CS:GO goes Battle Royale and free to play

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Valve just announced Danger Zone, “a fast-paced battle royale game mode built on CS:GO’s tactical gameplay where players use their wits, skill, and resources to fight to the finish.” Additionally, CS:GO itself is now free to play.

The mode accommodates 16 players in singles, and 18 players in duos or triples. Danger Zone features the same weapon behavior and damage as conventional CS:GO, Valve says. Like CS:GO, the matches are short, lasting about 10 minutes. It makes many other changes to CS:GO’s systems:

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  • Each player carries an upgradeable special tablet device (on Tab) for tracking other players and accessing a limited buy menu
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  • You start with just a knife-aerial delivery drones ferry purchased weapons and equipment directly to your position
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  • Each player publicly claims a landing zone before rappelling into the match
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  • Cash can be found in the environment and you can also bring hostages to rescue zones
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  • There’s currently one map, called Blacksite – it’s small by Battle Royale standards, but big for Counter-Strike
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  • The map is divided into hexagonal zones, which are randomly, occasionally bombarded by an airstrike
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  • Ammo is scarce: even purchased weapons are handed to you with almost no ammo in them
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  • Your weapon skins from the base game are carried into Danger Zone

From the round I’ve played so far, it’s weird to see a bunch of old weapons and new ideas thrown together into the same pot. Some of the engagement ranges on the single map, Blacksite, are absolutely enormous by CS standards. Grabbing wads off cash off of the ground (or in locked safes that you have to destroy with C4) feels out of place so far. CS:GO does have its exclusively first-person perspective going for it, at least.

Meanwhile, in all modes of CS:GO, players will now be separated into two matchmaking groups: Prime and non-prime. If you already owned CS:GO, you’re a Prime player. “When you have Prime Status you are matched with other players who also have Prime Status, and Prime users are eligible for Prime-exclusive souvenir items, item drops, and weapon cases.” Danger Zone arrives, of course, with 17 new seasonal weapon skins.

CS:GO going free-to-play signifies, in part, that Valve is confident in the game’s current anticheat solution, delivered through a Valve-built machine learning system called VACnet. As far as I can tell, any banned CS:GO player could join the game through a new Steam account, but would not be matched with other Prime players. It’s unclear how CS:GO matchmakes mixed parties of Prime and free players.