Are you on it? Have you shot many men? Does it still feel like Counter-Strike? The starting gun has gone off, head-shotting a terrorist twenty metres away and signalling the launch of the Global Offensive closed beta. COUNTER-TERRORISTS WIN.
There's a video of the closed beta above, from Evil Avatar. It looks like Counter-Strike, it sounds like Counter-Strike, but does it taste like Counter-Strike? We won't know until we've jumped in and licked the sand on Dust. Valve have said that they'll gradually send out new beta invites until the closed beta is essentially an open beta, so don't worry if you're not in this round of testing.
Details are slowly emerging on Counter-Strike Global Offensive’s closed beta, which is due to start on 30 November. You'll need a key to join in, and it will initially consist of two maps: the ever-popular Dust, and, er, Dust2. “Can't wait to see people getting to play the changes in Dust,” said csgo_dev’s Twitter feed.
It’s very much a closed beta, though. To be in with a chance of playing you’ll need to have grabbed a key from PAX Prime or the Eurogamer Expo. There are likely to be beta key giveaways on certain popular gaming sites in the near future, too.
Don’t panic if you haven’t got a key. This initial closed beta is merely to nip any problems in the bud, and the testing period “will start small and grow until eventually everyone is in,” according to the Twitter feed. The Counter-Strike Global Offensive team are very open to feedback, too. “Everything. Everything is open to change in the beta,” they said.
This preview originally appeared in PC Gamer UK issue 233.
Since shortly after its first beta release back in 1999, this tactical, team-based Half-Life mod has dominated the competitive firstperson shooter scene, while countless hours of community yelling have made it a tight, balanced experience. A brief foray onto consoles in 2003 failed to expand the audience away from its PC home, so why are Valve attempting to create what they’re calling the ‘definitive’ version of a game that people like just fine as it is?
“We had been looking to create an XBLA version of Counter-Strike: Source as a sort of nostalgia thing,” explains Chet Faliszek, whose role on the game is loosely defined as ‘writer’. “But pretty quickly we began to realise how much we liked the game and it grew to something bigger.”
The team have decided to make some changes to the tried and tested formula. Classic maps such as Dust have been tweaked and, while other stalwarts such as Inferno and Nuke will return, they’re joined by new maps designed specifically for the Arsenal modes. The new modes are based on the popular Counter-Strike: Source mod Gun Game, in which players start with a pistol and earn a new weapon with each consecutive kill. Many of these new environments are said to be inspired by other titles in the Valve canon, though they’re holding back specifics.
The graphics have also undergone an overhaul, though they could hardly be described as beautiful so much as robustly functional. Eight new weapons have been added too. These pack tactical characteristics, as well as additional firepower. For example, the Molotov cocktail is intended as much for blocking off areas of the map as causing damage to enemies. Meanwhile, the Zeus is a oneuse, Taser-style weapon that costs an eyewatering $1,000 of your load-out bank.
Playing it though, it’s very much the Counter-Strike you’ll be familiar with, and Faliszek is keen to emphasise that the experience hasn’t been compromised through its shared appearance on consoles. “This is absolutely a PC experience,” he says. “One of the rules we had is that it’s going to be Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike. There is no auto-aim; it’s absolutely a game of skill. PC players will still be able to mod the game, host dedicated servers and all of the things that have made Counter-Strike such an enduring experience.”
Indeed, Valve looked carefully at what the community were doing in Counter- Strike and borrowed traits, including shorter round times and even entire match modes. Counter-Strike has always grown up in public, shaped by the rallying calls of the people who love it the most. While Valve are claiming CS:GO will be the definitive version, it’s still the community that will decide its future.
The Global Offensive closed beta was to kick off with 10,000 participants this month, but CVG report that Valve have pushed it back a while after criticism from the pro players they have testing the game.
"They gave us a lot of feedback on things we should get in the game before we release it, otherwise we're going to be getting a lot of bug reports or a lot of feedback and it would just be redundant," said Valve's Chet Faliszeck.
"The closed beta will gradually expand to include more and more players, until "by the end of it, everyone will be playing the game. It will be the released game that you're playing and then at some point we'll say, 'OK we're going to officially release it.'"
"We have no mandate from anybody of when we have to ship this. So we're more than happy to just keep working on this until it's ready to ship."
That means we probably shouldn't expect the full release any time soon, but there are already pro competitions popping up. Check out one hour of professional battling from the Intel Extreme Masters.
PC Gamer Digital Episode 5 is now available for download on Steam, and it's all about some of the most beloved PC classics ever made: Diablo, Tribes, and Counter-Strike. But we're not just slurping up a big bowl of nostalgia soup - all of these landmark PC series are charging back to the front lines of gaming, and Episode 5 is full of exclusive interactive content (and a bit of nostalgia soup) on each, including a tour of every character class in the Diablo III beta, an exclusive 360-degree tour of one of Tribes: Ascend's expansive landscapes, and an interactive comparison of the famous de_dust in Counter-Strike: Source and the upcoming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
And Episode 5 doesn't end there - it may be our biggest yet, so now is an especially superb time to find out how PC Gamer itself has built on its classic roots by downloading the free PC Gamer Digital base application and checking it out. We'll see you there!
Here's more on what you'll find in Episode 5...
PCG Plays: Diablo III Editors Dan Stapleton and Tyler Wilde jump into the Diablo III beta for a click-happy go at each of its five unique character classes: Witch Doctor, Wizard, Barbarian, Demon Hunter, and Monk. See which were Dan and Tyler's favorites, and get prepared for your first run when the game releases early next year.
Tribes: Ascend - GameView Interactive Preview Survey the upcoming free-to-play shooter Tribes: Ascend in a self-guided, interactive tour of one of its expansive maps, and get a strategic head start before the beta launches!
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - The Remaking of Dust See the reimagining of Counter-Strike's most iconic map in our interactive comparison of CS: Source and Global Offensive, with commentary from PC Gamer Senior Editor Evan Lahti.
Art of the Shooter - Interactive Gallery Discover the artwork which became the foundation for some of most celebrated PC shooters ever made, with insights from the artists and developers themselves. Inspect every detail, or sit back and soak it all in - it's up to you!
World of Warcraft Protip: Critter Achievements Learn how to snag three World of Warcraft Achievements with ease! It all depends on how much malice you harbor for small animals.
Here's an hour of competitive action from the recent Extreme Masters Global Challenge Counter-Strike: Global Offensive contest between Europe and the USA, spotted on VG247. The contest takes place on Counter-Strike classic, Dust, showing off the updated Source engine and some of Global Offensive's new gadgets, including taser guns and decoy grenades. The decoy grenades do very little to fool these seasoned vets. There's a moment where one backs off and looks it it, puzzled for a moment. Then he resumes his kill streak without hesitation.
For an engine that feels like it's been around for half of my life, Valve's Half-Life-2-powering Source Engine could be doing a whole hell of a lot worse. Even so, the likes of Portal 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive probably aren't pushing your PC to take up a part-time job as a very large, angular stove top.
Point being, Source is past its prime, and gamers want to see what magical crowbar-rendering tech Valve can pull out of its hat next. According to Chet Faliszek, however, Valve's in no rush to make another big leap any time soon.
" just update - not just replace it," he told GamingLives. "At some point we may say there's Source 2 or whatever, but really for us there's been a pretty easy way to keep it and understanding the tools. When you replace an engine, you're replacing the tools and the way that people work, there's an expense in man hours and people learning and people getting up on it right."
Well, at least you still have a nice early 2012 CSGO release date to take the edge off, right? OK, I apologize. I just used my rhetorical questioning powers for evil. Faliszek continued:
"The beta will tell us . We’re seeing that now with the Cold Stream DLC from Left 4 Dead 2, people are mad it’s taking so long. But when you get feedback from the community, you can’t just make a change and say it’s fixed. You have to change it and let people adapt to playing with that change, and then base your next work off that."
Which is, admittedly, a bummer. Honestly, though, I'll still take "Slow and steady wins the race" over "Hey, look, some wolves! Let's throw RAGE to them" any day of the week. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but isn't "when it's done" supposed to imply that the final release is, you know, done?
News of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's existence was met by an incredibly confusing mix of emotions from PC gamers. A new Counter-Strike? Yay! But wait, it's gracing the unwashed, teabag-happy console masses with its presence? Boo. Also, Global Offensive? Isn't that the one MMO with the jetpacks? No, wait. That's a different thing. Like I said: confusing.
Fortunately, Valve assures that it's not going to let console players rain grenades on your parade. The PC version, explained Valve's Chet Faliszek, isn't trying to be something it's not.
"Yeah, so in some ways the PC will be a different beast anyway," he told Strategy Informer. "There will be servers that we control, but then on the PC there will also be support custom servers, and at that point they'll be able to mod the game. The way it's set up now on CSS... you could enter a game and have no idea if the guys are going to be surfing whilst they're shooting, or doing other crazy stuff. So we want to there to be a basic core experience, and equally if you want to go mod, you can."
"We've been talking to the community, and we're actually going to be incorporating 'Gun Game' into CSGO itself, as that's the most popular mod out there at the moment, we wanted to give people a chance to approach the game from that angle."
Interestingly, PC's also the only platform getting any sort of CSGO beta, because console betas, well, aren't real.
"That's why we're showing it on PS3, and why we showed at PAX on the 360, it's the only way those guys are going to get to play it," Faliszek said. "The PC Beta will be extended longer, because it's not really a good model for doing betas, real betas, on the console. Other console betas have been more promotional demos. What we're saying is that we want to do a beta that's constantly changing and updating based on player feedback."
Ah yes, yet another perk of being a member of gaming's savviest, most mature community. So in your pockmarked prepubescent faces, console gamers! Er, I mean, fine wine, classic jazz music, and other mature... things. Right.
Pro gamers and invited guests will make it onto the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive closed beta early in October. Valve's Chet Faliszeck told The Reticule that they're planning to grow the beta in the coming months, and he hopes everyone will have a chance to play by the end of the year.
Counter-Strike pros have already had a chance to go hands on with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive when they were invited to Valve HQ for testing earlier this year. A Counter-Strike: Global Offensive hands-on account from one of those testers uncovered new weapons like the molotov cocktail, and a tweaked and updated version of the Counter-Strike classic, de_dust.
The first Counter-Strike: Global Offensive trailer revealed more, including support for cross platform play with Mac and Playstation 3 gamers, and officially supported servers that will offer improved matchmaking and a ranking system.
Most recently, Valve announced that they have been working with the modders who created the original Gun Game mod, and will bring it to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with new modes and eight new maps.
"Counter-Strike took the gaming industry by surprise when the unlikely MOD became the most played online PC action game in the world almost immediately after its release in August 1999," said Doug Lombard, VP of Marketing at Valve. "For the past 12 years, it has continued to be one of the most-played games in the world, headlining competitive gaming tournaments and selling over 25 million units worldwide across the franchise. CS: GO promises to expand on CS' award-winning gameplay and deliver it to gamers on the PC as well as the next gen consoles and the Mac."