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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is a multiplayer first-person shooter video game developed by Hidden Path Entertainment and Valve Corporation. It is the fourth game in the Counter-Strike series and was released for Microsoft WindowsOS XXbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in August 2012, with the Linux version released in September 2014. Originally released as a retail product, Global Offensive became free to play in December 2018.

The game pits two teams against each other: the Terrorists and the Counter-Terrorists. Both sides are tasked with eliminating the other while also completing separate objectives, the Terrorists, depending on the game mode, must either plant the bomb or defend the hostages, while the Counter-Terrorists must either prevent the bomb from being planted, defuse the bomb, or rescue the hostages. There are eight game modes, all of which have distinct characteristics specific to that mode.

Global Offensive has matchmaking support that allows players to play on dedicated Valve servers, as well as allowing members of the community to host their own servers with custom maps and game modes. Global Offensive has a competitive scene, with Valve-sponsored tournaments being the premier competitive events for the game. Global Offensive received positive reviews from critics. The game was praised for its overall gameplay and faithfulness to the previous iterations in the series. Some of the early features were criticized, and while the console versions received positive reviews, reviewers believed there were obvious differences between the console and PC versions of the game.

Gameplay

Global Offensive, like prior games in the Counter-Strike series, is an objective-based, multiplayer first-person shooter. Two opposing teams, known as the Terrorists and the Counter Terrorists, compete in game modes to complete objectives, such as securing a location to plant or defuse a bomb and rescuing or guarding hostages.[1][2] At the end of each round, players are rewarded based on their individual performance with in-game currency to spend on more powerful weapons in subsequent rounds. Winning rounds results in more money than losing, and completing objectives such as killing enemy players gives cash bonuses.[1] Uncooperative actions, such as killing teammates, results in a penalty.[3]

An in-progress match on Dust II, in which the player is using an AK-47

There are five categories of purchasable weapons, four being guns and the final being utilities: riflessub-machine guns (SMGs), heavy, pistols, and grenades. All guns have different stats and all grenade types have different in-game effects. The hand grenade deals damage in a small radius, the smoke grenade temporarily places a smoke screen, the decoy grenade emulates the player’s primary gun, the flashbang temporarily blinds players who look at it explode, and the Molotov cocktail and Incendiary Grenade set a small radius of the map on fire for a short period of time.[4] Alongside all of these weapons, the Zeus x27, a taser, can also be purchased.[1]

Global Offensive contains eight main game modes: Competitive, Casual, Deathmatch, Arms Race, Demolition, Wingman, Flying Scoutsman, and Weapons Course.[5][6] Competitive mode pits competitive players against each other in two teams of five and roughly 45-minute matches.[7] The Casual and Deathmatch modes are less serious than the Competitive modes, and do not register friendly fire against or collision with other players on the player’s team. Both are primarily used for practice.[8][9] Arms Race mode is similar to the “Gun Game” mod for other games in the series. It consists of players racing to upgrade their guns via killing enemies.[1] Demolition mode is again like the “Gun Game” mod though players are able to plant and defuse the bomb too, and only receive a gun upgrade at the start of the round if they killed an enemy the last round.[1] Wingman is a two-on-two bomb defusal game-mode taking place over fifteen rounds. It is similar to Competitive in the sense that players are paired based on their skill levels.[6] Flying Scoutsman is a low-gravity mode in which players are equipped only with a SSG 08 and a knife. The Flying Scoutsman, Demolition, and Arms Race game modes are placed in the War Games tab.[6] The Weapons Course is an offline practice mode designed to help new players learn how to use grenades and guns, and learning how to defuse and plant the bomb. Apart from the Weapons Course, all seven other game modes can be played online or offline.[5]

Matchmaking is supported for all online game modes and is managed through the Steam software,[10] and runs Valve Anti-Cheat to prevent cheating.[11] In the competitive modes, players are encouraged to act more cautiously in Global Offensive than in most other multiplayer games due to the inability to respawn once killed.[12] When playing competitively, each player has a specific rank based on their skill level and is paired up with players of around the same skill level.[1] Another form of matchmaking, known as “Prime”, permits matches to be played only with other users with the Prime feature which results in more equal matches as there are fewer “smurfs“.[13] The PC version of Global Offensive supports private dedicated servers that players may connect to through the community server menu in-game. These servers may be heavily modified and can drastically differ from the base game modes. There have been many community made mods for the game, one of the more popular ones being known as “kz”, a mod which allows players to complete obstacle courses that require advanced strafing and jumping techniques.[14]

Over time, the community developed strategies for competitive play. When trying to capture a site, a common strategy used is called “rushing”. Rushing is when a player or group of players move into a choke-point on the map as fast as possible. This strategy is used commonly when one of the teams is running an “eco”. An eco occurs when a team has a lack of money to buy weapons, utility, or armor, forcing the team to be left with minimal rifles and little utility. “Eco” rounds are those in which a team will buy very few or no guns in order to save money for future rounds. Occasionally, when a team is low on money, the opposition will purchase “anti-eco” weapons which perform well at close range to prevent casualties and financial bonuses.[15] Rushing is also used if there is a lack of time on the clock and the bomb needs to be planted or defused in an act of desperation.[16] Another common strategy for taking a site is using predetermined smoke grenades and flash bangs to hinder enemies’ sight.[15]

Global Offensive saw the introduction of new weapons and equipment not seen in previous installments, most notably the firebomb for each side (referred to as a Molotov on the Terrorist side and as an Incendiary Grenade on the Counter-Terrorist side). These temporarily cover a small area in fire, dealing damage to anyone passing through. Global Offensive also saw the introduction of a range of new guns, including shotguns, pistols and sub-machine guns, along with a taser. Two new game modes, Arms Race and Demolition, both based on mods for previous iterations in the series, were added alongside a total of eight new maps for said game modes.[1] Global Offensive saw the removal of features seen in previous iterations of the series. The ability to freely explore the map when dead was removed from many modes, though server hosts are able to change this setting. The unsilenced USP and the MP5 were replaced by other guns.[1] The tactical shield was also removed.[17] The concept of sprays were not present in the game until the addition of consumable items called graffiti.[18]

Development and release

External video
 Counter-Strike: A Brief History, a YouTube video published by Valve Corporation on January 23, 2017

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the sequel to the popular first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Source, developed by Valve CorporationGlobal Offensives development began when Hidden Path Entertainment attempted to port Counter-Strike: Source onto video game consoles, prior to the end of their lifespan.[19][20] During the development, Valve saw the opportunity to turn the port into a full game and expand on the predecessor’s gameplayGlobal Offensive began development in March 2010, and was revealed to the public on August 12, 2011.[21] The closed beta started on November 30, 2011, and was initially restricted to around ten thousand people who received a key at events intended to showcase Global Offensive. After issues such as client and server stability were addressed, the beta was opened up to progressively more people,[22] and at E3 2012, Valve announced that Global Offensive would be released on August 21, 2012, with the open beta starting roughly a month before that.[22] Before the public beta, Valve invited professional Counter-Strike players to play-test the game and give feedback.[23]

There were plans for cross-platform multiplayer between Windows, OS X, Linux, and PlayStation 3 players, but was ultimately limited to include only the PC versions because of the difference in update frequency between the systems.[24] On August 21, 2012, the official version was released on all platforms besides Linux,[25] which would not be released until September 23.[26]

Since the official release of Global Offensive, Valve has continued to update the game in multiple ways, including introducing new maps and weapons, and releasing balancing changes. One of the major additions to the game post-release was the “Arms Deal” update. Released on August 13, 2013, it added cosmetic weapon finishes, dubbed as skins. These items were then obtainable by unboxing cases using in-game keys, of which were only accessible through in-game microtransactions.[27] They can also be obtained in similar ways to the items in Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 in the sense that they are dropped randomly.[19] Global Offensive has Steam Workshop support, allowing users to upload user-created content, such as maps, weapon finishes and custom gameplay scenarios. Popular skins are added to the game and are obtainable by unboxing them from in-game cases.[28] The creators of the skins are paid when their item is added to a case.[29] These skins helped form a virtual economy for Global Offensive.[30]

Events called “Operations” are held occasionally and can be accessed through purchasable expansion packs in the form of “operation passes.” These passes grant access to operation objectives which are spread over different game modes, such as Arms Race and Deathmatch,[31] or in operation-specific game modes, first seen in Operation Hydra, released in May 2017.[32] Completing these challenges rewards the player with XP and the ability to upgrade the operation “coin.” The maps in the operations are community made, meaning some of the revenue made goes towards the map designers.[31][33]

An update in October 2014 added “music kits”, which replace the default in-game music with music from soundtrack artists commissioned by Valve. If a player with a music kit equipped becomes the round’s most valuable player, their music will play for others at the end of the round. There is a feature that allows kits to be borrowed, and kits can be sold and exchanged through the Community Market.[34]

In 2016, the game saw two remakes of original Counter-Strike maps, as well as the introduction of Prime matchmaking and additional items. As a part of the Operation Wildfire promotion, Nuke was remade and re-released in February with the primary goals being to balance the map and make it more aesthetically pleasing.[35] In April, Prime matchmaking was added to the game. To partake in this mode, the user had to have a verified phone number connected to their account. It was introduced in an attempt to prevent legitimate players from playing with cheaters or high-skilled players playing on alternative, lower ranked accounts, a practice colloquially known as “smurfing“.[13] Inferno, another original map, was re-released in October. Valve said they had three reasons behind the remake: “to improve visibility; to make it easier to move around in groups; and to tune it with player feedback.”[36] Also in October, consumable items called graffiti were added to the game. These items replaced a feature present in the previous iterations of the series called sprays. Previously, players could customize their sprays. Graffiti ideas can be uploaded to the Steam Workshop in the similar manner as gun skins and players can buy and trade the existing graffiti in game.[18] One month later, glove skins were added.[37]

In September 2017, Valve Company worked with the publisher Perfect World to release Global Offensive in mainland China. Chinese citizens, with their identification verified, can receive the game for free and earn Prime matchmaking status immediately.[38] The game is played through Perfect World’s launcher and contains numerous exclusive changes to the game, including the censorship of skulls and other symbols.[39][40] Some other changes were in the cosmetics in certain maps, for example, the hammer and sickle on Cache and Train were removed.[41] In preparation for the release, multiple cities in China celebrated and heavily promoted its upcoming release.[39][40] Users who played the game during its launch month received free promotional cosmetics.[42][41] In compliance with Chinese law, Valve also had to disclose its loot box gambling odds.[43]

In November 2017, an update to the competitive matchmaking was announced. Called the “Trust Factor”, it meant a player’s “Trust Factor” would be calculated through both in-game and Steam-wide actions. Factors such as playtime on Global Offensive, times a user has been reported for cheating, playtime on other Steam games, and other behaviors hidden by Valve are taken into consideration when a user’s “Trust Factor” is developed. This was done in an attempt to let the community bond back together in matchmaking, as Prime matchmaking separated Prime and non-Prime players from each other. Valve will not let users view their “Trust Factor” or reveal all of the factors deciding one’s “Trust”.[44][45][46] In August 2018, an offline version of the game was released that allows the players to play offline with bots.[47][48]

An update released on December 6, 2018 made the game fully free to play from that point onwards. Users that had purchased the game prior to this point received a special “Prime” status that gives them access to improved matchmaking and modes that can drop cosmetic items while new users have the option to purchase this status. In addition, the new version introduced a battle royale mode called “Danger Zone”.[49]

Promotions

The SteelSeries Rival 300 Fade, a promotional item for Global Offensive

Since the game’s release, Global Offensive influenced accessories have been released. An official store is available which sells collectible products, including a real-life version of the “Five Year Veteran Coin”.[50] Companies such as SteelSeries have partnered with Valve to promote real life peripherals, including headsetsmice and mouse pads.[51]

Gambling and third-party betting

Following the introduction of the Arms Deal update in August 2013, skins formed a virtual economy due to their rarity and other high-value factors that influenced their desirability. Due to this, the creation of a number of skin trading sites enabled by the Steamworks API were created. Some of these sites began to offer gambling functionality, allowing users to bet on the outcome of professional matches with skins. In June and July 2016, two formal lawsuits were filed against these gambling sites and Valve, stating that these encourage underage gambling and undisclosed promotion by some streamers. Valve in turn began to take steps to prevent these sites from using Steamworks for gambling purposes, and several of these sites ceased operating as a result.[27] In July 2018, Valve disabled the opening of containers in Belgium and the Netherlands after their loot boxes appeared to violate Dutch and Belgium gambling laws.[52]

Professional competition

Luminosity Gaming competes against Natus Vincere at the MLG Columbus 2016 major

Counter-Strike: Global OffensiveMajors
Most recent season or competition:
FACEIT Major: London 2018
Sport esports
Founded 2013
No. of teams 24
Venue(s) Various
Continents Global
Most recent
champion(s)
Astralis (2nd title)
Most titles Fnatic (3)
TV partner(s) Twitch.tv, ESL, MLG.tvTBS

The Global Offensive professional scene consists of tournaments hosted by third-party organisations and Valve-organised or co-sponsored tournaments, referred to as Majors. Majors have larger prize pools; originally set at $250,000, the prize pools for majors have risen, with MLG Columbus 2016 having the first pool of $1,000,000.[53]

In 2014, the “first large match fixing scandal”[54] in the Global Offensive community took place, where team iBuyPower purposefully lost a match against NetCodeGuides.com. The team was later banned by Valve, though ESL unbanned the team from their tournaments in 2017.[55] They are still unable to play in Majors.[56]

In October 2015, a number of professional eSports organization with Counter-Strike teams announced the formation of a trade union that set several demands for future tournament attendance. The announcement was a publicly posted email written by Natus Vincere CEO Alexander Kokhanovsky that was sent to organizers of major esports events. Among these demands was notice that teams part of the union would not attend a tournament with a prize pool of less than $75,000 for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and $100,000 for Dota 2. Among the teams that were announced were Natus VincereTeam LiquidCounter Logic GamingCloud9Virtus.proTeam SoloMidFnaticNinjas in PyjamasTitan, and Team EnVyUs.[57] In 2016, the World eSports Association (WESA) was founded by ESL and many eSports teams, including FnaticNatus VincereTeam EnVyUs, and FaZe Clan,[58] though the latter-most left soon after its formation.[59] In the announcement statement, WESA said they would “further professionalize eSports by introducing elements of player representation, standardized regulations, and revenue sharing for teams”. Alongside this, they also plan to help the fans and organizers by “seeking to create predictable schedules”.[58]

Media coverage

As the game and the scene grew in popularity, companies, including WME/IMG and Turner Broadcasting, began to televise Global Offensive professional games, with the first being ELEAGUE Major 2017, held in the Fox Theatre and broadcast on US cable television network TBS in 2016.[60] On August 22, 2018, Turner announced their further programming of Global Offensive with ELEAGUE’s Esports 101: CSGO and ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2018’s docu-series on the TBS network.[61]