Counter-Strike 2 is real, and coming this summer

Counter-Strike 2 screenshot (Valve)
Counter-Strike 2 screenshot (Valve)

After weeks of speculation, Valve has confirmed that Counter-Strike 2 is coming this summer, as a free upgrade to the already free-to-play CS:GO. It will, the developer claims, be the “largest technical leap forward in Counter-Strike’s history”.

That’s perhaps not too surprising, given CS:GO is over a decade old now, and technology has come on in leaps and bounds since 2012. The game will be built on Valve’s own Source 2 engine which powers the likes of Dota 2 and VR-exclusive Half-Life: Alyx.

As well as a graphical lick of paint, this means that the rebuild will be an “overhaul to every system, every piece of content, and every part of the C-S experience”.

The engine could allow for new tactical elements. Indeed, Valve published the video below showing how just one aspect of the game — smoke grenades — has been changed via the new engine. Now they’re volumetric 3D objects, they react to lighting, fill spaces according to objects, and can be shaped by bullets and grenades.

On a technical level, the game may also feel a little different thanks to “sub-tick updates” that will let “servers know the exact instant that motion starts, a shot is fired, or a ‘nade is thrown.” In other words, the whole thing should feel more responsive, and the millisecond difference between you clicking and the shot fired should be instant.

But old hands should still feel at home, as Valve hasn’t been editing maps for the sake of it. In another video, the company talks about how it’s divided existing maps into three tiers: touchstone, upgrades and overhauls. The first “have improvements to lighting and character read, but otherwise haven’t been changed”.

Upgrades, meanwhile, take advantage of Source 2 lighting “including a physically based rendering system that produces realistic materials, lighting and reflections.”

Finally, overhauls “have been fully rebuilt from the ground up leveraging all of the Source 2 tools and rendering features.”

Said tools will be available to modders to further expand the game, if playing in the same old maps doesn’t appeal.

While Counter-Strike 2 won’t arrive until the summer, Valve is running a “limited test” from now until release. For the moment, it really is limited, however, and you can’t simply volunteer to take part.

Instead, Valve says it will be picking current players to join in based on “recent playtime on Valve official servers, trust factor, and Steam account standing”.

But you’re not missing too much for the moment. The test is limited to the famous Dust II map, and participants are allowed to broadcast their matches if you really want to see how it looks.

Hopefully Valve will expand the test further as release date approaches. It promises “future limited test releases” in its FAQ. It adds that these will include “other game modes, maps and features”.

Despite its age, Counter-Strike’s popularity has endured for more than 20 years. At the time of writing, the official Steam charts have CS:GO as the most-played game with 1.1 million people playing — more than double its nearest rival, Dota 2.

That isn’t just a blip based on excitement about its imminent upgrade, either. Since it went free to play in 2018, the game has consistently had between 500,000 and 1.4 million players logging in each day, according to SteamDB.