If you started PC gaming back in the heyday of Quake and Unreal, I both salute and fear you. Not only could you destroy me in those games, but you can probably do the same in any series that involves pointing a gun and shooting people. And if you started back then, you may have moved to Counter-Strike, that most venerable and challenging of franchises. No quarter is given by the game, and if you’re serious about playing it, you should expect none.
Here is a guide from a beginner to other beginners about how to properly ease yourself into the third game in the Counter-Strike series: Global Offensive.
You can’t shoot for beans
For me, one of the primary differences between CS and other shooters is how the guns feel. Not including little stats like draw and reload times, I find that guns in Counter-Strike require a finesse no longer seen in mainstream shooters. Primarily, this comes from the way you compensate for recoil. Unlike CoD or Battlefield, CS doesn’t allow for aiming down the sights, so you have to visually move the gun in the opposite directions of where it kicks. Up and to the right? Your crosshair should be moving gradually down and to the left of your intended target.
Saying it sounds simple, I know. But it took me almost twenty hours of frustration to understand. With understanding, I can implement. Now of course I need to learn how the guns handle and adapt to each one in turn. Being a fairly decent shot in most shooters, it should be a quick transition, yes?
No. There’s one final thing to remember, and it is for me the trickiest: spread. Bullets don’t leave the gun in a perfectly straight line if you’re moving, and even standing you aren’t in the best positions for accuracy. So crouch when you see enemies. But wait, there’s more. Just firing increases the spread, so you need to burst. And you need to two or three-burst even at near-middle ranges.
Crouch and burst fire when in combat. Great, let’s get on that battlefi—BOOM! Headshot.
Yep, if you don’t go for headshots, you might as well not be playing Counter-Strike. The multiplier for aiming at the head usually guarantees a one shot kill, especially if you compensated for recoil to get there. For the weapons you’ll commonly see, and the people you’ll be playing, expect to read a lot of kill notifications with your perforated cranium in them.
The sound of chaos
Were it ten years ago, I wouldn’t have too much more advice to give save, “Get used to being owned. You’ll be on the other end of that stick eventually.” Fortunately for both of us, Counter-Strike is a venerable series, with more to it than Valve could have done on their own.* Much of the fan-made content is both fun and instructive.
Before we jump into anything too difficult, the first stop I think any new player should make is a Deathmatch server. Despite the lack of a moniker, it is still TDM. But what makes Counter-Strike different is the freedom it gives you in what you want to do. Once you spawn in, a menu should pop up asking you which weapons you want to use, both primary and secondary. Every weapon in the game is available, free of charge and expectation. You can go with the trusty AK and Deagle combo, or if you’re feeling bold, Scout and Five-Seven. There is no objective beyond killing, and there are no winners or losers, despite what the announcer might say when the timer runs out.
In Deathmatch, take your time learning the weapons you’ll see a lot of: AK-47, M416, Desert Eagle, P90, P-19 Bizon, AWP. Experiment if you wish, but when you jump into almost any other game mode, those are what you’ll see and what you should know how to use.
After wetting your feet with Deathmatch, going into Arms Race, formally called Gun Game. Choices are limited as to what weapons you’ll be using, defined as it is by old convention. But like deathmatch, it will get you familiar with a variety of weapons. Unlike deathmatch, few weapons in Arms Race are common sights on the battlefield. You’ll be using MP9’s, MP7’s, MAC 10’s, light machine guns, the AUG, and semi-auto shotguns. The maps are small and could never hold a Demolition or Defusal mode, but you’ll need to adapt the way you play, and up your aim, to get anywhere on the leaderboard. And don’t get cocky if you pull an early lead. One lucky gunfight and you’ve got another guy on the knife round.
I don’t expect anyone to want to stay in deathmatch or Arms Race for very long, especially when Counter-Strike’s main gametype is Bomb Defusal. And I think anyone who’s spent some time in an instant respawn server has every right to see what all the fuss is about. The wake-up call after your first CS death is something every shooter player needs, but even in the Classic Casual mode, there can be some serious competition, serious emotions, and serious shit-talking. For this reason, I recommend spending your after-deathmatch time in the Demolition mode. Something of a mix of Arms Race and Defusal, it’s still one-life, but everything goes by quicker than on the bigger maps with multiple sites.
Demolition has one bomb site and one central location around which the conflict revolves. Start out circling the map and watching as you play. See where the more experienced players go, and spectate them when you die. Some will appear to have some kind of hack, but I can assure you it’s situational awareness 99% of the time.
If you start with the bomb but don’t know precisely how to play, just select the bomb (5 by default), face one of your teammates and press the “G” key. You’ll put the pressure on someone else and have the freedom to do what you please until the end of the round.
Since getting kills in Demolition nets you a new, and oftentimes harder to use, gun, you’ll have to adapt better and faster to situations, as going up against an assault rifle or SMG with even a Deagle is daunting for those new to the game. The ten round rotation is a nice limiter on what guns you’ll be using, and earning bonus grenades will give you a feel for their detonation times and radii.
I could talk about this all day, but if Counter-Strike just isn’t your game, don’t play it. There’s no reason to push yourself to near-insanity over a video game. That’s my job.