A trip down memory lane: Looking back at 25 years of Counter-Strike

A trip down memory lane: Looking back at 25 years of Counter-Strike

author image Md. Jarif-Ul Islam |

June 26, 2024 at 10:30 PM BST

As the origin of countless fast-paced, awe-inspiring instances of ranged-weaponry madness, Valve’s Counter-Strike series has been a steadfast subject of adoration in the hearts of many. Spanning multiple decades since its inception, the beloved franchise, and arguably the most influential first-person shooter franchise in the history of esports, turns 25.

Humble beginnings: Counter-Strike (1.6)

Counter-Strike’s life began as a multiplayer mod for the first installment of “Half-Life”. With its beta version’s release in 19th June, 1999, Counter-Strike offered players team-based matches that were revolutionary in structure, with novel objectives like bomb planting/defusal, hostage rescue and assassination missions.

The matches were divided into rounds, with teams switching sides at halftime. Furthermore, the game’s economy system gave players money based on their performance in the previous round, allowing them to buy their desired guns and grenades at the start of each round.

The mod’s popularity resulted in Valve acquiring the rights to Counter-Strike, which led to its first official release as Counter-Strike 1.0 on the 9th of November in 2000. Gameplay mechanics aside, Counter-Strike’s tactical approach to its teams and round based matches went on to shape the future of competitive first-person shooters.

The game’s success and impact in the Esports community led to the releases of multiple iterations we know and love today, such as “Counter-Strike: Condition Zero”, “Counter-Strike: Source”, “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “Counter-Strike 2”

Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and Counter-Strike: Source

The success of the first Counter-Strike game allowed Valve to cash in on the development of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, where its official release was in 2004. This time, the game included a single-player campaign called “Tour of Duty,” where players took part in several missions alongside bots. Moreover, the game featured a series of single-player missions called “Deleted Scenes”.

Furthermore, the multiplayer aspect of the game stood on the previous one’s foundation with improved graphics, brand new maps and updated models. Though the reception of the game’s multiplayer was highly praised for retaining the classic Counter-Strike experience, both the single-player campaign and the mission series received fairly mixed reviews.Not long after the release of Condition Zero, within the same year, Source had its initial release as a beta for players purchasing Half-Life 2 Gold Edition and Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. Boasting the same engine used for Half-Life 2 (also known as the Source Engine), Counter-Strike: Source made significant improvements in graphics, textures, lighting, models and physics compared to its predecessors, with updated maps of Dust 2, Inferno and Office.

After the release of its successor, Global Offensive, players quickly shifted to the new game due to its modern features and support. Yet, it still remains as a “Source” of many cherished memories for veteran CS fans.

Enter worldwide sensation — Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

After Source’s reign, Valve officially launched what would be the next biggest FPS title for years to come in the world of competitive esports in 2012 — Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

CS:GO was built using the updated version of the Source Engine and thus, had more improved graphics, animations, models, lighting, environmental details, and physics compared to its predecessors. Multiple factors combined, it quickly cemented itself as a titan among Esports titles.

Since I couldn’t experience the previous titles in the franchise, this was the CS I resonated with the most. I vividly remember indulging in the uncontrolled chaos of war games with my school friends at the time, our potato PCs crashing several times in the middle of a 14 kill streak. There were even times where we made friends with complete strangers who turned out to study in the same school as us.

I, along with my friends, remember CS:GO as an escape from a life filled with stressful academics, a safe haven for God knows how many globally offensive jokes. It was the perfect rollercoaster ride, a perfect balance between frustration and joy. But just like every other ride, this one also had to end eventually. In 2023, Valve announced “Counter Strike 2,” which led to the permanent end of support for CS:GO on January 01, 2024.

The departure of CS:GO and the arrival of CS2

Valve officially released the latest addition to the franchise, Counter-Strike 2, amidst mixed reactions over the closure of CS:GO. Built using the new Source 2 Engine, CS2 made massive improvements and changes on graphics, textures, models, animations, sound effects, and physics on launch.

Despite these massive changes, CS2 still had some fatal flaws initially, like its tick rates and hitboxes at launch. I remember hopping on my first match after the release and hearing players continuously complaining about the questionable hit register system. There were countless moments where obvious headshots weren’t registered and the character models of opponents seemed to do a weird “Michael Jackson Lean” animation when peeking from corners, resulting in unfair tactical advantages during gunfights. After receiving backlash from the community and the pros, Valve addressed the issues and fixed them in the upcoming updates.

Although it had its ups and downs, Counter-Strike always brought casual and competitive players together for decades while staying true to its roots compared to most other titles. To some, it’s a breath of fresh air while to many, it was a trip back to home. With that being said, here’s to another 25 years of rushing to the B site of Dust 2.

Jarif is a contributor at The Daily Esports.