Valve updates CSGO controller UI for Steam Deck, but is it good?

Steven Rondina • January 11, 19:43

The Steam Deck is set to be a big deal and that’s resulting in some big updates to Valve’s own games, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive included.

In a stealth update that wasn’t published on the game’s official blog, Valve heavily overhauled CSGO’s controller support. While it’s still messily implemented and doesn’t work intuitively even with popular controller models, the pieces are in place for a nice experience for Steam Deck users. This follows Valve’s MOBA title Dota 2 suddenly receiving experimental controller support as well.

The biggest addition to the game is an improved buy menu. Players can press the face buttons to bring up each menu page and use the sticks to highlight items. From there, if they let go of the button, the item will be purchased. It’s an elegant setup that works well and will allow players to quickly buy up an entire kit including guns, armor, and utility once they’re comfortable with the layout.

Alongside the Steam Deck-focused improvements for CSGO, Steam Deck UI updates have been added for Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Portal 2. Odds are that this will be rolled out for the rest of Valve’s game catalog and other publishers as well.

Can you play CSGO with a controller?

CSGO can be played with a controller, but it isn’t recommended. CSGO simply doesn’t control well when using a controller.

Keyboard and mouse is the most commonly used input method for almost every competitively played first-person shooter. There’s no doubt that skilled pad players can do good work with a controller, but the exact motions made possible by mouse controls are hard to overcome.

An even bigger problem with controllers in CSGO is how clunky and unintuitive Valve’s controller overlay is.

The default controller layout for CSGO isn’t remotely similar to what exists in other first-person shooters, with weapon changing mapped to the face buttons and movement mapped to the shoulder buttons, which is shared with the right mouse button. This makes any sort of scoped weapon unplayable on a controller.

On top of that, different controller types have different layouts, and each controller seems to have its own unique problems. The Nintendo Switch pro controller has a dreadful layout that doesn’t resemble anything seen in any other FPS games. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 5 controller requires players to push their R2 trigger in about 75% of the way in order to fire, making it difficult to do anything but full-on spray.

If players want to fix these control issues, the button layout cannot be changed in the CSGO client. Instead it has to be done through the Steam Input menu, which launches in a separate window in the Steam client. This is unwieldy in its own way, with a slew of sub-menus and lingo that won’t be immediately decipherable. 

The new buy menus are a huge improvement. Unfortunately, that’s the only element of controller support that actually works well while playing CSGO.

It’s unclear if CSGO’s controller woes will be fixed by the Steam Deck’s release, but here’s hoping.

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