Counter-Strike is not a young game, nor does it have a library of maps that could fill a room of any significant size. Indeed, the core of the Counter-Strike experience takes place on maybe, on a good day, five to seven maps. As a newcomer to the series, that might seem like an easy number of maps to learn and master. You would be wrong in thinking so. While the reasons for that statement require an article of their own, here are some tips on how you can learn CS:GO maps without the pressure of higher-level, competitive play.
Trust in Gaben
One of the most interesting things for me about CS:GO is the way I go about finding games. For the PC crowd, the server browser is like a sacred truth, the ultimate expression of player choice and control in an increasingly corporately controlled system. And Valve games, like all well-regarded PC titles, comes equipped with the full range of browser options.
Yet I find myself not combing the wide array of custom games and instead just choosing “Find a Game – Classic Casual.” Nine times out of ten, I’ll get plopped right into a player-owned and operated server with its gamut of trolls, spammers, try hards, and stoners. Occasionally, I’ll find myself on an official Valve server, and I’ll know it’s a Valve server ’cause nobody’s talking. The point being, unlike surfing the endless and sometimes dangerous waters of a server browser, my experience in Quick Play will be consistent in gameplay, if not in audio.
And I would suggest to you to do the same. Letting Valve’s software choose your server for you will give you a nice baseline in settings, map collections, and a wide variance in player skill. The fact that Find a Game searches custom and official servers means you’ll run into server regulars and people just like yourself, inexperienced and ready to learn. Even when the game bullshits you, the people in the server can, and often do, find ways to lighten the mood with mic spam or just good old fashioned shit-talk.
Casual doesn’t mean worthless
Another great thing about Classic Casual is the low level of pressure it places on its players. There are ten or more players on either team on maps designed for 5v5 play, and when the initial chaos dies down, the game returns to its designer’s desired flow. This increased player count is probably the most effective learning tool Valve could have put in the game.
So I’d suggest the following. When the buy-time and match-counter counts to 0, don’t immediately rush out like you know what’s going on. Instead, let your team fan out. Watch the other ten or so people move toward and into the bomb site. Take note of who dies and who lives, and watch to see how long they stay in one location or another. Those who fall first tell you where the major points of conflict are, and those taking defensive positions show the important lines of sight.
Keep tabs on player names as well. Players at the bottom of the scoreboard are there for a reason. See where they go in relation to the characters with large point totals. Bear in mind that sometimes the “best players” are just very cautious, and that caution can border on cowardly. But if you stay in a server for any length of time, you’ll see someone doing well while maintaining a level of aggressiveness and appropriate care in their movements. When, not if, you die, spectate them. What, besides their aim, is allowing them to succeed?
If you survive into the later part of the round, watch for what I call the moment of transition, when the chaos stops and the tactics begin. Suddenly, people stop running around throwing nades left and right. Everything goes quiet, and every noise could be the last you hear. During the minute or so the end game lasts, you’ll get a taste of the pressure provided by Classic and Community Competitive. The players who make it to this point are either old hats or lucky young guns who managed to avoid a quick death. There is technically a middle group of adepts who succeed and fail in equal measure, but for our purposes, two is enough.
Your job as a learner in the unforgiving lands of CS:GO is to watch both the neophyte and the master, taking different things from both, but taking the same amount. The master will carefully choose where he walks and where he runs. The newbie will run without regard to his surroundings. The master will know where his prey might be hiding; the n00b will get his backside shot up. When the round ends and the announcer calls out the victor, take stock. What did the rest of your team do to lead to that conclusion?
As the next round starts and the cycle repeats itself, look closely for tiny changes in how players position themselves. You might find yourself in their place someday.