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HomeGuidesA guide to the basics of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

A guide to the basics of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Read Skrilla's guide to the basics Counter-Strike Global:Offensive (CS:GO), to get the low down on how the game is played and where it's heading!

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the most popular games in the world and has a history to match that legacy.

Ever since the original Counter-Strike released on PC back in 1999, players have battled for dominance either online or at LAN parties. This success has led to a point where CS:GO has become one of the biggest and most profitable esports in today’s quickly expanding landscape.

In 2018, CS:GO ranked second - behind only Dota 2 - in total prize money awarded at somewhere around $68,761,369 according to Esports Earnings. It also had the most players with roughly 11,000 competitors across over 3,700 recorded tournaments worldwide.

But along with that growth comes new viewers and potential players who might not know what is going on. This is a guide that will give an explanation of csgo competitive rules and other key aspects that are integral to the CS:GO experience.

The Gameplay

If you are familiar with any first person, team-based shooter that has come out in the last decade, then the basics of CS:GO won’t be anything new to you.

The game’s focus centers around two teams that are each working to complete or reach an objective before their opponents do. These two sides are classified as either Terrorists or Counter-Terrorists.

If we are talking strictly competitive play, the mode you are going to see the most is Bomb Defusal. This mode is considered to be the most popular and balanced throughout the community, so most if not all tournaments feature this mode rather than a combination of other game modes.
The basic csgo competitive rules are as follows:

Counter-Terrorists are trying to stop the Terrorist team from planting and successfully detonating a C4 explosive somewhere on the selected map. This leads to a mix of team deathmatch and objective-based combat between the two sides.

Terrorists win the round if they successfully defend the C4 for 40 seconds after it is set, or if they eliminate the Counter-Terrorists team.

Inversely, Counter-Terrorists win if they eliminate all Terrorists before the C4 is set, defuse the C4 after it is planted, or successfully run down the round timer - typically set for one minute and 55 seconds - without the enemy ever placing the explosive.

Typically these conditions make players play aggressively which makes matches more exciting and action-packed. A fast and entertaining mode that makes it fun to watch even if you don’t know all the intricacies.

For most standard tournaments, matches are played between two teams with five players in each team, competing against each other in 30 round matches. As stated previously, these rounds typically run for one minute and 55 seconds and the C4, once set, has a countdown timer of 40 seconds.

Each team will be assigned the role of either Terrorist or Counter-Terrorist at the start of the match and after the first 15 rounds, the game will enter a halftime period where those roles are switched. A team needs to win 16 rounds in order to secure a match victory, but if each team has won 15 rounds when the final round ends the match will be declared a tie.

Depending on the tournament there might be an overtime setting in place to avoid teams tying at the end of regulation. This means teams will play another six matches - three on each side - to decide a winner, this repeats if another tie occurs.

A round ends when any of the aforementioned objectives are achieved or if a unanimous decision and vote to surrender is made by either team.

Almost all of these rules have been standard since 2015, meaning a nice balance has been in place for over three years at this point.

The Economy

Something that makes CS:GO standout against the packed market of First Person Shooter (FPS) games is their economy system.

Players don’t just start off each round with a preset weapon set and get to keep it all the way through, though there are some factors that remain each time. Instead, players have to keep track of an in-game loot system that gives players money based upon the performance of both individuals and the team.

This means that players not only have to deal with the fast paced gameplay of each round, but they also need to keep up with their team’s economic value so that they can decide which equipment to purchase before the next round begins. This extra element puts a lot of pressure on communication with teammates so they do not end up wasting maximum economic value during a good situation.

Each weapon has a price, and like most games, a meta typically decides what items are bought together to form the optimal cost-effective strategy. The items vary depending on which team you are on and the money is given out is based on factors like winning bonuses and bomb objectives.

Players all start each half of a match with $800 to their username, while the total cap for both parties is $16,000. This leads into the buy or save mentality that runs the game.

Managing your money through the economy - or save - rounds is essentially the same as saving up for something you really want. You don’t have the funds for it now, but a few stops down the road and you come home with something that makes things better for you.

Say a few teammates did extremely poorly in the last round and they failed to capitalize when they had an awesome item loadout. That puts the entire team at a disadvantage for the next round, regardless if their teammates have enough money to load themselves out.

In other games that wouldn’t matter, but in CS:GO it sets up a decision that could decide the entire match.

The safe bet, and typically the stronger argument leans to the entire team saving their resources and going with a more conservative approach to the round. They aren’t throwing the round, just saving their best for when the time is right.

This puts the team into a position to cripple their opponents and maximizing their return should they end up winning it anyway. And that doesn’t even start to delve into the more fleshed out strategies that some players use to build up their economy.

Teams who successfully manage their money end up in a situation where they can have several buy-rounds in a row. Meaning that they have enough resources saved up to start purchasing the good stuff.

Communicating with your team and going all in on rounds feels extremely rewarding, but you still need to be careful. Just because you have the better equipment in no way means you are guaranteed a win.

If you buy your equipment and play recklessly, you will likely end up in a bad situation later on. A few bad moves and you could see the need for avoidable eco-rounds coming into play for your squad because of carelessness.

Regardless, you must remember that money does not carry over past halftime, so expect a lot of firepower to be thrown out in round 15 just before the sides flip. It is recommended you look at several charts of recommended buys to make sure you don’t get lost in the heat of the moment.

The Cosmetics

Welcome to the most well-known aspect of CS:GO - the skins.

Weapon skins are at the core of the game along with smaller cosmetic options for profiles, stickers, and others. This is another place the game shines compared to the competition.

These skins - also called finishes - let players customize the look of their weapons, both guns and knives, allowing them to add their own personal flair. A skin is purely cosmetic, meaning that they provide no bonuses to items outside of the unique look.

Ever since they started coming out in 2013, these skins have been released in different quality grades that tell the skin’s level of rarity when compared to other skins. Skins come in seven different rarities varying from Consumer Grade - the most common - to Gold - the least common.

Along with the actual rarity, each skin has a freshness that ranges from Factory New to Battle Scarred, giving players even more options to pick the look they like the most. That, paired with some skin’s ability to count kills - known as StatTrak - or extremely rare items exclusive to certain events add another dimension to the cosmetic game.

Skins are obtained in a few different ways. The most common ways to get these items are as rewards from playing the game or loot drops that happen as you play.

You can also occasionally receive weapon cases as a drop, something that can only be opened if players use a key purchased from the Steam marketplace. Skins themselves can also be bought, sold, and traded on the market too, but that leads into a conversation about outside betting sites for cosmetics that aren’t the focus here.

A basic summary is that, while skins might be completely digital in nature, they also hold a legitimate monetary value in the real world. The community surrounding the game has essentially become its own economy.

The Community

And speaking of the community, it is constantly one of the largest around.

Ever since it first broke 400,000 concurrent players in January of 2015 it has never dropped below that. Over the course of 2018, the game has fluctuated a lot but typically stayed between 500,000 and 700,000 players.

The Esports Scene

Another huge aspect of the community and the one people who don’t play the game will likely have heard or seen the most about - outside of some scandals that happened a few years back - is the huge esports scene.

Counter-Strike is one of the games with the longest history in the scene and is still running. Of course there were gaming tournaments long before Counter-Strike was around, but when the online gaming wave started in the 90s, it was right there at the start.

Almost immediately upon release, Counter-Strike garnered a huge cult following along with games like Quake and Warcraft. And even now, nearly two decades after it first launched, the fanbase is as strong if not stronger than ever.

With thousands of players competing in thousands of tournaments both large and small, the scene is still booming and shows no signs of slowing down. Especially with events like the Intel Extreme Masters series and ESL One events booming in 2018, with more to come in 2019.

Not only that, but Counter-Strike has some of the best personalities around too. Players like Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo and casters like Anders “Anders” Blume really make the scene stand out with their willingness to talk to fans about the intricacies of the game.

All-in-all, CS:GO is going to be around as long as the community and fans will have it. And the competitive side of things will continue to provide heated action as long as that happens.