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Counter-Strike 2's first major update arrives, ahead of full summer launch

New loadout and buy systems - as CS2 departs Dust 2.

Image credit: Valve

The first major Counter-Strike 2 update has arrived since the game launched as a limited test in March, bringing with it a radical new loadout system, new buy mechanics and - finally! - a new map for testing purposes, Mirage.

The loadout system has the potential to be the most disruptive change, as you can now choose five each of pistols, rifles and "mid-tier" (SMG/shotgun) weapons to take into a match. Previously, weapons like the silenced and unsilenced M4 were assigned to the same category, so you would have to go without one of them - but here, you could sacrifice one of the less-used rifles to have both options available. This change has been requested by players for a long time, and would also make it easier for developers Valve to add new weapons in the future, so it's a big win in my book.

Counter-Strike 2 Limited Test competitive match footage.Watch on YouTube

When Counter-Strike: Global Offensive first appeared more than a decade ago, it sported a radial buy menu designed to mesh nicely to gamepad controls - after all, the game was originally intended to buy a console-focused iteration of the franchise. That menu has been replaced in the new Counter-Strike 2 update, in favour of a simpler grid-based buy menu that shows your teammate's purchases. Crucially, it's now possible to refund unused weapons, armour and grenades before buy time expires at the start of each round, saving you from the ignoble fate of spending all your hard-earned cash on a weapon you bought accidentally - always a pain given the importance of Counter-Strike's round-to-round economy system.

There are a fair few technical changes in the new update too, but the most interesting actually doesn't affect the game client itself - it's the addition of ray tracing support to Counter-Strike's Hammer map editor. As Counter-Strike's maps have gotten more complex, the process of calculating a level's baked lighting has taken longer and longer, making map-making unnecessarily labourious - as you might need to repeat this compilation step hundreds or thousands of times.

By adding support for ray tracing hardware (ie recent Intel, AMD and Nvidia graphics cards), compile times can be shortened significantly. Valve's suggested minimum spec for this is an Nvidia "2060Ti" (they mean RTX 2060 Super), with an RTX 2080 Ti or better recommended; the AMD minimum is an RX 6600 XT, with a 6800 XT or better recommended. This change should streamline the process of developing new Counter-Strike 2 maps, and comes alongside new workshop tools for the creation of weapon finishes, stickers and maps.

After three months on Dust 2, it's also great to see another map added to the Counter-Strike 2 limited test: Mirage. This is another sandy map with a long history in CS:GO, and another that receives minor lighting and geometry changes, rather than the more substantial updates as we're expecting for maps like Nuke and Overpass.

There are plenty of other miscellaneous changes too, from a better-sounding FAMAS rifle and chickens that are cooked if they die in a molotov cocktail (embedded below), to more nebulous "more precise and less floaty" sub-tick movement and the return of multi-key keybinds, the latter on accessibility and content creation grounds. Of course, there are also plenty of undocumented changes being discovered by the community - such as the fact you can shoot through metal vent covers without breaking them (NSFW language).

The full patch notes are definitely worth reading, but expect the highlights and lowlights to be spotlighted on the GlobalOffensive subreddit and other communities over the next few days.

No new invites to the Counter-Strike 2 test appear to have been sent out alongside the new update, but with the game's launch pencilled in for summer, hopefully interested players won't have too long to wait - Valve Time permitting, of course.

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