PC Gamer

TRIGGERNOMETRY

We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.

There isn t enough poetry being written about guns. Not literal limericks or sonnets (that would be creepy), but words that dig into and capture what makes one game s AK-47 more fun than another s.

Weapon feel continues to be the nebulous catch-all for the nuances that make guns fun. Most of the reviews of shooters I read offer the same praise: guns feel great or feel really powerful. If the writer s being generous, they ll use a word like punchy to describe an SMG. I ve been guilty of this too during my six-year term at PC Gamer.

Months of work goes into designing, animating, and balancing the things that put the S in FPS, so maybe we should take a moment to talk about what makes a good gun good.

I think the visual design of weapons matters far less than we think it does. There s a tendency, probably because they re planted right in front of our perspective at all times, to think of guns as a collection of aesthetics: firing and reload animations, SFX, screen shake, particle effects, and the death animations they produce. Those things make a gun, right? So if those things are good, surely we have an interesting and fun video game weapon, right?

No. Consider the AWP: it s olive green, it s bland, and its simple animations are more run-of-the-mill than Rambo. The only aesthetically remarkable thing about the most revered, iconic, and infamous sniper rifle in a video game is that it s a bit loud. And yet thousand-comment debates erupt when Valve tweaks the way the AWP s scope works. Why?

A gun s look and sound are part of its personality, sure. But if you ask me, great video game weapons have meaningful, interconnected relationships with other game elements. Those elements differ from game to game, of course. In CS case, the appeal of the AWP is born from the fact that CS is an FPS with body-part-specific damage modeling and no respawns. In that context, it s the only gun that grants an instant kill if you tag someone above the waist.

That feeling of possibility is fun within the strict rules of CS movement: if you can hit it, you can kill it… but you also can t be moving too much when you fire. With that power comes responsibility, too. Killed players surrender their equipped weapon in CS, and stolen AWPs not only save your team $4750 but act as a kind of trophy. This is doubly the case in CS:GO, where a player s custom AWP skin reminds all spectators which irresponsible player allowed their AWP to fall into enemy hands. Buying an AWP, then, to some extent, announces to the rest of the server: I think I m a good enough shot to protect this valuable asset from the other team.

All of this makes the AWP a weapon with abundant meaning. Even its shortcomings (slow rate of fire, difficult to use in close quarters) are a source of fun: the noscope is a revered skillshot.

In Tribes case, its weapons shake hands with its player movement really well, arguably the quality that defines it as an FPS. Again, like the AWP, the Spinfusor isn't visually extraordinary: it fires discs at a medium speed, and its animations and SFX are pretty modest. But the Spinfusor is the perfect fit, the perfect baseline weapon in a game where your targets are typically skiing along the ground at high speed. Its splash damage leaves room for error and its relatively slow travel time creates an exciting feeling of uncertainty as you admire your shot. Like throwing up a three-pointer in basketball, you get to experience that arc of Will it go in? It might not go in. It went in! as the disc travels toward its target.

The Fusion Mortar creates the same sort of feeling while operating as a parabolic siege weapon. The design of the weapons actually encourages you to spend as much time as possible in the air: the threat they pose encourages you to master movement to have the best chance of staying alive. In each of these examples, the weapons strengthen the meaning and significance of core systems like movement, damage modeling, or weapon purchasing.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

If I close my eyes and think of childhood memories and the spaces that contain them, my mind might touch upon a bedroom, a school playground or a muddy playing field, but it might just as easily come to rest upon Q2DM1, Q3DM17 or de_prodigy. The angles and textures and travel times of certain multiplayer maps are seared into my brain through repetition, their tiny details lacquered by the tension of triumph and defeat.

But I like that they’re more than just memories. I don’t find much time to play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but it’s a wonderful thing and Valve have been doing great work in gradually reviving and revitalizing maps from older versions of the game. They’ve done just that today to de_train, an old favourite, and if you’ve ever played Counter-Strike it’s worth watching the video below and reading the post on the Counter-Strike blog which explains the changes.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

A recent study by the PEW Internet Project exposed the blindingly obvious hypocrisy of most people’s attitudes towards online services. We don’t want our privacy compromised, we don’t think big companies can be trusted with our data, and the power of corporations like Google makes us uncomfortable. But despite all these deeply-held and very serious fears, billions of people still use the products involved. So too with DLC in all forms. We bitch and moan, mock the price on twitter, talk about how far games have fallen and then pony up the dough when nobody’s looking. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s new Operation Vanguard is what we’ve let ourselves in for. >

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Every Monday in Triggernometry*, Evan writes about FPSes.

Aiming is one of Counter-Strike s central skills. Good aim can get you out of a bad situation, like a mistimed rush or a weapon disadvantage. Even if you ve been playing CS for a decade, I m willing to bet that, like me, you ve got some bad aiming habits.

I ll go first: I m awful with the AK at long range, and I struggle to get kills with the P250 on eco rounds. I ll probably get better with those guns as I keep putting hours into CS:GO s competitive matchmaking, but bad habits are easy to lose sight of in the middle of a match, when you re caught up in the emotion of the situation. CS:GO also hides a ton of its nuances—especially the bullet spray patterns of its weapons.

Aim maps have a way of immediately illuminating what you ve been doing wrong. Through repetition and drilling, they can teach you a lot about your own bad (and good) aiming behaviors. These are my three favorites.

How to play custom CS:GO maps locally:

  • Subscribe to maps on Steam Workshop
  • Launch CS:GO
  • Click Play > Offline with bots
  • Click Workshop, search for the map you subscribed to
  • Select the map, select No bots

training aim csgo 2

download

This is CS:GO s best drill map, and it has a ton of customizability. You can tweak it to test almost anything you need to work on, from long-range AWPing to short-range spraying against targets that take multiple hits to break. I particularly like the sliding test, which lets you set up static or pop-up targets along different axes, letting you practice the rhythm of strafing, stopping, and shooting outside of a live environment. I also get a lot out of the Burst Training, which tracks how many of your shots connect on a full spray.

Training: Bot Aim V4b

download

You can work on any weapon on this map, but I ve found it to be best for building pistol skills. It loads a number of bots into a narrow corridor and has a few toggleable obstacles—crates and a pair of doors—that you can bring into the setting to make it feel more practical. Bots can be set to return fire or not. The god mode setting is really helpful if you want to focus on training one weapon for a sustained period.

aim botz

download

This rifles-and-pistols map is the best one I ve found for working on killing enemies who are moving laterally. The bot movements are a little unnatural (you can also set them to move faster than players can in-game, as in the GIF above), but you can set them to mirror different ADAD patterns (alternating left and right strafing), which can be a particularly tough maneuver to counter. There s a good amount of setting customization, too, including boxes and uneven ground. You can also toggle on impact visualization, which will produce a wireframe of the bot hit that lingers in the environment.

*[Hats off to Reiniat, who suggested that we call this column "Triggernometry" instead of its original, inferior label "Shooterology." If you're listening, get in touch with me in the comments below to collect a prize that I have not yet determined. —Evan]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

Mmm whatcha say? Mmm that you only meant well? Course you did.

And in “Well this is a nice idea but it would involve me not playing Jason Derulo on repeat while headshotting Ben so you can count me out” news: there are now Counter-Strike: Global Offensive music kits.

What that means is when you have a music kit equipped it replaces the in-game music with music from your kit. That covers *deep breath* the main menu, round start, round end, bomb planting, bomb warning, round won, round lost, round end warning and death camera bits of a match. For extra RUB-IT-IN-YOUR-FACE-ness there’s also a special MVP anthem which plays to everyone when you’re MVP.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Some people complain there are too many zombies in video games. Well, you know what? There are. That's why you need to kill them. The newest undead invasion is hitting the Counter-Strike universe, with Counter-Strike Nexon: Zombies releasing on Steam today. It's free-to-play too, so getting involved in the extermination won't cost you a cent.

For anyone who took part in the open beta, Nexon has released a list of new bug fixes and improvements to coincide with the official release. These include important design changes including the ability to craft and disassemble certain items without using Points, through to cosmetic changes like the length of chat messages, prettier colour coding and more. 

The game currently boasts 50 maps, over 20 game modes including both PvP and PvE, and more guns than Nexon's previous effort Counter-Strike Online. Most interesting is the crafting system, which allows players to change the appearance and statistics of weapons. Nexon is also promising to continue adding new content for the game, so if you hate zombies, or love them, you should be set for a while. 

PC Gamer

Evan writes about FPSes every Monday in Shooterology.

There was a round of CS:GO during last Friday s Dreamhack Invitational matches that I found really inspiring. I ve recorded some commentary over it at 25% playback speed in the video above.

The round, from a match between two of the best teams in the world, showcases Swedish sniper jw s absurd spider sense. It s a terrific individual effort, and while it delivers as a Sick MLG Pro 420 Noscope Frag Video™, it also showcases two of CS:GO s best aspects: the importance of physical awareness and the way the game s decade-old, refined map layouts prompt tough decisions.

CS:GO isn t without flaws—aside from the presence of hackers in competitive matches, the CS:GO competitive scene itself continues to suffer from DDOS attacks on players and servers during matches. The Dreamhack Invitational, despite being a LAN event, wasn't even safe from this. And those ancient maps, terrific as they generally are, aren't perfect. Nuke continues to heavily favor the CT side in CS:GO, arguably giving advantage to the team who starts on that side.

You really should watch the rest of the tournament, though, especially the final between French rivals Titan and Team LDLC.

PC Gamer

Evan writes about FPSes every Monday in Shooterology.

There was a round of CS:GO during last Friday s Dreamhack Invitational matches that I found really inspiring. I ve recorded some commentary over it at 25% playback speed in the video above.

The round, from a match between two of the best teams in the world, showcases Swedish sniper jw s absurd spider sense. It s a terrific individual effort, and while it delivers as a Sick MLG Pro 420 Noscope Frag Video™, it also showcases two of CS:GO s best aspects: the importance of physical awareness and the way the game s decade-old, refined map layouts prompt tough decisions.

CS:GO isn t without flaws—aside from the presence of hackers in competitive matches, the CS:GO competitive scene itself continues to suffer from DDOS attacks on players and servers during matches. The Dreamhack Invitational, despite being a LAN event, wasn't even safe from this. And those ancient maps, terrific as they generally are, aren't perfect. Nuke continues to heavily favor the CT side in CS:GO, arguably giving advantage to the team who starts on that side.

You really should watch the rest of the tournament, though, especially the final between French rivals Titan and Team LDLC.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Just a weird load of CS mods I guess.

Counter-Strike Nexon: Zombies is a weird thing. A zombified free-to-play version of dear old CS 1.6 made by not-Valve always would be but gosh, this video game! I’ve inadvertently played a good five hours since Nexon launched it into open beta on Tuesday. I’m baffled but fascinated. It feels like a cover-disc collection of mods passed through a portal from a world where Valve released source code for Counter-Strike, not Half-Life, so CS became the base for loads of odd mods.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
csgo-aug


Every Monday, Evan writes about first-person shooters.

Playing a competitive online game means being subjected to a certain amount of unsolicited criticism. I think you receive a bit more of it in CS:GO, though, because your dead teammates form a kind of peanut gallery who can talk to you from beyond the grave. Being the last one alive as four other players hover over your digital shoulder is a quintessential CS experience.

I ve been that digital shoulder hundreds of times, struggling to clutch while a person I ve never met tells me which gun I should grab to retake Nuke s A bombsite, or chastises me for using a grenade in a one-on-one situation. It s annoying, but I m actually grateful for a lot of the harsh feedback that s been handed to me in these moments because it s shaken me out of some bad habits.

Below, a selection of some of the criticism that s been condescendingly muttered at me in CS that turned out to be great advice:


Don t reload.
Shooters, single-player shooters especially, condition us to reload as a Pavlovian response to getting a kill. Resisting that urge is one of the first things most new CS players have to unlearn. Most weapons in CS:GO take between two and four seconds to reload: plenty of time for someone to peek around a corner or move through the space you should be defending. But maybe more importantly, in close-quarters, reloading betrays your position with sound. Consider the trade-off: would you rather have a full mag and an enemy who knows where you are, or a shallow mag and an enemy who s out of position?

Don t underestimate how much you can do with four or five bullets. With a rifle, it takes three or four non-headshots to take an enemy from full health to none and in late-game situations, it s even less likely that the enemy around the corner has 100 HP.


Don t pretend.
A few months ago one of my teammates in a match I d solo queued into called me out on this. What are you doing? I bet you saw that on Twitch or some shit, right? He was right. I was ADAD spamming (quickly tapping A and D in alternation) to hold a corner on de_inferno. There was no purpose or tactical value to what I was doing, I was just miming something I d seen in a tournament. It was the equivalent of doing a bunch of fancy dribbling in soccer with no one playing defense against me.

It s great to experiment with stuff you see in competitive play, but understanding the situational benefits of each maneuver is a huge step toward pulling it off successfully. After the ESL, I started backing away from my own flashbang grenades on entries, something I loved seeing in that tournament. But then I realized that my grenade placement wasn t nearly good enough to guarantee that I was flashing enemies at all I was just imitating for the sake of imitating.


Please, please don't throw that grenade.
Put the pin back in. I see so much misplaced faith in the frag grenade in CS:GO, partly because I used to be that guy who d start a bombsite retake with a frag toss, often coming around corners while still in the follow-through animation for the throw. Here s what I learned, after someone finally scolded me: your frag isn t going to kill anyone. Even if you re the Joe Montana of grenades and toss directly into the enemy player s mouth, it ll do 57 damage. If you played a lot of CS:Source, where grenades did a max of 72 against armored opponents, take a moment to realize that a perfect toss will only inflict as much as about two bullets.

In almost all situations, but especially in one-on-ones, your rifle is going to be able to kill someone faster and more safely than any sort of offensive grenade. Flashes are handy in a lot of situations in CS, but they re also unreliable: you can t be sure how well you ve blinded someone. If I had just kept my gun out instead of reaching for that 4 key, I would ve won many more rounds for my team.


Don't turn a three-on-one into a series of one-on-ones.
This is the one I ve started to preach most to players that I solo queue in Competitive mode with. It s easy to take a round win for granted when you re in a 3-on-1 or a 4-on-2. The easiest way to give away an easy win, though, is arranging your team in a way that the enemy can encounter you one at a time, on their own terms. When you re defending a bombsite against a shorthanded enemy, your goal should be to guarantee a trade: put the enemy in a position where they must cross the firing line of Player B if they want to kill Player A.


Are you afraid of your own pistol, or something?
Pistols have an amazing amount of utility in CS:GO. In the current build, the CZ75 the only automatic pistol has a ludicrous amount of value as a short-range, spray-and-hope-for-the-best gun when your AWP isn t cutting it or your M4A1-S runs dry. Even with the recent change to price it at $500, the cost of two grenades, it s a strong backup for serial AWPers who fear being rushed.


Dude, why would you ever crouch-walk?
This is ancient, ancient advice, but it s something that I still occasionally see players doing on casual servers. Crouch-walking around a corner will always grant advantage to someone who s watching that corner they ll always be able to see your gun poke out, then your knees, and blast you before you see them. If you need to check around an object, shoulder peek: dart out of cover while revealing as little of yourself as possible, then back in as quickly as possible, purely to see where an enemy is.
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