CSGO legends weigh in on Counter-Strike 2 after its first major tournament

Jeremy Gan
FaZe lifts the first Counter-strike 2 trophy

At IEM Sydney, the world got its first taste of Counter-Strike 2 played at the top level. Players told us that it’s a good game that still needs a lot of work, but a new meta is breathing life into the game.

In the world of esports, most scenes are at the whims of its publisher when it comes to developing new metas and strategies, and at times, even a shift into a completely new game. Scenes like the Call of Duty League are used to this with Activision’s yearly release cycle. 

But Valve’s premier FPS esports title, Counter-Strike, is not that. CSGO has a reputation for staying largely the same, which was why so many pros were able to transition from CS 1.6 and Source to CSGO so seamlessly in its early days. 

And it’s also why so many pros have stayed in the scene for so long because the early days of CSGO back in 2012 are largely still the same game until its eventual replacement in Counter-Strike 2.

When Counter-Strike 2 was eventually fully released on September 27, 2023, in the middle of its esports season, it meant the upcoming Premier tournament, IEM Sydney, would be host to the game’s very first major tournament. 

So we talked to many of CSGO’s legendary and upcoming players at IEM Sydney to get a look at what pros really think of CS2 at its first major LAN event. 

Counter-Strike 2 is a good game that’s still a work in progress

IEM Sydney was right in the middle of CS2’s first month of release and swirling right before and in the middle of the event was the amount of bugs which the game has been inundated with. However, the tournament wasn’t as bug-filled as many people thought it was, with practically no egregious problems showing. 

Many players told us that initially, they were skeptical of CS2, but once they experienced it on LAN, without much of the game’s online subtick issues, they were sold on the game. 

As MOUZ’s Ádám “torzsi” Torzsás said, “In the beginning, I was really anti about [Counter-Strike 2], I didn’t really like it. But to be honest, I have to say that on LAN it feels better.” But as he admits, CS2 is still not up to par with its predecessor. 

He emphasizes that it feels better on LAN rather than playing online with zero ping, however, he still takes issue with CS2’s various problems; from peekers advantage, the lack of 128 tick servers, the small difference in spray patterns, movements, and the switch to MR12. 

Complexity’s Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski was more critical of the game’s problems, despite actually enjoying the game on LAN. 

“I’m not happy with how the state of the game is right now, but I’m not a doomer,” he said of CS2’s state of bugs and problems. “It’s still the same game we love, but it’s not as optimal as how we’d have liked the release to go, but it’s not like it’s not going to get fixed.”

EliGE continues to explain, “A lot of pros, myself included, we just see what we could have. We want the game to be as good as it can be, this is our lives. We want it to be good for everybody because if it’s bad, that’s obviously our lives and our jobs.”

Counter-Strike 2 new meta breathes a fresh new life into the game

Metas in Counter-Strike rarely shift. Back in CSGO, only rifles (exclusively the AK-47, M4s, AWP, Galil, and FAMAS), pistols, and the odd SMG were used at the highest level of play. And for half a year in 2019, we briefly saw the “Krieg” meta come for a while. But very rarely do you see any other weapon used. 

However, IEM Sydney showed off that in CS2, a new game meant a fresh new meta, and that meant pros using a wide variety of guns in the tournament. Pros were using rarely seen guns such as the Nova, XM1014, MAG-7, P-90, and MP5 at a surprising rate. 

Even when they weren’t using SMGs or Shotguns on ecos and half-buys, there were still variations in the rifles used, with some preferring the AUG and SG 553 in comparison to the M4s and AK-47s on full buys. 

And this, in our talks with the pros at IEM Sydney, was nothing if not a breath of fresh air to Counter-Strike’s normally stale gun choices. 

When asked about the uptick in off-meta guns being used, BetBoom’s Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov revealed, “We try to use it as much as we can, for example, zorte is our primary P-90 player right now, so we don’t an AWPer, but we have a P-90 player.” 

nafany at IEM Sydney
nafany revealed BetBoom has a primary P-90 player instead of an AWPer in Counter-Strike 2’s new meta

Nafany continues to explain his excitement at the increase in the diversity of guns being used, “It’s way better than it was in CSGO, because everyone’s using different SMGs, different Shotguns, different rifles. I hope Valve buffs the Scar-20, and everyone will start using it as well.” 

And even moving away from the guns, the new changes in the smokes, in which you can briefly dissipate one with a grenade, have also added a new twist to CS.

As FaZe Clan’s Finn “karrigan” Andersen, fresh off winning IEM Sydney and the only player to win trophies in CS 1.6, CSGO, and CS2, said of IGL-ing in the new meta, “I think it’s a lot more different, there’s a lot of variance and different ways the game can change so fast.” 

He explains, “Everytime you smoked, you think you’re protected, but now the CTs can break you while you’re walking out. Especially as a IGL, a lot of things is going down, and keeping track of grenades is hard.”

Counter-Strike 2 smokes
Counter-Strike 2’s smoke changes shifted the pace of the game karrigan says

Karrigan also commented on how the new meta has affected the speed of rounds, saying, “I think the reason why the game is so fast, is first of all the sound in front of the arena, but at the same time people just don’t feel comfortable holding angles.”

So right now it’s a trading game, it’s not like a one for one trades, but trades happening all around the map.” karrigan also pointed out that the economy has now shifted. 

“You have to really think about the economy. We try to balance it, we have some force buys, but that’s just the way [FaZe] plays the game.” However, he says as we move away from IEM Sydney, the meta will change as teams figure out the game for themselves. 

“But I think it’s going to change over time, let’s just see how Virtus Pro is playing the game.”