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For the last few days, Valve has been teasing the release of a revamped version of venerated Counter-Strike map Dust 2, and yesterday they spilled the full beans on the new facelift. Valve's been refreshing old Counter-Strike maps for a while now, in an attempt to keep CS:GO looking as modern as possible, but messing with Dust 2 is a bit more of a risky proposition than modifying less-played maps like Train.
The more beloved a map is, the larger the potential backlash will be. Dust 2 has been a staple of competitive play for over 15 years, and was far and away the most played map in the game until its removal from the active map pool back in February.
It's not surprising, then, that Valve's rework is so conservative. While all the assets have been replaced with higher-res, higher-poly ones, achieving the goal of bringing the map in line with modern graphical expectations, changes to the way the map plays are modest.
The biggest change is to the visual clarity, which has been improved across the map. Most of the dark or busy looking areas that allowed players to blend in with their surroundings have been illuminated: the tunnels leading to B are much brighter thanks to a new open ceiling, and a lot of the crates throughout the map have been draped in white cloth to better contrast with player models. Bombsite A benefits from the deletion of the busy-looking doors at the back of A long, and some cleanup of the wall decoration along catwalk. These are bound to be uncontroversial changes, and are in line with what Valve has been doing with the other map facelifts.
There’s also been some common sense cleanup work that probably should’ve happened years ago. Stuff like widening the window from CT spawn into B site, and simplifying the scaffolding near CT-side mid doors, feels like pretty basic quality-of-life improvements that will prevent newer players from getting stuck on weird geometry or having their shots glance off of random pipes.
In the coming weeks we’ll get a better idea of the full ramifications of this update. A couple things to keep an eye on will be whether the new single car on A long (which replaces a pair of cars that were at odd angles in the map’s previous version) will actually be useful as cover now, and whether the increase in room to maneuver behind B site’s car will increase its viability as a hold point for CTs.
There are also some subtle changes that may not even be intentional, and may or may not have a substantial impact on gameplay. Foremost among these is a problem we’ve seen already on some of the other modernized maps, but doesn’t seem to have caused enough of a ruckus to attract Valve’s notice: almost every previously-flat surface is now slightly bumpy (presumably for visual fidelity reasons), which affects the way grenades bounce off of floors and walls. Given how big of a deal smoke and flash placement is in CS, this may prove to be problematic in the long term, as it’s going to reduce the accuracy with which banked grenades can be placed.
Also on the topic of small, maybe-unintentional changes, the spawn locations have shifted slightly. A helpful redditor has pointed out after exploring the map that counter-terrorists can now get to their side of A long a full two seconds before terrorists can get to theirs, which may impact which corners CT players choose to hold, and which angles T players choose to peek from. Again, these are the kind of changes that will require some time to shake out, and we won’t know the full effect of this stuff until the competitive meta has fully adapted, which may take even longer than usual given there's a decade-plus of habits to unlearn.
But Valve seems to have struck a good balance with this update. It’s a healthy overhaul that makes some modest but interesting changes without reinventing the wheel. From a purely visual perspective, the new Dust 2 is beautiful, and undeniably an upgrade from the previous iteration. The terrorists have also gotten new higher-fidelity player models as part of the deal, and they’re a big improvement over the dated look of the existing models. (Puzzlingly, the CT models have not gotten the same treatment thus far.)
There are of course a host of bugs related to the new geometry, allowing for all manner of unintentional boost spots and weird clipping, but this has always been the case with these big map refreshes, and generally they get fixed in a fairly timely manner. Once these issues are addressed, we should expect to see Dust 2 re-added to the Active Duty map pool (possibly at the expense of Cobblestone) and the tournament circuit will quickly demonstrate what effect, if any, the update will have on the way Counter-Strike’s most iconic map is played.
Though Half-Life [official site] is almost nineteen years old and its sanctioned fan remake Black Mesa is nearing completion, Valve have launched a wee patch for their pretty okay or whatever vintage FPS. The patch fixes a few crashes and exploits, and hit other Half-Life engine games too, such as classic Counter-Strike. Given how much of modern PC games history connects to Half-Life and its mod scene, I’m glad Valve are still tinkering a little. Earlier this year, they finally got Half-Life an uncensored release in Germany too. … [visit site to read more]
A reload is a seconds-long sideshow of watching ammo numbers go back up, a firearm equivalent of off a blade. Whether it’s the snappy accuracy of a mil-sim mag swap or feeding vomit balls to a living rocket launcher, reload animations are testament to the artistic prowess of personalizing a ubiquitous aspect of shooters. In alphabetical order, here’s some of the best reload animations on PC.
Battlefield’s reloads mix function with form to spruce up each kit’s arsenal without straying too far into prolonged five-finger theatrics. The bolt-action rifles have satisfyingly crisp rechambering sequences, and it’s wonderful picking out DICE’s split-second touches on the older weapon design. The left hand of this Gewehr 98 sniper clamping over the rifle’s port to prevent an unspent bullet from flying out as he cycles the bolt to reload is a fine example.
Behold the pee-wee Kolibri, the tiniest sidearm in a game filled with bulky, ancient MGs and hulking tanks. This novelty pistol has perhaps daintiest reload animation in gaming history. Swapping a magazine smaller than some caterpillars (the slight wiggle before the magazine enters its housing is a hilarious nudge) perfectly accompanies the sophistication of the pinky, ring, and middle fingers raised at maximum teacup clearance.
Diverging from typical FPS fare of tilting the gun sideways for a clearer view of a reload, Battlefield 4’s AK-12 instead scores points for sticking with the realism of a trained military soldier dispensing with unnecessary movements. Note the forward-facing angle during the entire animation—this keeps the barrel’s business end pointed at the enemy—and the support hand curving beneath the grip to rack the charging handle and keep the firing hand near the trigger.
Catching one of DICE’s handful of easter-egg reload animations guarantees a double-take and that special feeling of accomplishment for triggering the fabled 1-in-10,000 probability. The Unica 6 secret reload is one of the earliest recorded from Battlefield’s community, and it holds a special place of honor for its ridiculous speedloader flick and follow-up cartridge comfort pat.
Battlefield Hardline boasts plenty of hidden reload animations seemingly trying to upstage each other with . with powerful criminal magic is impressive enough, but it’s hard to top the mesmerizing smoothness of the twirling .410 Jury and its gunslinger savant performing some extremity ballet.
Everyone’s favorite objectivist dystopia beneath the sea is a playground of art-deco architecture and hybrid steampunk weaponry—and then there’s the Grenade Launcher which looks like something the Home Alone kid slapped together in his garage. Its rough reload gives weight to its explosive power; you practically break the thing in half to shove in another coffee can’s worth of grenades into its metal gullet.
Borderlands 2's zillion guns follow a small pattern of reload animations based on each manufacturer. For Tediore, it involves chucking the entire gun like a slab of beef (with obligatory explosion) before generating a new one right in your hands. And yes, there’s entire character builds centered on .
The few prototype guns found in Black Ops’ Cold War-era arsenal are a refreshing change from the cookie-cutter animations pasted across nearly every Call of Duty, and the G11 assault rifle nails that conceptual feeling best with its caseless rod reload and cocking handle crank that wouldn’t look out of place on a windup toy.
No single weapon in Crysis 2 sports an interesting reload, but each Nanosuit mode changes how Prophet rearms himself with suitably subtle animation changes. If you’re in power mode, you’ll slam in magazines with gusto and cock the handle with a firm grip. In stealth mode, you’ll more gingerly swap magazines and slowly bring back the handle so it makes less noise. Maximum context.
Surprising detail and nuance, for the time. The classic one-two of the open-palm mag-tap and fantastically inaccurate forward assist yank was a common occurrence when spectating a CT victory during those binge nights when homework was finished early.
The only new weapon in Doom 2 was a powerhouse of a double-barrel shotgun with a big boom and a framey click-clack reload that’s music to a shooter grognard’s ears. You could've switched back to the original pump-action and saved some ammo, but you didn't.
Picking out a single example from Blood Dragon’s neon hallucination was almost as impossible as questioning Rex Colt’s sense of subtlety, but the Galleria 1991’s extra flair of casually tossing in shells is too excellent a combo to pass up.
Carried from Far Cry 3 into the mountains of Kyrat, the M-700 is a plain but reliable sniper rifle favored for stealth-inclined players. Its reload is far more interesting with its abundant use of left-side screen space as the gun traverses across your monitor and back.
Shepherd’s logical action of picking up a baby of those creatures from another dimension trying to kill him gives us this Half-Life memento of an impromptu feeding session followed by—what else?—deadly vomit.
The gun nuts at Tripwire earned their reputation as reload wizards from Red Orchestra’s authenticity, and Killing Floor 2’s high-fps, motion-captured animations are . The Gunslinger’s dual reloads pack so much refinement, the above GIF had to be slowed down to more easily observe the entire reload from start to finish. Nearly every other reload style is a blast to watch, a popular favorite being the smooth for rifles and SMGs.
With enough kills chained during Bullet Time, Max whirls into a camera-orbiting move that’s less of a traditional reload and more of a sudden urge to pirouette his pain away. Still, it’s a stylish ode to Payne’s cinematographic influences, especially if you keep “Ave Maria” playing in your head the entire time.
Rockstar gleefully embellished Max’s gun-fu in his third killing spree, with the best animated touches emphasizing Max’s familiarity at juggling a small armory of guns. Reloading a one-handed gun while holding a two-handed weapon in the offhand is one of the best displays from the world-weary monologuer, as he tucks the bigger gun beneath his arm to free up his hand to change magazines.
The ramshackle design of Metro’s arsenal is already a pleasure to behold, but the Shambler shotgun’s revolver-style reload is one of the most unique of the series. The small toss between Artyom’s left and right hands as he feeds a shell into each clamp is a dash of detail and personality.
Blizzard’s penchant for polish is on display in Overwatch’s reloads. Most of the cast would be right at home in this gallery, such as Torbjorn’s screen-spanning scrap refill, the only time I can think of molten liquid being poured into a gun.
The powerful Commissioner revolver is a trusty companion in PlanetSide 2’s massive warzones, and its split cylinder reload and automated spin bring that subsequent thrill of badassery after some bullseye frags.
The well-known of Postal Dude elegantly shoving a fistful of shells into his awaiting shotgun embodies creative reload animations dispensing with silly real-world rules such as gravity and jams. The animation’s absurdity is even better experienced firsthand in the thick of Postal 2’s chaos, so definitely grab either the DLC or the to see it for yourself.
Console players have long recognized Leon Kennedy’s reloads in Resident Evil 4 as those of an expert zombie slayer, and the 2007 PC port brought his expertise into sharper detail. The Broken Butterfly revolver is a top pick; Leon’s nonchalant no-eyes-needed head tilt as he dumps out the cartridges and the almost lazy-looking single-bullet toss into the cylinder are just pure awesome.
The challenge of animating an elaborate akimbo reload is smartly executed in Rise of the Triad, a fantastic world where air resistance is a myth and wrist strength reaches mutant levels.
A lever-action flip might be passé by now, but Shadow Warrior 2’s Springchester exaggerates the pull-flip sequence so strongly that it's a wonder Wang isn't ducking for cover on the backswing.
With all the arsenal acrobatics, it's nice to sometimes plug some realism back into restoring ammo to a weapon. This M4 reload from Squad reinforces the no-frills approach and the professionalism of the soldiers you play as therein, particularly with the confident-looking hand movements and double-check of the ejection port for a clean mag transition.
The Titans of Titanfall 2 are massive robots shooting equally massive guns, but their reloads pleasingly mirror human hand movements at a bigger scale. I love the small gears spinning open the ammo box housing and the slight jiggle of the barrel cover responding to the charge handle slamming forward.
Some of the best games I've ever played aren't games at all. That is to say: some of my fondest gaming memories have come courtesy of total conversion mods—modifications which take some of the best and most well-known classics and radically transform them into new and exciting things. I imagine most of you will have played at least one total conversion at some point in your gaming careers, but Chris' list of the best total conversion mods ever gathers a large number of my own favourites and may point some of you towards mods you haven't yet played.
The benefits of total conversion mods are probably pretty obvious. First and foremost, they extend the time spent wandering our favourite game worlds; and quite often offer players the chance to visit new realms and arenas tied to the games in question. These scenarios tend to be dreamt up by hobbyist modders—people who, like you, are fans of the relevant series. The best total conversions therefore portray likely circumstances and credible characters which complement their source material.
What I love most about total conversion mods is tied to that last part. As hobbyists, the folk behind these projects create them for free—at times designing worlds similar in scope and size to big budget games, fitting development time around full-time employment among other real life distractions. Many have went on to earn cash from their endeavours eventually, but the vast majority of developers start out driven by passion alone. Over the years I've chatted to a few of the devs responsible for some of my favourite total conversions and it's their stories which have been among the most interesting I've ever heard.
Minh Le is a name some of you will know well. Le, who otherwise goes by the pseudonym Gooseman, is a freelance programmer, modeller and designer for Facepunch Studios' open-world survival game Rust—however also co-founded the one-time Half-Life mod Counter-Strike with Jesse Cliffe in 1999.
As I'm sure most of you are aware, Counter-Strike has gone onto become pretty popular, however it wasn't until last year that I discovered Le and Cliffe spent the first three years of their respective Valve careers without actually meeting in person. When Valve approached the duo about acquiring the mod they'd crafted using the original Half-Life GoldSource engine, Le moved from Canada to Valve's Seattle HQ while Cliffe spent the next few years finishing school. It was only after this time that Le and Cliffe were ever in the same room together.
Valve's GoldSource engine and its Half-Life 2 Source engine have been responsible for a number of other total conversion success stories. Garry's Mod celebrates ten years on Steam this year and has seen its community grow exponentially—not to mention its multitude of user-made game modes—in that time. Unlike Counter-Strike's more focused beginnings, Garry Newman designed the sandbox game which would eventually allow him to take up game development full-time as a result of messing around with the Source engine and a desire to see how far he could push it.
Newman learned coding on the job and in a chat earlier this year told me that without Source Control pre-release, GMod game crashes meant he was forced to bin all previous work and start the entire game from scratch every time he encountered bug-related problems. Further crashes meant repeating this process and then hoping for the best in the next run.
Other total conversion stories of intrigue include Sven Co-op, another Half-Life mod which, although created in 1999, was continually developed and iterated on before finding its way onto Steam for free earlier this year. The prolific and super efficient work of Elder Scrolls enthusiasts and hobbyist modders SureAI has seen the likes of Nehrim and Enderal come to be—both hugely impressive Oblivion and Skyrim mods which are arguably as good, or at least equally as ambitious, as their source material.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown's ultra-challenging Long War total conversion mod is another of my own personal favourites about which creator John Lumpkin told me back in July: “Last September, I went to the Firaxis offices when they were in the fairly late stages of polishing XCOM 2. I met Jake Solomon there and showed him what XCOM: Enemy Unknown modding looked like. He wondered aloud if I had closets full of chains and leather.”
He doesn't, it turns out, but Lumpkin's story—not to mention those touched upon above—is but one of thousands of interesting anecdotes behind some of the most outstanding mods-cum-games I've ever played. Furthermore, the dedicated communities these mods have inspired make the mods themselves even more inspiring in my book. Again, Chris' 'best of' list is well worth checking out, and I'd love for you to share your own favourite total conversion stories in the comments below.
Counter-Strike: Classic Offensive is a remake of Counter-Strike being made inside a remake of Counter-Strike.
Yesterday the modder Z00L released a launch trailer for his curious mod, a project that aims to reproduce the look and feel of the original Counter-Strike (version '1.6' as it's more colloquially known) inside CS:GO. "The main goal of the mod is to get the gameplay from 1.6 right into CS:GO including weapons, sounds, movement, all the old stuff you've dreamed to see in CS:GO," he writes on ModDB. "As you can see, I'm pretty near."
The mod is built within CS:GO's version of Source, and it'll require CS:GO to play. At launch, planned December 25, Z00L says that retro versions of Dust2, Italy, Mirage and Inferno will be playable. Each of these maps exist in the current version of CS:GO, of course, but they've since been aesthetically and structurally reimagined in small or significant ways.
As stated in August, Z00L's goals with the project are to make weapons that behave similarly to 1.6, remove 'GO'-specific guns, replace all sounds, and remove skins. He also outlines what he is not able to do as a result of the engine:
So although the project is appetizing to folks like me who grew up playing 1.6 in internet cafes, it does seem to be operating under some fundamental constraints that might make it impossible to include certain movement quirks and 'desirable' map bugs what were buffed out over Counter-Strike's different iterations. It's hard to tell from the in-game trailer exactly how well Classic Offensive captures the movement and weapon feel of old CS, but to my eyes it resembles the higher-fi Counter-Strike: Source more than anything. I guess that isn't unsurprising, considering it's the link between 1.6 and GO.
Which version of Counter-Strike was the best, the most pure, or the most tactically interesting remains a hotly debated topic by FPS players. For the year following its release in 2012, CS:GO wasn’t even the most popular version of Counter-Strike—some players were still actively arguing the merits of GO against its thirteen- and nine-year-old predecessors.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's esteemed Inferno map has been given a fresh lick of paint and a host structural renovations bringing its 2012 design in-line with the world of today.
In doing so, three main areas have been the focus of improvement: to advance visibility across the map; to make it easier to move around in groups; and to "fine-tune the gameplay based on community feedback."
Fresh from a stint in its beta phase, the new slant on Inferno is now available to all in the Reserves Map Group, and Valve is keen for Counter-Strikers to test it out and file feedback. Full details on what's been changed and why can be found here, but you can check out how each area has been reworked via the sliders below.
"We focused on increasing the readability of positions, and giving the attackers more ways to utilize their equipment such as smoke grenades and flashbangs before entering the site itself.
"The overhanging roof on the site was removed, letting more natural light flow in. This also makes sniping between library and balcony more viable for both sides, and allows you to land smoke grenades on the site itself.
"The infamous truck that served as the path onto balcony has been replaced with a simpler cart, which has a more solid shape making gameplay more manageable, and makes navigating onto the balcony easier.
"The upper platform features improved visibility, with less parallaxing geometry for attackers to sift through to be able to spot a defender."
"In addition to these changes, the path leading to balcony has now been opened up, to allow attackers to flashbang into site before exposing themselves. This forces a defender playing from pit to stay alert.
"Another change inside of apartments is the removal of the 'dark' bedroom. This room was a very powerful defensive position for CTs, and Ts would be forced to use some of their grenades in clearing it before even reaching the site.
"This has been changed to a cubby (similar to the 1.6 version of Inferno), which is easier to check, but remains a powerful position for a defender."
"The final stretch leading into the bombsite has been widened, along with giving Terrorists some additional cover before committing to the site itself.
"The skybox in this area has been tweaked as well, it no longer allows CTs to smoke off B site from other areas of the map.
"On the site itself, there have been some changes. The gap between 'newbox' and the pillar has been closed off, the position near the entrance to the site is now climbable and visibility in general has been improved."
"The biggest change in the middle of the map is that the underpass connecting middle and alt-mid is now halfway walkable. You still need to crouch to be able to enter from middle, but about halfway through the tunnel you are able to walk upright.
"Another minor, but impactful change; the lightpole that has absorbed millions of bullets over the years has been removed, so there is one less object to blame if you miss your shot."
"The T Spawn now finally has its second exit opened up, which puts you directly into alt-mid."
Valve signs off the update with the following: "While there have been upgrades and adjustments throughout the map, the core gameplay remains more or less the same. By releasing the new Inferno early as a beta we were able to collect valuable player feedback and made many fixes ahead of this official release.
"Thank you to those who contributed. We will continue to observe the gameplay and make tweaks and fine-tune the map as we collect more feedback."
Chloe Desmoineaux isn t your usual Counter-Strike player. I ll cut to the chase: because she uses lipstick to play the game. As in make-up.
She calls it Lipstrike, and it uses a clever mix of basic electronics, key remapping and gun-based violence. I like it a lot.
Using a kit from Makey Makey, Desmoineaux hooked up the control board and some alligator clips to her lipstick. The mouse is used, of course: left click to move forward, right for aim-down-sights, scroll wheel to switch weapons.
But when she applies the lipstick, the connection in the Makey Makey circuit board is completed, which is linked via USB to input as a button being pressed... and the bullets start flying.
Desmoineaux explained her thinking in an email to Motherboard, pointing out it s not exactly a serious thing it s just interesting and funny:
Counter-Strike is one of those games that's mainly attributed to a male audience. Lipstick for girls, war games for boys. Fuck that! I can mix it up... If it visually works and the resulting effect is comical, maybe it s because we all use shortcuts and stereotypes embedded in our heads. It's in this spirit that I got the idea for Lipstrike.
You can catch up on Desmoineaux s performances over on her Twitch channel, and she ll be broadcasting new sessions over there until June.