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Scene from »Counter-Strike 2«: The basic principle of the cops and robbers game has hardly changed for more than 20 years

Photo: Valve

The world's best-known tactical shooter is entering a new round: On Wednesday, the developers of the US studio Valve released the multiplayer game "Counter-Strike 2". Counter-Strike«, version 1.0 of which was released in 2000, has been one of the most important online games for more than two decades, especially in the field of e-sports. Its current version was called »Counter-Strike: Global Offensive« (CS:GO), it was released in 2012.

Publicly available statistics show how popular the cops-and-robbers-like online duels still are: On Friday, "Counter-Strike 2" clearly topped the charts of the most played games on Valve's software platform Steam. Almost 900,000 players were online on average, while the strategy game "Dota 2" landed in second place with almost 400,000 people. At peak times, around 1.8 million people played the new "Counter-Strike" in the past few days.

But what makes the game so special? And what requirements does your own PC have to meet so that you can go into battle without jerking? We have collected the most important questions and answers about »Counter-Strike 2«.

What is "Counter-Strike" about?

The classic gameplay is simple. The players are initially divided into two groups: terrorists and special police units, the so-called counter-terrorists. Armed with knives, pistols and rifles, the players sneak through beer gardens, ghost towns and factory buildings in first-person perspective. While one team tries to plant a bomb, the other team tries to prevent the attack. The game is over when the time limit is reached, a bomb explodes, or a team is completely wiped out. Whoever is hit spends the rest of the time as a spectator – but is then also allowed to follow the movements of the opponents. The entertaining rounds usually last a few minutes.

What makes the game series so special?

»Counter-Strike« is considered one of the pioneers in the genre of multiplayer shooters. The game was already a hit when the Internet was slow to spread in Germany and people with 56k modems were struggling through the net. Back then, at the end of the nineties, teenagers dragged their PCs and monitors into dark basements to duel in »Counter-Strise« on the local network. By the way, the first version of the game was a free modification for Valve's successful single-player adventure »Half-Life«.

Don't the cops-and-robbers duels get boring in the long run?

The gameplay has proven itself to this day, so it has hardly changed in the past 20 years. One of the charms of street battles is that they are always different – similar to a football match with teams of different strengths and different tactics. Snipers on the rooftops, frontal attacks and diversionary maneuvers make the fighting take surprising turns again and again.

In addition, training helps to achieve more success: If you train reflexes and movement sequences with a mouse and keyboard, you will quickly get better, hit more accurately and reach higher ranks. That's why »Counter-Strike« is one of the most popular e-sports games in the world, along with titles like »League of Legends«. When it comes to first-person shooters, "Counter-Strike" is the undisputed leader: In August alone, Twitch users watched the "CS:GO" competitions for more than 17 million hours.

Are there any new rules for "Counter-Strike 2"?

The game studio Valve has refrained from large-scale experiments. Cards like »Overpass« and »Inferno«, for example, have remained mostly the same. Valve also refrains from mocking jubilant dances in the style of "Fortnite". Anyone who has already played »Counter-Strike« or »CS:GO« will quickly feel at home in the new edition. However, there are some differences to the direct predecessor: For example, the teams have always played 15 rounds until a change of sides. From now on, the players swap camps after only twelve rounds. In total, a game now lasts 24 rounds instead of 30.

Does the graphics look better?

The look of the game has been polished, Valve has switched to its Source 2 engine. Water basins now look prettier, and muzzle flashes glitter more beautifully on pistol barrels. In addition, grenade smoke spreads more realistically and is blown away by detonation pressure waves. For the new version, Valve has also reworked the classic maps and, for example, redecorated rooms and brightened up basements to prevent snipers from camouflaging themselves too well in dark vaults.

But the game won't win a beauty award even with the new version. The characters are still shuffling through the desert cities in a robot rut – and even with explosions, splashing mud puddles and crumbling facades, »Counter-Strike 2« can't keep up with titles like »Call of Duty«. Such competitors look consistently better. But »Counter-Strike« is not about the graphics anyway: It's a sports game that should run as smoothly as possible. Graphical speckles only slow down the fun of the game.

How has the new game been received in the e-sports scene?

The first feedback from e-sports players on the graphics is positive. According to the game magazine "PC Gamer", the British "Counter-Strike" professional Sebastian Malos praises the spruced-up dueling areas. The new textures and details of the map are really nice, and although everything has remained pretty much the same, it feels new.« But there are still some problems.

"I don't think CS2 is any better than CS:GO right now," says Frenchman Dan Madesclaire, another professional player, "but with better balancing, it could certainly work." The problem for professionals like him is that they know their games so well that even inconspicuous changes to the game can mean enormous changes for them. Madesclaire says that for him, "Counter-Strike 2" feels very different after more than 15,000 hours with its predecessor "CS:GO".

Can »Counter-Strike 2« also be played on Xbox, Playstation or Switch?

No. So far, the game only runs on PC and the Linux platform SteamOS. This causes a lot of frustration in the comments. Numerous users also complain that Valve has replaced "CS:GO" with the new game, but has not made a new version available for Mac users of "CS:GO". The predecessor had also been released for Apple computers as well as for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, although the Playstation version was not released in Europe. However, »Counter-Strike« has always had by far its largest player base on the PC.

How fast does my computer need to be for the shooter?

»Counter-Strike 2« is modest. Even an i5-750 processor from Intel and 8 GB of RAM should be enough for the game to flicker smoothly across the screen. This is also confirmed by the test at »Computerbase« . Accordingly, the game runs on almost all reasonably modern PCs, as long as the graphics card has at least 1 GB of its own memory. In addition, Valve recommends 85 GB of free space on the hard drive.

How much does Counter-Strike 2 cost?

The download is free. Even ordinary online duels cost nothing. Among other things, the developers earn money with the so-called Prime Pass. This costs around 15 euros and opens up access to certain items, which, however, do not bring any advantages in the game itself. In addition, only Prime status allows you to participate in ranked games.

In the in-app store, players can also purchase cosmetic items such as stickers and name tags for the uniform. Valve also earns money from virtual treasure chests. The matching key costs about 2.40 euros. The skins from these boxes can in turn be sold on the Steam marketplace. However, the chance of quickly picking up rare items with a high sales value is rather low.

What happens to weapons and skins from the previous game?

Unlike some other online games such as "EA Sports FC 24", the item counter was not set to zero during the version jump. If you bought weapons and clothing in the predecessor »CS:GO«, you will keep your arsenal and can use them to go into battle in »Counter-Strike 2«. The equipment is transferred automatically.

»Counter-Strike 2« by Valve, from 16 years, for Windows PC and Linux, free to play