News is once again swirling that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is set to be moved to Source 2. While this has been a steady talking point throughout CSGO’s entire existence, not everyone really knows what it would actually mean for CSGO players.
Source 2 is a game engine designed by Valve that has been used by the publisher since 2015. It’s the successor to 2004’s Source engine, which ran Left 4 Dead, Half-Life 2, and many other games. While Source has a number of blockbuster titles to its name, the 18-year-old engine is long past its prime. As CSGO grows and continues to be a force in competitive gaming, the outdated engine becomes a bigger problem.
Source 2 would likely offer a lot to both Valve and CSGO fans, but there are some tradeoffs. Here is what a Source 2 port would really mean for the game and its players.
The most obvious and immediately recognizable impact of a Source 2 port for CSGO would be improved graphics for players on high-end PCs. Though those playing CSGO on older hardware might get burned by Source 2, the majority of players would see some level of graphical improvement.
Bits and pieces of CSGO have been moved to Source 2 in the past. Fans have ported maps and weapons from CSGO into Source 2 games such as Half-Life Alyx to give players a taste of what might be.
The experiment showed what the difference would look like at a bare minimum, even before any extra polish is added by Valve. Lighting and shadows are noticeably better in Source 2, with much greater contrast between shaded areas and those under direct light. It’s unknown what a full Source 2 port of CSGO would look like, as lighting could affect weapon skins and agent models in a variety of ways. The game should look generally better for those on high-end hardware, regardless.
Some CSGO players might expect older software to run more smoothly on more modern hardware, but that’s not always the case. While older game engines were designed with older hardware in mind, newer game engines are often designed to run more efficiently on modern hardware. A move to Source 2 would likely impact different PCs in a variety ways, but most CSGO players should be optimistic about their personal impact.
On top of that is a potential cleanup of the CSGO client. CSGO is a 10-year-old game with pieces of old and redundant code tied to various features. This “spaghetti code” can cause issues from both a gameplay and performance perspective.
Porting CSGO to Source 2 would likely come with other optimizations that should make for a leaner, cleaner client. As with the graphics, the performance impact should be a net gain for most players.
Ultimately, CSGO is overwhelmingly profitable for Valve in large part because it’s very accessible to players on all sorts of hardware. The company will likely be committed to maintaining relatively low hardware requirements in any transition to Source 2 for CSGO.
CSGO players should be optimistic about a Source 2 port when it comes to performance and graphics. The one area where everyone may be more concerned is the effect on actual gameplay.
Former Valve employees specifically discussed the impact Source 2 could have. In short, it could basically change everything about CSGO.
“If CSGO Source 2 actually comes online there will be differences…Even the tiniest detail of rendering contributes to how CS:GO works and feels. If the smallest details are changed the game is different…That code can’t be touched because it would break things, sometimes in extremely subtle ways. It would take some very careful software engineering to pull it off,” former CSGO developer Richard Geldreich said in 2021.
Solely from changes to the game’s physics engine, CSGO could be radically transformed.
The deceleration when a player stops moving could be changed in a way that makes peaking work differently. Many long-range smoke lineups would be rendered unusable. Bunny hopping might not exist anymore. And of course, there will inevitably be a multitude of bugs and glitches after any such transition.
The impact could be relatively minor for lower-level players. Those of the professional caliber will need to relearn a lot about CSGO.