Counter-Strike (CS) is a popular team-based mod of Valve's first-person shooter (FPS) Half-Life. The game pits a team of counter-terrorists against a team of terrorists in rounds of competition won by completing an objective or eliminating the opposing team. The latest incarnation of the game, Counter Strike: Source (CS:S), is based on the Source engine developed for Half-Life 2. CS has been the most widely played online FPS for the past few years. In 2002 there were over 30,000 Counter-Strike servers on the Internet (second place was Unreal Tournament with about 9,800). In 2004, GameSpy statistics show that there are frequently over 85,000 players simultaneously playing Counter-Strike at any point in time, accounting for almost 70 percent of the online FPS audience. According to statistics gathered by Valve's content-delivery platform, Steam, these players contribute to over 4.5 billion minutes of playing time each month, making it the most popular online FPS in history. CS was originally played online through the WON gaming service, but WON shut down in 2004, forcing players to switch to Steam, Valve's online authentication and content delivery system.

Picture of a Terrorist using a Desert Eagle on the map de_dust in the original (left) and Source (right) versions
Picture of a Terrorist using a Desert Eagle on the map de_dust in the original (left) and Source (right) versions


Counter-Strike is a team-based First-Person Shooter (FPS) game in which players join either the Terrorists (Ts) or the Counter-Terrorists (CTs). Server settings may cause the teams to automatically balance when one team has too many more players than the other. Each round starts with the two teams spawning simultaneously. The default starting money for each player is $800. Counter-Terrorists and Terrorists start with a USP pistol and a Glock pistol respectively, each with two additional magazines of ammunition. According to server settings, players are given a few seconds before the round begins (known as Freeze Time) when they are allowed to buy equipment but not move. Players may buy equipment whenever they are in a buy zone for their team (some of which can be for both teams) and the round has not been in session for longer than a specified time (90 seconds is default). Surviving players retain their equipment but those who have died during the round only begin with the standard-issue pistol the following round.

Standard bonuses are:

  • Win a round: $3500
  • Lose a round: $1500
  • Kill an enemy: $300

The scoreboard shows a table of all the players sorted by their team. This table displays the name, total kills, score and latency (ms) in the current map, total deaths in the current map, and latency (ping) of that player. Above each team's players' individual statistics is Counter-Terrorist or Terrorist accordingly, and the total wins for that team. The scoreboard also shows whether each player is dead, carrying the bomb (in bomb defusal maps), or the VIP (in assassination maps), although the player must be dead during the round to obtain this information of players on the opposing team.

Any players killed before the round is over become "ghosts"; their chat/voice messages cannot be seen/heard by the players still alive (unless the cvar sv_alltalk is set to 1) and they cannot change their names until they are alive the next round, but they are able to watch the rest of the round from multiple selectable views. Some servers choose to disable some of these selectable views such as viewing from anywhere in the map or from members of the opposing team, because dead players could relay information about living players to their teammates through alternative media (most notably voice in case of Internet cafes).

Counter-Strike has realistic aspects and others which merely contribute to more enjoyable gameplay in stark contrast to futuristic shooters such as Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. The realism of Counter-Strike is balanced, allowing for fast-paced action, unlike extremely realistic tactical shooters such as the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon series. An example of realism in this game is that only a few shots are needed to kill, and shots to different parts of the body deal different amounts of damage. However, in Counter-Strike, damage has no bearing on the physical capabilities (speed, jump height, et cetera) of the player, which makes it just as fun (but more dangerous) for a person to play with few hit points remaining. A player with 1 hp can be just as effective as one with 100 hp, but might have to adopt different strategies to stay alive.

There are several game types in Counter-Strike which define the objectives of each team in the game, and rules which determine which team wins. Each map is of a single game type.

Bomb Defusal

One Terrorist begins the round carrying a bomb. The Terrorists' objective is to plant the bomb at a bomb site (which there usually are two of in a map), and ensure its detonation. If the bomb has not been planted, if all the members of one team have been eliminated, then the surviving team wins. If the bomb has been planted and proceeds to explode, the Terrorists win, but if a Counter-Terrorist defuses the bomb, the Counter-Terrorists win. When the round time expires, the Counter-Terrorists win. Deaths due to the detonation of the bomb do not increment the player's death count.

Hostage Rescue

The map has hostages (usually four) generally placed near the Terrorist base. The Counter-Terrorists' objective is to escort the hostages to a hostage rescue point on the map. If all the members of a team have been eliminated, the prevailing team wins. If all the surviving hostages have been rescued, and that number is at least half of the initial hostage count, then the Counter-Terrorists win, and each Counter-Terrorist is awarded $2400. When round time expires, Terrorists win. Therefore, the game may effectively become a 'Terrorist hunt' game if enough hostages are killed, although server settings may be such that players are disconnected after killing a certain number of hostages (5 is default). When a Counter-Terrorist 'uses' a hostage (i.e. begins to rescue it), the Counter-Terrorist is awarded $150. Upon successfully escorting a hostage to a rescue point, $1000 is awarded. Killing a hostage incurs a penalty of $2250.


In this mission, one Counter-Terrorist member becomes a VIP; a player with 200 units of Kevlar armour, a Kevlar helmet, and nothing more than the Counter-Terrorist standard-issue USP pistol with two extra magazines. The VIP may not pick up dropped weapons other than the VIP's own pistol. The VIP's objective is to reach an extraction zone (1, normally), in which case the Counter-Terrorists win. If the VIP dies, the Terrorists win. As usual, if all Terrorists die, the Counter-Terrorists win. When time expires, Terrorists win. The lack of ammunition for the pistol means that a VIP should not expect to escape without the team's assistance, however, the pistol in conjunction with the special armour provides adequate protection.


Version history

The Counter-Strike team was formed by Minh Le ("Gooseman") and Jess Cliffe ("Cliffe") in 1999. Counter-Strike Beta 1.0 was released in June that same year, followed by a relatively quick succession of the beta releases (by the end of 1999, beta 5.0 had been released). CS gained in popularity just as rapidly. The Counter-Strike team was acquired by Valve to turn the fan-created mod into an official mod for Half-Life. In November 2000, Counter-Strike 1.0 — the first non-beta, official retail version of the game — was released. The newest version of CS is 1.6 and was released in September 2003 through Valve's new distribution platform called Steam. Valve has also been attempting to cash in on the game's popularity by producing more Counter-Strike games. Valve released a version ported to the Xbox game console in November 2003. It features basic single-player gameplay against bots, but it focuses on multiplayer online play like the original. However, the Xbox version of the game (playable on Microsoft's Xbox Live online game service) has proved less successful than its PC counterpart for obvious reasons; the online Counter-Strike audience (or even the entire Xbox Live installed base) is well outnumbered by the existing PC community, the cost required to pay online on Live (playing the PC version online is free), and mediocore graphics which are below what is expected for the Xbox. For similar reasons, Sony Computer Entertainment may have made no attempt to have Counter-Strike ported to the PlayStation 2.

A long-awaited single-player version of the game called Counter-Strike: Condition Zero was released on March 23, 2004. It had been plagued by numerous delays such as when Gearbox Software was dropped in favour of Turtle Rock Studios midway through development. Condition Zero includes multiplayer bots as well. Though still very similar to CS 1.6, this game contains several graphical, sound, model and map changes. Condition Zero was developed by Turtle Rock Studios. Condition Zero was often criticized for not being up to par in terms of quality and did not sell as well as the original or the newest sequel.

Today, Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Source servers produce more internet traffic than the entire country of Italy.

Counter-Strike: Source

In 2004, original Counter-Strike developers Minh Le and Jess Cliffe, along with members of Valve and the Day of Defeat team, brought Counter-Strike into the Source engine as an obvious choice for the multiplayer component of Half-Life 2.

Counter-Strike: Source (CS:S) has been released to ATI Voucher holders, in Half-Life 2 bundles available on Steam, and with the boxed retail version of the game. Changes include the improvements inherent to the Source engine (such as better graphics and physics) as well as updated models, animations, maps, sounds, and some small gameplay changes. The riot shield introduced in 1.6 is gone and dead players now drop grenades just like other weapons (as was introduced in Condition-Zero). The popular maps, such as de_dust and de_aztec, have the same layouts and size, but are revamped with many aesthetic additions such as glass bottles and 50-gallon drums.

For what Counter-Strike and its popularity is concerned the new Source engine heralds a new beginning for the most popular first-person shooter in history, a game which has been played throughout the world for more than five years. A small amount of vitality has been granted to what is now considered a dying game; although previous predictions of CS's demise have been premature.

The players of CS:S use the new engine for strategic purposes. Since objects in a map can be moved and have realistic properties this provides greater gameplay flexibility. For example, in the map cs_office, the Terrorist players could "camp" in a room and barricade the doors with cabinets or chairs. The ragdoll physics are remarkable in that no two player deaths will be played out the same way. In one event, with the gravity server variable set to low, a ragdoll propelled by a shotgun bounced off two walls, wrapped several times around a pole, hit the ground, hit the skybox ceiling, and fell back to the ground.

Professionally, Counter-Strike: Source is experiencing a cold reception, primarily due to the various glitches still abundant in the game and its engine. Many notable professional players and clans are opposing a universal shift to Source at this point. This is reflected in the CPL's decision to continue to run a Counter-Strike 1.6 tournament as a secondary Counter-Strike tournament (US$50,000 prize pool) for the 2005 Extreme Summer Championships (, with a Source tournament as the primary event (US$60,000 prize pool). Because many existing professional players are not shifting their careers to Source, it is opening up opportunities for new players who are predominant at Source to begin a pro-gaming career. This may lead to an exciting period in the future of Counter-Strike, when 1.6 is finally obsoleted by Source, leaving old pro-gamers no choice but to migrate to Source or retire. During this period, the new players accustomed to playing Source professionally with one another will face off against players who have been professional for years, but are relatively inexperienced at Source.

At the moment there are only 14 official maps available, and most of them are remakes of popular maps from earlier versions. In a recent update the map cs_compound was added, and it is the first original official map to be released for Counter-Strike: Source. On 13 May 2005, the second original official map, de_port, was released along with an updated version of de_inferno. While Valve may continue to create new maps, Turtle Rock Studios continue to remake classic maps, although it is not known which maps they are working on. Below is the list of official maps for Counter-Strike: Source.

List of Official CS:S maps

  • de_dust
  • de_dust2
  • de_chateau
  • de_piranesi
  • de_port
  • de_inferno
  • de_prodigy
  • de_train
  • de_tides
  • de_cbble
  • cs_compound
  • cs_havana
  • cs_italy
  • cs_office
  • cs_assault

Weapons and equipment

See the Counter-Strike equipment article.

Map types

See the Counter-Strike maps article.


Missing image
Someone was pwned. Leet speak and Internet slang is commonly seen in chat among players.

Counter-Strike is infamous for the variety of players it attracts. Cases have been reported of players taking the in-game conflict too far and inflicting violence on their opponents in real life. [1] ( Furthermore, a large portion of the Counter-Strike audience is stereotyped as being young teen males that seek to vent their aggression through the game. Players are sometimes viewed as being crude, using Internet slang such as leet, and prone to arguing over being fragged with accusations of cheating or camping as well as name calling ("awp whore") and similar remarks. These stereotypes do apply to a lot of people, as many players you find are rude, unhelpful and arrogant. However, many people are not, and this kind of trend is only apparent in CS because it is a popular, old game with many players.

When accused of cheating, one is often said to be using "hax" or "H4X," the leet/1337 variation of 'hacks.' This is an insult generally used by people of lesser skill against people of greater skill; it is not often viewed as a legitimate complaint, and occasionally is used as a compliment for an excellent shot. Most players hate cheaters, but some players use hacks because they enjoy winning at any cost. Sometimes hacks are employed merely for the purpose of annoying other players or to seek revenge for getting "pwned". Hacking usually means that players have downloaded a separate program that hooks into the graphics engine that powers Half-Life. The hack affects the game play of the hacking player, perhaps allowing them to see other players behind walls (usually called a wallhack) or cause the player to automatically aim for the head on other players, allowing instant kills (usually called an aimbot). Valve bans any hackers caught on VAC enabled servers. If someone is caught by VAC their account is revoked so they can't play, leaving buying a new account their only option to continue playing. There is a large hacking community. This community puts together and adds on to hacks and posts them on the web. Hacks are becoming ever-more elaborate and harder to identify and catch. Some hackers are more obvious, as they have the clan tag of an online cheating community such as [myg0t] or some variation.

Professional Gaming

Since early in the development of Counter-Strike, players have competed fiercely amongst themselves, many forming clans with one another. When the mod was acquired by Valve and changed development status from beta to public release, this opened up the game to a much wider audience, and since the player base was now so large due to retail sales but also included very experienced players from the betas, this permitted external organisations the ability to confidently hold Counter-Strike events with monetary prizes. The already running Cyberathlete Professional League, among other pro-gaming organisations, saw Counter-Strike as a game that had the potential for professional play, and held their first professional Counter-Strike tournament at CPL Copenhagen during October 26-29, 2000.

The game was already popular throughout Europe, and the growing availability of broadband internet access combined with the close proximity of players to one another within Europe created an environment in which professional-level Counter-Strike could thrive. Low pings between players and servers allowed the formation of serious online leagues for Counter-Strike such as the Clanbase NationsCup. Many notable European clans dominated the early era of professional Counter-Strike, including NiP, Team-9, SK, mTw, and DkH. European players, especially those from Scandinavian countries, were largely more skilled than anyone else during the early days of professional Counter-Strike. In the United States, the players were more spread out, so the formation of online leagues was difficult, although Texas was a Counter-Strike hotspot.

With the introduction of the Cyberathlete Amateur League in the United States in March 2001, American clans were given the ability to war clans of similar skill level every week. The system of multiple divisions, with the top division featuring prominent CPL teams, and the bottom division open to anyone, was and still is successful overall. Many American teams that have won CPLs were previous CAL veterans. Past CAL teams that have seen CPL success, and consequently worldwide respect, include zEx, Team EG, tec, Team 3D, and most recently compLexity. CAL, which is officially affiliated with the CPL, is accredited with being a major part of the rise of professional American Counter-Strike.

Despite CAL's harsh punishments to those found cheating within their league, claims of players and clans cheating have been around as long as CAL itself, especially in reference to lower divisions. The events that create the most drama are those in which particular players are found or suspected of cheating outside CAL sanctioned events, then those players go on to play in CAL. Many people hold the attitude that those who cheat, regardless of how much they may disregard or deny the seriousness or even existence of their own actions, will always have an affinity for cheating and will do it whenever they are given the opportunity.

2001 also saw what is still named by many the greatest Counter-Strike match of all time, X3 vs. NiP at the Dallas CPL World Championship. At the time, X3 was widely regarded as the greatest American team, and NiP as the greatest European team. NiP managed to win, but only by a very small margin, and the game was an excellent exhibition of the skill of both sides. Soon after, X3 disbanded, but three of their core players joined the clan 3D. Likewise, NiP disbanded, and their core players joined Schroet Kommando. These two new teams saw out the maturation of professional Counter-Strike through version changes, and attitude changes from the game's fans. The release of Counter-Strike version 1.4 shortly followed by 1.5 caused a major disruption in the Counter-Strike community at large. Primarily, many fans were dismayed at the complete removal of the infamous and popular bug which allowed players to "bunnyhop". Movement speed was also reduced. These changes contributed to a slowing of the game, with the apparent intention of the game's designers of putting more emphasis on player positions and general strategy rather than super-fast action a la Quake or Unreal Tournament. However, there have been huge outcries by the community at every major version change since 1.3, especially at Valve's wishes to move their games to Steam beginning with the release of Counter-Strike 1.6. In every instance, the version change has never managed to significantly decrease Counter-Strike's popularity.

Professional players and teams showed their dedication to Counter-Strike, with the majority evolving with the game instead of rejecting the changes and quitting as many casual players decided to do. The era of Team Schroet Kommando was beginning with the change to 1.5; this would be the greatest dominance by a single team that has ever occurred so far in the history of professional Counter-Strike.

The squad included, at various times, Swedish players Michael "ahl" Korduner, Emil "HeatoN" Christensen, Tommy "Potti" Ingemarsson, Christer "fisker" Eriksson, Abdisamad "SpawN" Mohamed, Daniel "Hyper" Kuuisto, and Norwegian Ola "elemeNt" Moum. In terms of individual skill, this could be a shortlist of the best players in Europe, so when they were to combine forces under the SK tag, it was virtually undoubtable that they would see great success. Starting with CPL Summer 2002, SK won or got a top 3 position in virtually every event they attended. This lasted all the way until CPL Summer 2004, in which they were defeated in the finals by clan EYEballers, of whom Hyper was a member at the time. This defeat marked the turning point of SK, as they became less consistent and lost their status as the invincible juggernaut which they had received in 2002 and reinforced in 2003. The play style of SK was extremely strategic and precise, despite the great personal skills of each member. SK's strategies were usually low-risk, especially when compared with the more flamboyant and dynamic play of American teams. Despite their laid-back gameplay, each member had the potential to destroy entire teams on their own. The combination of excellent strategy and skill has earned the team and its players a lasting place in the professional history of Counter-Strike.

Counter-Strike has been linked tightly to its status as a professionally played game. Perhaps the most notable example of this was when NoA player Griffin "shaGuar" Benger published an article on pro-gaming website gotFrag regarding his opinion that the money system in Counter-Strike was flawed and was leading to the stagnation of the game at a professional level. This article received hundreds of comments of vehement feedback from Counter-Strike players throughout the world, mostly in support of shaGuar's thoughts on the system. Valve listened to the community (, roused by a pro-gaming icon, and implemented global changes in the money system not long after they were suggested.

Infamously, SK were one of the teams to exploit the specifics of the money system to their greatest extents and frequently used the occasionally odd rules of the system to their advantage. Unfortunately for spectators and the opposition, this sometimes eventuated in them taking an ultra-defensive strategy as the offensive side (terrorists on bomb defusal maps), with clearly no intention of completing the actual objective within that round; instead the intention being to time out the round. Although this would register as a loss (as they were the offensive side), it monetarily punished the defensive side.

While Counter-Strike is nowadays perhaps the most professionally played computer game in the world behind Starcraft in South Korea, most players simply ignore the professional side of the game and play for fun. The success of the game among players of this attitude but also among those who do play more competitively highlights the wide appeal of Counter-Strike's simple game model. Counter-Strike has had a colorful and dramatic history which reaches far beyond what this document could hope to cover, and still remains extremely popular to this day. Because of its popularity, many people wish it would "die", thereby allowing a fresh new game to replace it as the leading multiplayer FPS. There have been a multitude of games coveted by their developers, reviewers, and fans as "Counter-Strike killers", however none have seriously been able to dent its overall popularity. At the same time, since 'Counter-Strike' is based on the Half-Life engine, almost any PC that runs Windows 98 can play it since the game does not need a powerful CPU and video card required of many current games. Perhaps because of the high cost of a gaming PC, maybe only consoles are the realistic chance where a 'Counter-Strike' killer may be found.

Professional Counter-Strike has always been played with only bomb defusal maps.

Mods and scripts

Even though Counter-Strike is itself a mod, it developed its own community of script writers and modders. There have been many different mods and scripts to:

  1. Improve gameplay
  2. Remove features of the games which players felt were annoying
  3. Give players superhuman powers (powers from units in Warcraft 3, for example)
  4. Make the game more funny
  5. Create different modes of play
  6. Control players not following set rules
  7. Keep track of player statistics and scores

See Metamod for more information.

Related topics

External links

de:Counter-Strike es:Counter Strike fr:Counter-Strike ja:カウンターストライク nl:Counter-Strike pt:Counter Strike sv:Counter-Strike fi:Counter-Strike zh:CS (游戏)


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