Counter-Strike is on a bit of a streak right now. Just last month Steam announced it had hit a new record for concurrent users, with a mind-boggling 24-hour peak set at 20,313,451. And it was no surprise to see that the most popular game on the platform was Valve’s CS:GO, one of the largest FPS esports in the world, with 1,024,845 simultaneous players – not bad for a game first released way back in 2012.
So, with players new and experienced alike flocking to Steam to take on this nail-biting multiplayer shooter, we thought we’d ask an expert to share their tips on how newcomers can ‘git gud’ on CS:GO. And who better than Nemanja ‘huNter-’ Kovač, an integral part of esports heavyweights G2, whose consistent rifling has proven a decisive factor in the team’s fortunes.
So, here are huNter-’s tips on how newcomers can improve their skills on CS:GO.
1. Put in the time
Being an esports star doesn’t happen overnight, and learning the skills required to take your CS:GO skills from rudimentary to pro or semi-pro will require far more than hopping in for an occasional match.
According to huNter-, you get out of CS:GO what you put in: “First of all, if you're aiming to become a pro/semi-pro player, work is the most important thing from the start. Playing a lot of CS, doing productive things every day such as practising your aim, watching tier-one teams and players and learning as much as possible from their game.”
2. Know your role
Many online shooters err on the side of simplicity: eliminate your opponents, or ratchet up the greatest number of kills, and you’ll come out on top. CS:GO, however, has earned its success partly due to the extraordinary depth of its gameplay and the way a team works together to achieve an objective. In CS:GO, each player on the team has a different role, and there are five different ones to fulfil: entry fragger, AWPer, lurker, rifler and in-game leader.
If this sounds overwhelming, fear not – CS:GO is still extraordinarily enjoyable (albeit knuckle-gnawingly tense), and if you want a quick primer on the game’s fundamentals, huNter- has you covered: “When you’re on the T side, in attack, your objective is to plant the bomb on either A or B bombsite or to eliminate the five opponents, before or after the bomb is actually planted. If you are on the CT side, in defence, your objective is to defend both sites and not let the terrorists plant the bomb. So you have to eliminate them before they plant the bomb or, if they succeed in planting it, you have to defuse it. At high level, the coach also plays a big role and is most of the time at the heart of the team's strategy.”
3. When it comes to weapons, do your homework
CS:GO’s weaponry is almost a character unto itself, and new players will find very quickly that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to a map. And it’s not just the typical FPS issue of shotguns-for-close, sniper-for-distance – as huNter- tells us, players will need to put the time in to get to know their arsenal and what fits best for each scenario.
“Everything is important,” he says, when discussing weaponry considerations. “You just have to play a lot and you'll understand all the maps, aiming and recoil, and how every weapon works. So, to begin with, if you want to understand everything as quickly as possible, you have to play a lot.
“You have to test all the weapons, that's for sure, to better understand how it works: spray, one tap, jump shots. And of course, watch the best players and the best teams, analyse how they play with all the guns, when they buy them and that kind of thing. If you need grenades for some executions with your team-mates, you'll buy cheaper weapons to get them all, if you don't have enough money.”
4. Get bang for your buck
While getting to know weapons is important, it’s also essential you spend your money wisely – ensuring that, especially when you’re starting out, you’re not splurging hard-earned currency on ill-chosen firepower. So, what should your buying strategy be? huNter- tells us more: “The M4A4 (CT) and AK47 (T) are the most used weapons in the game and it’s always good to have them. Of course, since we have an AWPer in the team, we will always have at least one AWP on the CT side, even two sometimes, and on the T side we will almost always have one. Also, for the last three to four months, after a few updates, a lot of players have been playing with SG 553 and AUGs (scope weapons) because it's easier to use.
“If the opponents are not good on a money level and only play with guns (without helmet/kevlar), it’s always good to play with cheaper weapons and get out with more money from these rounds.”
It’s always good to play with cheaper weapons and get out with more money from these rounds.
5. Mix up your training
As with anything, practice makes perfect. To truly excel at CS:GO, and find yourself as something other than sniper fodder, you’ll need to take the time to train and establish a routine that works for you. This may differ from player to player, but a varied training schedule is important if you want to make the leap from wet-behind-the-ears newbie to hardened veteran.
huNter- offers his own schedule as an example: “Our team trains five to six times a week, depending on the schedule of official matches and tournaments. In general, we train about eight hours a day. First, we do some theory for one or two hours on the maps that we practise during the day, we discuss and create the plan that we want to use that day, we define what we want to do, then we have four or five maps of practice against other teams to test all that.
“The way I practise can differ, sometimes I play a lot of CS (deathmatch, pugs...) to progress mechanically, and sometimes I watch demos, I go alone on a server, and I find good spots for my positions, it depends on what I need. Training mechanically and strategically are inseparable to get better on CS.”
6. When you’re ready, move to paid servers
When you’re just starting out on CS:GO, the idea of paying to get pummelled is probably not overly appealing. However, paid/subscription servers like FACEIT exist for a reason – offering more serious players the chance to compete to a different standard. huNter- breaks down the role of these services, and why they’re a necessary step up for those hoping to move from beginner to pro:
“The advantage of FACEIT compared to matchmaking is first of all the quality of the servers, 128 tick on Faceit versus 64 tick in MM [Matchmaking]. I have a much better feeling on 128 tick, the game feels smoother. Moreover, the players are better on FACEIT, it's mostly regular players who play competitively. Matchmaking has more beginners, I think we all started with matchmaking of course. But when you understand the game better and you feel ready to compete harder, FACEIT is more serious.”
7. Have the fundamentals in place
Sometimes, the best advice is to get back to basics. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to remember the simple ingredients that can turn cannon-fodder into a ruthless winning machine – hard work, the right set-up and teamwork. huNter- runs down the fundamentals:
“First of all, you must have good conditions (great PC and monitor, advanced peripherals: keyboard, mouse, headset) if you want to give the best of yourself. Secondly, you must have the will and the desire to succeed, trying every day, playing a lot, learning as much as possible from other teams and other players. To finish, you need to find a team and work with it over time.”
8. Never give up
It’s understandable for beginners to have doubts in their first few games. You keep getting killed within seconds without making any kills yourself, and the skill gap feels unbridgable. There is a reason, however, that CS:GO is the phenomenon it is – the rewards vastly outweigh the initial frustration, with a game that’s incredibly deep, highly skilled and, most importantly, incredibly enjoyable.
For those struggling when starting out, huNter- has some words of encouragement: “If you're ready to work hard and really want to succeed, just be patient. Work and willpower are the most important things in CS:GO. If you are ready for it, don't give up, maybe one day we will play together or against each other at big events.
“We all had hard times where we wanted to stop playing, but we didn't give up and that's why we're here.”