Unlike in Pokemon, there’s no stopping this evolution; CS:GO has fully transformed into CS2. Developer Valve wants the shift to feel as seamless as possible for CS:GO players, but gameplay changes are here, and likely here to stay. To help CS players old and new adapt to this fresh era of T vs CT action, we’ve broken down the key CS2 gameplay differences from CS:GO below. You can find a full list of other changes here, but this guide will focus exclusively on aspects that impact the core gameplay.
CS2 gameplay differences
In the purest terms of moving and shooting, CS2 should match up very closely to CS:GO. Server tick rate, animations, and other factors may affect the feel of the game, but Valve is aiming for the core mechanics to overlap. The biggest changes come in the surrounding systems such as utility, interfaces, and the maps.
CS2 matches have been reduced in length compared to CS:GO. Teams now require just 13 rounds to claim victory (down from 16). That means you’ll play a maximum of 12 rounds as either CTs or Ts for each half. This adjustment makes pistol rounds all the more important, so don’t throw them away casually.
CS:GO dabbled with the idea of weapon selection by granting a few choices between guns like the Five-SeveN and CZ-75 or M4 and M4A1-S. CS2 goes further, introducing full weapon loadouts that players can set up before matches. Weapons are now assigned into one of three classes: Pistol, Mid-Tier, and Rifle. Up to five weapons can be equipped into each category, letting you mix and match gun selections to your taste.
There are still side-based restrictions – CTs still can’t buy the AK or Krieg 552, for example – but you can now choose to equip both the M4 and M4A1-S if you’d like that flexibility. You’ll just need to give up another weapon like the Famas, Aug, or Scout for that place.
We may see Valve play around with which weapons come under which categories, but right now the Mid-Tier bracket is reserved for shotguns and SMGs. Rifle packs in both mainstays like the M4 and AK, budget rifles like the Galil and Famas, and also the pricey but deadly AWP sniper rifle.
Buy menu and refunds
CS:GO’s buy menu has, thankfully, received an entire rework for CS2, matching it up with the new loadout structure. Gone is the weapon wheel, replaced instead by a more direct menu showing everything available.
Bought the wrong thing? Meant to buy a different weapon, armor, or grenade? Sell your purchase back and buy again (during buy time). pic.twitter.com/7KJ4WN82XU— CS2 (@CounterStrike) June 6, 2023
Crucially, you’ll now also be able to sell accidental purchases during the buy phase, much like in Valorant. So if you rapidly splash the cash without realizing your team is prepped for an eco round, you can quickly rectify that mistake in CS2.
Volumetric and reactive smoke grenades and skyboxes
Smoke grenades were the big thing shown off during CS2’s reveal, and they remain one of the biggest gameplay changes. Smokes are now volumetric, expanding to fill the space they detonate in rather than appearing as a set shape. They’re also color coded based on which team bought them. CT smokes appear a gray-blue color, while T smokes have a red-orange hue.
Smokes are also now reactive, clearing temporarily based on gunfire and explosions. Standard shots will only poke small holes through the cloud, with more visibility opened up toward the smoke’s edges. HE Grenades, by contrast, can entirely clear a smoke for a brief moment. Used in conjunction with a teammate training their eyes through an AWP’s scope, they hold the potential for some very dramatic plays.
What’s likely to prove an even more impactful change relating to smoke grenades is that CS2 does away with physical skyboxes altogether. That means smokes can now be thrown across the entire level without hitting invisible walls. In practical terms, that means there will be more ways to get smokes into useful places. As such, expect well-trained teams to have even more complicated executes which block off lines of sight and create one-way views to favor their side.
CS2 is also aiming to do away with the need to create binds for certain actions via autoexecs and the console. Jump throws, which previously demanded extremely precise timings for consistency, have been smoothed out. There’s now a much larger window during a jump in which you can consistently throw the same grenade arc. This should help less experienced players more easily land helpful smoke grenades without diving into the techy side of things.
And finally, the maps. CS2 brings over the bulk of CS:GO’s core map pool, but some aren't quite the same as experienced players might remember.
Touchstone maps will remain largely identical, serving as safe havens for CS:GO players to find their feet. These include Dust2, Mirage, Train, and Office.
Upgrade maps will benefit from the Source 2 engine’s fancy new textures and lighting but maintain the same layout. These include Nuke and Ancient.
Overhaul maps have received significant reworks. Their general layouts will likely be the same, but expect chunks of the map to feature adjusted layouts and objects which will change up gameplay more notably. These include Inferno, Italy, and Overpass. Be prepared to put extra time into learning these.
Make your own difference with HyperX gear
One thing that definitely hasn’t changed with the launch of CS2? The competitive edge that quality gaming gear grants. A premium headset like the HyperX Cloud III will open your ears to an entire new world of intel, letting you precisely locate your opponents whenever they let out a stray footstep or jump thanks to its angled 53mm drivers.
Eager for more? A high-framerate monitor like HyperX’s Armada line (supporting up to 240Hz) will ensure that your on-screen action is as smooth as it can possibly be. So when you’re holding that AWP angle, you’ll see the enemy enter your scope at the earliest opportunity.