some of the game’s core mechanics, including improved smoke grenades and “sub-tick updates” that Valve says will let “servers know the exact instant that motion starts, a shot is fired, or a ‘nade is thrown.” (A video also appears to show someone clearing grenade smoke with another grenade.) The game will also have revamped maps, better visuals, UI enhancements, reworked audio, and more.

In a video titled “Leveling Up The World,” Valve says that maps will be getting a new look in CS2 but that experienced players’ skills should carry over. The company also talks about the three “tiers” of maps in the games. There are “touchstone” levels, such as Dust II, that have minor visual tweaks but that are essentially unchanged and that should let people get a feel for the new gameplay in a familiar setting. There are also maps that have been upgraded or overhauled, which have either had Source 2 features added or have been entirely rebuilt.

There’s also a dedicated bind to remove your weapon’s silencer, according to a tweet.

Screenshot of the Overpass map in CS:GO
Screenshot of the Overpass map in CS 2
Left: part of the Overpass map in CS:GO. Right: the same scene, rebuilt for CS2.
Image: Valve and Image: Valve

The company says it’s starting a “limited test” on Wednesday and that people will be selected to join it based on factors like “recent playtime on Valve official servers, trust factor, and Steam account standing.” If you’re selected, you’ll get a notification in the CS:GO main menu that will let you enroll. People are allowed to stream their experience and post videos of it, so even those of us who can’t play the game should get a good look at the improved smoke and lighting effects.

For now, you’ll just be playing the limited test on Counter-Strike’s famous Dust II map in Deathmatch and “unranked competitive matchmaking” modes, though Valve says other modes and maps will arrive in future test releases. The limited test is also only available on Windows for now, not macOS or Linux, and the FAQ has zero mentions of Valve’s Steam Deck handheld.

Valve says there’s “much more to come”

Fortunately, Valve says all the items you’ve collected in CS:GO will be available in the new game and that they’ll “all benefit from Source 2 lighting and materials.” Valve also notes that all stock weapons have been upgraded with “high-resolution models.” The company also says those whose accounts were banned from playing CS:GO will not be able to play CS2 on Valve servers either.

“The game’s full range of new features will be announced at launch, but during the limited testing period we’ll be evaluating a subset of those features to get it ready for the worldwide release,” writes Valve spokesperson Kaci Aitchison Boyle. It looks like Valve plans on adding a lot more to the game, too, as the company notes there’s “much more to come” and that it will reveal all of the details of Counter-Strike 2” in just “a few months.”

Screenshot of Dust II’s archway.
The “touchstone” Dust II map in CS2.
Image: Valve

The announcement comes after weeks of speculation about a potential CS:GO upgrade. Earlier this month, esports journalist Richard Lewis reported that an overhauled CS:GO is in the works. Some users also spotted references to the new game in updates to Nvidia drivers, while PCGamesN found that Valve filed for a CS2 trademark just days before its reveal. The update to the game comes over a decade after the launch of CS:GO and over 20 years after the release of the original CS.

Valve’s timing with this announcement is... interesting. The news dropped during Epic’s State of Unreal event at the 2023 Game Developers Conference, where Valve’s PC game store and game engine competitor is currently expected to announce major updates to its own Unreal Engine. Here’s the latest news from GDC 2023.