Counter-Strike 2’s Smoke Effects Are Truly Next Gen

Blown away.

Counter Strike 2
Counter Strike 2

Game developers and publishers have been falling over themselves the past couple of years to try and prove they’re truly pushing the boundaries of next-gen, but not a lot of them have really succeeded it feels like. Ninja Theory’s Unreal Engine 5 showcase at GDC 2023 offered some new facial animations for Hellblade 2, and while it certainly looked impressive, it just didn’t feel like it’d be anything that would benefit us as gamers. Sure, Hellblade 2 will probably have some amazing cutscenes, but let’s see some more gameplay footage, eh?

We’re at the point now where the pursuit of shinier, more realistic graphics is yielding diminishing returns, as technology isn’t making the same leaps and bounds it was in previous generations, whether that’s in consoles or PC graphics cards. In order to be truly impressive and innovative, developers need to think outside the box, and Valve has done just that with their overhaul to smoke grenades in the upcoming Counter-Strike 2.

A new smoke grenade might not sound like the most exciting change in the world, as smokes tend to be the most boring part of any shooter’s kit, but they’ve always served an effective role when it comes to controlling sight lines in a firefight. Traditionally though, they’ve always acted like a static screen, blocking off viewpoints while not allowing anyone to interact with them, which typically reduces counter play options in most games.

Counter-Strike 2 is switching things up, as Valve revealed in a trailer called “Responsive Smokes”. When a smoke grenade is deployed, it’ll release “dynamic volumetric 3D objects” that can interact with the environment, and be interacted with by the player. What this means is that smoke grenades can now fill up the spaces they occupy, and players can use their weapons and other gear to manipulate the smoke in their favour. The examples in the trailer show players using other throwables to instantly disperse a smoke cloud, or using bullets to carve peek holes through the smoke.

On a purely tactical level alone, this is a truly game-changing update that’ll completely redefine the tactics and strategy of a game that’s older than most of its current players. For Counter-Strike players specifically, it’s going to be huge, and as a console luddite who’s afraid to boot up CS: GO on my Steam Deck, I can only hope we see shooters with console releases institute similar updates for their smoke grenades.

What makes Counter-Strike 2’s smoke grenade overhaul feel lightyears ahead of its competition is that traditional multiplayer shooters haven’t evolved much in terms of how players interact with the world around them. Sure, the graphics might have improved year-on-year, but the core gameplay of most multiplayer shooters hasn’t changed much. With one small (but probably not simple) change, Counter-Strike 2’s multiplayer feels like it’d be 100 times more immersive, just because your bullets and actions leave more consequence on the match than just marks on the wall.

While we’ll have to wait for Counter-Strike 2 to actually launch on PC in order to see how groundbreaking these smoke grenade changes are, it’s still an incredibly exciting addition to a long-running game, and hopefully an indication of how multiplayer shooters can grow and evolve over the next few years.

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