Counter-Strike 2 is officially a thing, and it is slated for release this summer (American). Running on the Source 2 engine, which also served as a foundation for the acclaimed Half-Life: Alyx, the game will be available as a free upgrade to the existing CS:GO. Limited testing for CS2 is now live and will present itself to select players as a special notification on CS:GO’s main menu. Serving as the “largest technical leap forward in Counter-Strike’s history,” the game includes several visual and technical upgrades, with the promise of more to come. The news comes after a leak from earlier this month, where a recent Nvidia driver update added support for ‘cs2.exe’ and ‘csgo2.exe.’
In a series of videos, developer Valve addressed what distinguishes CS2 from CS:GO. First up, you’ve got the classic maps — Dust 2, Inferno, Train, and more — which come with lighting and visual improvements, leading to reflections on tiles, puddles, and better shadows. This is all thanks to the new Source 2 lighting, which includes a “physically based rendering system.” The oldest maps have been fully rebuilt from scratch to feature new assets and physics changes, giving a fresh aesthetic to a beloved game, by making use of the Source 2 tools. The tools will be available to community map makers as well, letting them build and experiment with details as tiny as textures or lighting colours.
Counter-Strike is known for its pinpoint, precise gunplay, evaluating movement and shooting in specific time intervals or ticks. On CS:GO’s official in-game servers, this was hard-locked to 64hz, albeit one could bump it up to 128hz on third-party servers, resulting in a streamlined competitive experience. The metric essentially measures the frequency at which the server refreshes to process and update new information. Counter-Strike 2, however, introduces a new sub-tick architecture that Valve claims to negate the purpose/ value of a tick rate. “Now, the tick rate no longer matters for moving and shooting, so the server will know the exact moment you fired your shot, jumped your jump, or peeked your peek,” the narrator in the video describes. “… the server will calculate your precise actions between ticks. So what you see is what you get.”
Smokes are getting upgraded too, starting by creating volumetric 3D fogs that interact with the environment and any physical obstructions. Instead of just forming a static cloud of smoke, as we’re used to from CS:GO, it now grows to fill spaces naturally, accommodating entire vents and tight spaces, and sometimes seeping through broken windows. The smoke cloud’s shape can also be manipulated via gunfire and highly explosive grenades, with its impact clearing out the smoke, as it would realistically. Not only will your entire CS:GO inventory — weapon skins and stickers — be brought over to Counter-Strike 2, but they will benefit from Source 2 engine’s lighting and high-resolution model upgrades. There’s more gore, better ragdoll effects when dead opponents flop over, and enhancements to the UI.
How to gain access to Counter-Strike 2 limited test
As per Valve’s FAQ page, players are selected based on numerous factors including their Steam profile standing, recent playtime on official servers, ban history, and “trust factor.” If chosen, players will receive a notification on their CS:GO main menu, asking to “ENROLL” and begin their download. “When the download is complete, launch CS:GO and select the ‘Limited Test’ option to play the Counter-Strike 2 Limited Test,” the post adds. Valve claims that more players will be added to the limited test over time and that it’s a good idea to keep a check on your main menu occasionally. There is no third-party website to gain access to CS2’s limited test, nor are there any beta testing keys to redeem.
Both CS:GO and CS2 will be accessible to the chosen few, but they can only play with and against players on the same version. So, Counter-Strike 2 players will only get matched with other CS2 players, and vice versa. Any XP earned in the limited test will be carried over to CS:GO, while competitive cooldowns are shared across both versions. While this goes without saying, Valve also reiterated that “Accounts with VAC or game bans in CS:GO cannot play Counter-Strike 2 on VAC-secured servers.”
Counter-Strike 2 releases this summer on PC. That’s American summer (June-August), mind you, not Indian.