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

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 a FAQ.

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.” (AThe 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 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.

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.

Fortunately, Valve says all the items you’ve collected in CS:GO will be available in the new game, and 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.

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, while some users spotted references to the new game in updates to Nvidia drivers.

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