Counter Strike 2 release window and everything we know so far

Counter Strike 2 key art
(Image credit: Valve)

Counter Strike 2 is coming soon, and the news immediately launched the title onto our list of upcoming PC games of 2023. Almost a decade since the release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive launched, the Left4Dead developer looks to breathe new lift into its tactical squad shooter. "Counter-Strike 2 is the largest technical leap forward in Counter-Strike's history," Valve says, with plans to implement new tech to reduce input lag as well as focus on overhauled visual effects, lighting, and changes being made to the most iconic CS: GO maps. 

The Counter Strike 2 reveal isn't just long-overdue, it's also been expected. On the same day that CS: GO broke its all-time concurrent user record, players discovered NVIDIA's driver files which indicated that a Source 2 powered sequel was on the way. Then just a couple of weeks later, a trademark application made the rumors of an imminent Counter Strike 2 beta seem almost certain. Well, now we know that Counter Strike 2 is real, it's a new game for 2023, and below you'll find everything else we know about it so far.

Counter Strike 2 release date and platforms

Counter Strike 2 Nuke map

(Image credit: Valve)

Valve has confirmed that the Counter-Strike 2 release window is set for Summer 2023. The game is set to replace Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which launched in 2012 and remains one of the most consistently popular games on Valve's Steam platform. The company is yet to confirm whether there are any plans for a Counter Strike PS5 or Xbox Series X version alongside the confirmed PC release, although CSGO did have a limited launch on PS3 and Xbox 360 – so keep those fingers crossed!

Counter Strike 2 price

Counter Strike 2

(Image credit: Valve)

Counter-Strike 2 will be a free-to-play game. The game will launch as a free upgrade to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which means that you still have time to build your loadout and get your head around the action before the new game launches this summer. CSGO did originally launch as a premium game, however Valve transitioned its shooter to a free-to-play model in 2018, and with it came a larger focus on cosmetic items.

Counter Strike 2 beta details


(Image credit: Valve)

Valve has launched a limited Counter Strike 2 beta – it's already live, but getting access isn't going to be easy. The studio has confirmed that "players are selected based on a number of factors deemed important by the Counter-Strike 2 development team, including (but not limited to) recent playtime on Valve official servers, trust factor, and Steam account standing." This Counter Strike 2 limited test is restricted to Deathmatch and Unranked Competitive matchmaking on Dust 2, and any XP that you earn while playing will ultimately carry over to CS:GO. 

Valve says that it will continue to add players into the limited test as it stress tests the servers, and that there will be future tests on the road to release this summer. The developer adds that "the Limited Test only evaluates a subset of Counter-Strike 2's features, so that major issues can be resolved before the summer."

CSGO skins will carry over to Counter Strike 2

Counter Strike 2

(Image credit: Valve)

Regardless of whether you've been playing for a decade or 10 minutes, you've likely got a loadout of items that you'd like to keep a hold of for Counter-Strike 2. Thankfully, Valve has confirmed that you'll be able to "bring your entire CS:GO inventory with you to Counter-Strike 2." That means that you'll not only be able to keep every item that you have collected, but that they will all "benefit from Source 2 lighting and materials" to ensure that they look better than ever.

Counter Strike 2 maps

Counter Strike 2 Dust 2 map

(Image credit: Valve)

As part of the upgraded package, the initial set of Counter-Strike 2 maps have been built to take advantage of the new Source 2 tools and rendering features. That means you should expect to see a rebuild of some CS:GO favorites and careful updates to others. For example, Overpass is being fully overhauled to leverage new engine tools; Nuke will take advantage of new Source 2 lighting to produce realistic materials, lighting, and reflections; a key touchstone map like Dust 2 will receive improvements to lighting and character read, but its foundations will remain otherwise untouched.

Here's a full list of the Counter Strike 2 maps that we have picked out from the trailers so far:

  • Dust 2
  • Italy
  • Mirage
  • Nuke
  • Overpass
  • Train

Counter Strike 2 graphics and VFX

Counter Strike 2 Overpass map

(Image credit: Valve)

Counter-Strike 2 is taking advantage of the new Source 2 engine, which means that expect to see Counter-Strike like you've never seen it before. Valve has completely overhauled the visual effects with Source 2 lighting and particle systems, and a particular focus has been placed on making bullet impacts more readable at a distance. Environmental effects have been improved too as Valve attempts to create greater visual fidelity and consistency with elements like explosions and fire.

In addition, the Counter-Strike 2 UI has been completely redesigned to better communicate information while you're desperately attempting to avoid getting shot in the face. And speaking of getting shot, CS2 will see all stock weapons be given new high-resolution models, something which some legacy weapon finishers will take advantage of too.

Counter Strike 2 smoke grenade changes

Counter Strike 2 Overpass map

(Image credit: Valve)

One of the more impactful changes being introduced to Counter Strike 2, smoke grenades are now volumetric objects which will react to lighting, gunfire, and explosions. This means that smoke will move naturally around environmental objects, while bullets and HE grenades will actually push smoke to clear sightlines or expand occlusion for a limited amount of time. You can also expect to see Smoke deploy and spread more naturally, adding more variables to maps for a more tactical and evolving experience.

Counter Strike 2 gameplay

Counter Strike 2

(Image credit: Valve)

Valve is expected to reveal more details about the full Counter Strike 2 gameplay experience on the road towards the summer release, but we do have some idea of what to expect. For starters, CS2 won't be a fundamental change from what you know and love – fast-paced first-person shooter where teams work to defeat the opposing team, disarm explosives, and trade earned-money for better weaponry. While the fundamentals may not be changing, the way Counter Strike 2 feels will be, in that Valve believes it'll be faster and more responsive to your actions.

For a video game which is often won or lost in the milliseconds between inputs, that's massive news. Valve is accomplishing this by overhauling how it tracks player movement, shooting, and throwing, effectively making it so that the tick rate will no longer get in your way. In the past, CSGO would communicate your actions to the server in discrete time intervals (known as ticks), but new architecture created for CS2 will ensure that the servers "know the exact instant that motion starts, a shot is fired, or a 'nade is thrown" which, Valve promises, will ensure that "regardless of tick rate, your moving and shooting will be equally responsive and your grenades will always land the same way."

While you wait for Counter Strike 2, why not go and play one of the best FPS games or check out some of the best online games.

Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.