Beginners Guide to Counter Strike

Counter Strike: Global Offensive Beginner's Guide

What is Counter Strike?

Valve’s First Person Shooter (FPS) Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) has been a major success over the years. Starting off with the original 2000 release of Counter Strike all the way up to CS:GO, it has not only gained momentum as a series, but momentum as a popular game in the Esports community. It is a scene staple, if you follow anyone in any other Esport, their org either has a CS:GO team or they talk about the latest Major. If you’re just starting to watch or play, you’re in for a wild ride.

How should I start playing Counter Strike?

Honestly, you probably have friends that play CS:GO and if you don’t, it is very easy to make friends with people that you end up queuing with in game. Personally, I started playing the game to play with my girlfriend and during some solo ques I met some of my best friends that all helped teach me the game and made it possible to enjoy every game win or lose. The community can prove to be pretty toxic (name one game that doesn’t have some toxicity) but often times, because of how team focused and dependent the matches are, even the toxic people are cornered into communicating as effectively as possible with you. Nobody likes to lose.

Queuing with a bunch of your friends may or may not be the best way to play competitive, more effective comms and less infighting makes for better games than playing with random people can offer. On the other side it leads to more goofing off, I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I Zeused each other and got some sick 30 minute comp bans.

Many people warm up for their competitive games, because when you are coming from work or just waking up and aren’t in the groove of things, rather than risking your rank on a few too many missed shots it is smarter to get prepared for the ranked session.

Warming up can be done by playing Casual or unranked Search and Destroy, or Deathmatch. There are more ways to practice but these tend to be the best methods for a warm up session. If you are wanting to practice a specific skill set there are plenty of Community made mods you can download and use to hone any skill from pistol only lobbies to surfing… which arguably is one of the worst ways to warm up, but one of the best ways to have fun with the game! Getting a feel for how the game works before you play competitive is the best route here, Silver is a hard hole to dig out of for any player. Practicing will help of course, but it's the dedication that counts.

How do spray patterns work?

Every automatic weapon has a spray pattern, spray patterns refer to how a gun’s recoil affects the bullet movement. I can’t easily explain what this looks like using words or how to control your spray, but I can lead you to water. There are many videos going into detail on how to control the spray for various weapons in the game, and your accuracy depends on your ability to control your spray.

The AK and M4s have similar spray patterns and can almost be memorized one for the other. They do jerk at different times which makes for a difficult translation, but the M4s are more accurate than the AK is if you just hold the 30 round and let em fly. Good luck controlling SMG spray patterns, if you can get those down then you might be an Eco Round God.

Some one shot headshot guns like the Deagle and AK can be useful for those who are super accurate in the first place, it will make it less necessary to learn spray patterns but at the same time, if you can’t hit your shots, maybe you need more bullets.

Yes, Fnatic showed us the 5 man AWP awhile back, no that doesn’t mean it will work every game you ever play as a Gold Nova. Sniping is a really great skill set to have but Rifling gives a lot more versatility to players. That being said, practice with the AWP and recognize when the best scenario to pick one up. In a lot of games it is useful for both teams to try and peak the “Mid” to gain some information on how many players went where. Peaking Mid also grants the opportunity, or risk, of getting a pick on someone and gaining an early advantage.

As game sounds are a major factor in CSGO, a lot of players agree that peaking Mid isn’t necessary unless your side has the closer spawn to the peak lane. Many places on each map offer audio information as to how many people are where in regards to that spot on the map. AWPs are one shot one kill to the chest and up, getting a “Leeg” usually means you clipped someone in the lower half of their body, usually doing ~72 damage. Through a wall you still get one shot kills for headshots and some body shots, otherwise you hit for ~50 damage or less.

AWPs aren’t completely helpless outside of sniping, no scopes and close quarter flicks can save the player in situations where they are out gunned. AWPs usually offer some of the most flashy plays and feel really great to get kills with. They just aren’t the end all be all weapon even at the pro level.

How do Ranks work in Counter Strike?

The ranks in CSGO flow a little differently than in other games. The lowest rank is Silver one, followed by Two, Three, Four Silver Elite and Silver Elite Master. Promoting out of Silver gets you to Gold Nova One, into Gold Nova Two, Three, and Gold Nova Master. Promoting out of Gold Nova puts you into Master Guardian, and Master Guardian Two into Master Guardian Elite (Double AK). At this point the Ranks get a little more confusing, it takes a lot of time, effort and victories to promote out of all of these ranks and reaching any of them is a feat in itself. Next up is DMG or Distinguished Master Guardian, Legendary Eagle (LE), Legendary Eagle Master (LEM), Supreme Master First Class (Supreme), and the absolute hardest rank to achieve, Global Elite CS GO (Global). 

The earlier ranks are all hurdles in themselves, but once you get to DMG (my personal highest) it takes a lot to get any better than that. Practice, time, good internet, the correct settings configuration (yes running this game at ultra, even if you could, will not help you competitively) there are actually more optimal settings that are proven to increase your ability to play in competitive modes.

Getting any higher than Double AK is a true feat to be proud of, but breaching the rank of Supreme is what separates the pros from the scrubs. Supreme and Global Players are the most elite CSGO players and almost all go pro. Of course playing in the 64-tick Valve servers are yet another set back to your rank, and while Face it and ESEA do not directly improve your ranking in the Valve servers, the better servers offered by those providers come with their own ranking that some believe out ranks even Global players. 

The reality is that the Global players on the Valve servers make up a majority of the upper echelon of ESEA and Face it players as well, but in some cases they really are just better than the Globals are, and that's what 128-tick servers offer players.

What about Counter Strike Pros?

We all know that regardless of ranking, if you’re not on a team who even are you? The absolute best of the best will and do go pro, especially because there is no lack of pro teams in the scene. CSGo probably boasts the biggest pro scene of an Esport, because there are five players per team and a coach, and there are well over 100 teams, there are a big chunk of pro players and they all get their time to shine at one point or another.

There are many different Minor tournaments where some of the bigger teams don’t even participate because they have already won one or two and prequalified for the next Major. As there are also a big handful of Major tournaments that offer several qualifying prizes for other Major tournaments. Along with the regional Leagues that host their own teams playing each other for bragging rights and a fairly sizeable prize pool. Teams that don’t get to participate internationally, still get screen time and make the finals of their regional tournament from time to time.

The size of the pro scene most likely comes from the fact that it has been around and been successful forever. One of the reasons it does better than other pro scenes that have been around a similar amount of time is because it is a very skill based FPS games. The better shot wins every time. Games like SC2 which have been around awhile longer may be bigger in Korea and China, but as it is an RTS game it doesn't translate very well to as many people as a game like CSGO does.When comparing it to something like Halo or Call of Duty, you have to take into account the player base that is on PC over the likes of console. (im not saying PC master race, I’m just saying the player base is way bigger). 

64 Tick versus 128 Tick servers?

We talked about the third party servers a little bit, but there are many other benefits to them than simply showing you another way to look at the best of the best. Yes they are subscription based but they are both fairly cheap and when you feel as though you’ve peaked on Valves servers, you may as well give the other ones a chance, they are better after all. 128-tick is what just makes these servers plain better. Everything that happens in the game registers near instantly. Making your shots all register, if they actually hit something, and make it so you die from head glitches and shoulder peaks more often, because they always hit their shots if you don’t kill them first.

It can be a great eye opening experience on these servers, realizing just how good or bad you actually are in accordance with the Valve servers. The 128- ticks can really improve your overall level of gameplay. If you don’t want to risk losing your Valve ranking, these servers offer another avenue for playing competitively while building another rank and arguably more important one. When you’re tilted on one set of servers, switch to another so your ranks are affected differently.

The last main thing that these servers offer are a true professional setting. Most of the games offer overtime instead of draws, and the overall setting of each match is more competitive feeling than a match on the Valve servers are. Luckily, if you’re playing with friends, you often times only need one of you to be paying for the servers and then all four or five of you can play on the 128-tick servers. Not the best system but some decent quality of life for sure if this is where all your friends are playing anyway.

What should I be focusing on as a new CS:GO player?

The focus for new players should be learning how the game works inside and out. Everything from economy to gunplay should be taken seriously and finding advice for what is more important in the different scenarios will make you a good player. When you start as T side and get a bomb plant but lose the round, is it better to buy or save? There is a right answer, and it is to buy. The money you get from the plant is enough to match the money gained by the CTs for winning the round.

There are a lot of different scenarios and we will get into those more in later guides, but that doesn’t take away from learning the general strategies for economy and strategies round to round. Communicating with your team is essential, yes there is a minimap but because of the short time to kill in this game, you won’t be playing appropriately if you’re staring at the minimap to see who died where.

Callouts are the main form of communication for gameplay. I say for gameplay because obviously everybody not in the high ranks is more focused on memeing and complaining about dying  than making sure their teammates have the opportunity to perform their best because they have more information. Being able to react to a teammates death as quickly as possible can be the difference between a won round or a lost round. Especially since in CSGO every player has the ability to 1v5 the enemy team, the first step in accomplishing that is knowledge of where the enemy team is at any given time. 

Arsenal call outs are good as well, what weapon where you killed with? What weapon could they have now because you died? This information will allow your teammates to assess where they should be distance wise from the enemy that killed you. If your team is aware of what weapons the enemy team has they can more easily strategize around that. If they have an AWP on A then the 2v1 take becomes a lot simpler with two riflers.

When you die to a rifle and your last guy has an AWP but has to take site or retake site, let them know where a rifle is so that they can more effectively fight at close range and the game does not hinge on whether he hits or misses his first shot. More seemingly obvious is communicating what you’re smoking off or where you’re better at playing, 2/1/2 or 3/1/1 or 2/0/3 stacks for CT’s and holding sites/mid become very different holds when players are more familiar with one or the other site. Ts have a lot more leniency but sometimes having someone lurking or watching mid for a little while longer than normal can help prevent quick rotations from the CTs or getting a surprise pick on the opposite side of the map can draw less attention to where the rest of your team is going.But without the communication to your team letting each other know what your strengths and weaknesses are.

What are the best settings for Counter Strike?

Now that you’ve played a handful of games and maybe gotten your rank and you have a squad that you play with more than you play solo que. But maybe you’ve just been playing on standard settings, whatever Valve had pre set up and whatever your computer let you run graphically. You’ve never changed you DPI or mouse speed and everyone laughs when they see you try to hit headshots at Mach 5 speeds. This isn’t Call of Duty, accuracy matters so much more and there is no respawn. Let's break down some more efficient settings.

A lot of places will say the same or similar things but for the most part this comes from the guidance of a friend of mine who ranked Supreme on the Valve servers and G on the ESEA servers who played CS from the very beginning. Hand holding shouldn’t be necessary and I'm sure my boss wouldn’t like it if I used my word count to describe to you how to access your computer settings, but it should also go without saying that these optimal settings are optional, you can find what works for you, but if nothing is working for you then feel free to try these.

First and foremost, turn off Mouse Acceleration, there is no need for it in the first place and is really only on because some people have a hard time using computers. Turning off Mouse Acceleration will allow you to more accurately move your mouse (or at least more accurately follow your hand movement) freely. Making every mouse movement yours and yours alone.

Next up is Mouse DPI and Sensitivity, some people will tell you that if you like playing with 1500+ DPI then that’s fine, but they’re wrong. Even if you’re a wrist player you won't be able to climb the ranks if you’re missing 80% of the first shots you take.I play exceptionally low DPI because I am an arm player with a big mousepad, if you do all the math between 1.2 mouse sensitivity and 500 DPI my EDPI (which is the culmination of both) comes out to  500*1.2= 600. This is about 2/3ds the speed of most pro AWPers. Pro players range from around 750 EDPI- 990 EDPI the lower end being Riflers and the higher end being AWPers.

Zoom sensitivity factors into AWPing but not rifling,  most players are fine with the default setting but if you want a more consistent EDPI between AWPing and Rifiling, you should lower by about .2 at .818 rather than the default 1. I personally don't recommend this but some people swear by it.

Aspect ratio/screen resolution are hit or miss, long time players like the older style of 16:9 or even believe it's easier to see their head at a 4:3, and for them that may be true. 16:10 isn’t much different from 16:9 and is probably what your default setting is at. It may not change much but 16:9 is a little better performance wise (gameplay) and 16:10 will look more similarly like other FPS games you’ve played. 

4:3 is an aspect ratio the Old Guard want you to play on, it’s zoomed in and makes it a little easier to see the heads of the enemy, but comes with some pretty big drawbacks as newer monitors come out every year. The biggest drawback being that as it is zoomed in you don’t see everything that someone standing next to you sees, the guy on the Catwalk for example that just blasted him and has you in his sites because you aren’t even looking at him. If you decide on the 4:3 just be aware that you aren’t fully aware and double checking corners may be a necessity. 

Here are my recommended video settings for best FPS as well as best gameplay performance:

  • Brightness - Choose what you’re most comfortable with.
  • Color Mode - Computer Monitor.
  • Aspect Ratio - 16:9 gives you the best settings with the least amount of drawbacks, but try 4:3 just to get a taste at what some people think is better. 
  • Resolution - This is based on what monitor you’re using, default should be fine - it won’t ultimately affect gameplay though the 4:3 guys may disagree.
  • Display Mode - Fullscreen is the best option.
  • Global Shadow Quality - Very Low
  • Model/Texture Detail - Low
  • Effect Detail - Low
  • Shader Detail - Low
  • Multicore Rendering - Enabled
  • Multisampling Anti-Aliasing Mode - None
  • FXAA Anti-Aliasing - Bilinear
  • Texture Filtering Mode - Disabled
  • Wait for Vertical Sync - Disabled
  • Motion Blur - Disabled

What kind of Audio Settings should I use?

No FPS is complete without proper Audio management. Counter Strike is no different. While most of these settings are literally to your preference there are a few that are a little more important to focus on. The first being Master Volume. CS:GO is notorious for its extra loud menu music and game sounds. They can be intimidating and annoying, the best advice here is to turn the music volume down a lot. I have round start, and round end volumes at 0, Main menu volume at 10 (gotta hear the que pop) and everything else at 50% with my headphones at 80%. Foot steps are important and if you aren’t in a team chat with your team you need to hear them in game for their callouts and gripes.

Where should I go from here?

Counter Strike: Global Offensive is a really challenging FPS game, between the required warmup and practice perfecting your setting preference and translating it all into good gameplay, there really is no other game like it. Climbing the ranks will be difficult and will take time to do, but there is always a way we can improve on ourselves in every game and it all begins here and now. Dive deeper into what it means to play competitive video games and master your own game.

 

Cameron Carr image

Cameron Carr

7 November 2019
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