There have been a couple of versions of CS. Which is the best?

17:30, 22 Jan 2021

You were looking for it, and you found it, a debate of taste on what is the best version of one of the longest-standing video game concepts ever: Counter-Strike. Going over two decades strong, the game has had a long history of patches and entirely new games, with the general idea behind those versions all staying true to the core principles.

To answer the question of which version deserves the title for the best game of Counter-Strike game, we first have to agree on the inventory, and that task itself isn’t quite as easy as it might appear.

Which games are there?

Starting out in Counter-Strike beta, which took place in 1999 and 2000, core concepts still had to be developed. Only upon its 1.0 release version will we start applying the measurement to stick to. Here, we will differentiate between the arguably most significant patches of this iteration - 1.3 and 1.6. Four years later, Counter-Strike: Source (CS:S) finds its way onto the market. While Counter-Strike: Condition Zero was also released the same year, it was clearly the less popular and polished version in comparison to its competitor CS:S, outright discarding it as the best version of Counter-Strike ever released.

Especially in the beginning of its patch cycle, CS:S remained heavily criticised for its gameplay changes, and especially the competitive community stuck around with 1.6 for almost a decade until the most recent version, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, launched in 2012. Essentially, the competition boils down to Counter-Strike 1.3 and 1.6, Source, and Global Offensive. Moreover, we have to recognise that none of these games were ever set in stone, as all of them enjoyed either balance updates or entire feature changes throughout their lifespan. As such, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive of 2012 was a much different game than in 2021.

Which Counter-Strike Game Is The Best?

Here we venture into more debatable territory, and the criteria by which you would want to answer these questions is most likely to determine the most correct answer you might hold or accept. To this day, movement mechanics from 1.3 and 1.6 are nostalgically reminisced over as the skill ceiling in this part of the game was arguably higher than in any other version. Gunplay was majorly influenced by these differences. 

Source carried some of these legacy movement mechanics on, but was generally considered to be much more forgiving and thus was said to have a lower skill ceiling than its predecessor. In some versions of CS:S, fun but incredibly ridiculous bhop scripts and incredibly skilled players at timing their exact jumps could be a major nuisance, but also provide some of the most legendary memories such as phoon’s “too much for zblock”.

When Global Offensive launched, it had nowhere near the polish that it has now, and the game only got where it is these days because of extensive development updates and professional player input that elevated the game to a truly competitive experience. For a time, it was such a dire game that it didn’t look great for its competitive future. Eventually, its improvements, alongside the skin economy taking off, reached critical mass for the game to explode into popularity. To this day, Global Offensive remains stable, an admittedly slowly improving experience that gains from the community’s input and contributions in their mod support of the game.

Asking old-heads the question of what the best Counter-Strike version is will inevitably lead to a huge discussion with either 1.3 or 1.6 finding support among purists. That said, when fairly evaluating the game from our current point of view, it probably wouldn’t hold up or be even bearable as a gaming experience. As outdated as Global Offensive might sometimes feel, the earlier versions of Counter-Strike lack even further behind the demands gamers have in 2021. As Global Offensive goes into its ninth year, still breaking player base records and an esport still going strong, the argument for Global Offensive as the best Counter-Strike version of all time appears the most compelling.

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