A remote war-torn desert town. The rest of your squad is MIA. Your sidearm is the last bastion between survival and certain death. A small contingent of highly trained and heavily armed terrorists are hunting you. A quick headshot from your P250 and you know there are only four left. Shouting and the stomping of boots; they must have heard that shot ring out. Pick up the fallen AK-47, 600 rounds per minute. Another quick takedown; this might just work. Lead flies past your head, no time left to think. Spin, aim, fire. The dull click of a dry fire; out of bullets. Duck, reload, pray, fire. One more. Keep firing, control the recoil. Survive.
While that could be a scene from the latest summer blockbuster, this particular scenario played out during a recent $1,000,000 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament. Pyth, from team Ninjas in Pyjamas, single-handedly killed all five members of the enemy team in Round 8 of their match against G2.
What Is It?
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the latest iteration of a 17-year-old franchise. Originally released in 1999, Counter-Strike is a no-frills first-person shooter that pits Terrorists against Counter-Terrorists across various locales. It has been played competitively since shortly after its inception, making Counter-Strike one of the oldest and most established esports. The most popular game mode sees the Terrorists trying to destroy one of two bomb sites on the map. The Counter-Terrorists can prevent this by killing every Terrorist, or by defusing the bomb after it’s been planted. Competitive Matches are best of 30 rounds (first to 16 wins) with the teams switching sides after round 15.
What sets Counter-Strike apart from other first-person shooters is its economy system, which limits the amount of firepower teams can bring into each round. Weapons are not equitably distributed, and instead have to be bought by each player with in-game currency earned during a match.
Winning a round usually nets the winning team $3500. The losing team earns $1400, plus $500 for each consecutive round loss, up to a maximum of $3400. An individual kill normally provides $300 to the individual, although this can vary based on the weapon used.
There are also multiple weapon categories balanced around specific traits, including cost, power, run speed and on what side they can be purchased. For example, the AWP, Counter-Strike’s one-shot-kill sniper rifle, costs $4750 and only rewards $100 for each kill. Weapons, armor, and money carry over between each round which makes managing your team’s economy paramount to staying competitive in the match. Some professional players excel with certain weapons, and are therefore given a relatively high-value weapon. Losing these weapons to the enemy can be devastating.
You’ll sometimes see teams take an “Eco” round. In these rounds, teams might only purchase upgraded pistols and very few tactical grenades. The purpose of these rounds is not to win, but to cause as much damage to the enemy’s economy while backing your own team’s money for the following round. Forcing the opposing team into as many Eco rounds as possible is important to maintain your team’s momentum. Part of what makes Pyth’s highlight reel play so spectacular is that it happened when his team was on an Eco round, against five fully armed opponents.
CS:GO players have a variety of strategies at their disposal. These are often based on what equipment is available to both teams. Sometimes the Terrorist team will use perfectly thrown smoke grenades and Molotov cocktails to block line of sight and clear out common defense positions. In other scenarios, you might see an aggressive push from the Counter-Terrorists to help gather information and move the rest of the defense into the perfect position. If the Terrorists can penetrate the defense and plant the bomb, this causes a role switch where the Counter-Terrorists are now attempting to re-take control of the bomb site from the Terrorists. The fast context switching and improvisation when necessary is what sets apart the best professional teams.
Another defining aspect of Counter-Strike is the star player dynamic, which is in a way very similar to traditional sports like basketball. Olofmeister, in the video above, might be the Lebron James of Counter-Strike. Teams always win or lose as a squad, but there are absolutely top-tier players that can carry a team to victory. CS:GO matches are often adrenaline-fueled slugfests between two teams and their star players. The high-level economic strategies, precise gunplay and nail-biting action between competitive powerhouses all make Counter-Strike: Global Offensive an amazing spectator esport.
Ready to watch some CS:GO? The world’s largest Counter-Strike tournament, ESL One, kicks off in Cologne, Germany next week. Check out the trailer below and get ready to watch it with us here on Fandom.