Counter-Strike Global Offensive Guide: Tips For Beginners

In Pop Flash, a series of insights into Counter-Strike: Global Offensive [official site], Emily Richardson looks past the amazing clutches and crushing defeats to understand the culture and meta of Valve’s everlasting competitive FPS.

This week I want to go right back to basics. Counter-Stike has been around since 1999, but every week new players log onto the Global Offensive servers. I hope this post will help those players get into the game quickly and enjoy its competitive nature from the start. Have a browse through, try some things, find what works for you. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the game whether you’re playing competitively or just for laughs. Obviously, this piece isn’t really aimed at experienced players, but if you’d like to give some extra tips in the comments they’re totally welcome.

This guide covers a few of the basic principles of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which are:

Shooting
Crosshair Placement
Map Control
What And When To Buy
Mouse Settings

Counter-Strike can be an intimidating game at first. You join a match and everyone seems to know the names of all these nifty little hidey-holes that you would never notice at first glance. Your teammates manage to run to the bomb site in less than ten seconds, but you get lost in an air duct and your life is swiftly snuffed out when, emerging on the other side, you find five enemies. To top it off, you had the bomb, and you didn’t even realise. Welcome.

As of a recent patch, you can no longer play competitive CS straight away. You’ll need to play casual modes until you get to rank 3, which serves both as a barrier for hackers and as an introduction to the most basic mechanics for new players.

My very first tip is: Don’t worry about what happens in casual matches. It’s called ‘casual’ for a reason and most players don’t play this mode to win. I’m pretty sure no one will really mind whether you do a silly thing or not. You’re here to learn, and this is the best place for you to do it. So chill out, enjoy, molotov yourself, whatever.

SHOOTING

The first few skills you need to learn in Counter-Strike are relatively straight forward but not necessarily intuitive if you haven’t played a CS game before. An easy one is to always keep your reticule at head height. But you also need to stand still when shooting to be accurate; you can’t just run and gun like in Call Of Duty. As you improve, you’ll start to get the hang of strafing, stopping, shooting and strafing again. You’ll do this faster and faster, be more and more accurate, and eventually you’ll be doing the CSGO wiggle better than anyone. To learn about basic movement in CSGO, you can watch this great video by TheWarOwl.

Your bullets won’t go in a constant line to wherever your crosshairs are pointing in CS, they move with the recoil of the gun. So new players will want to practice burst fire (shooting a few bullets at a time) to keep recoil low. ‘Spraying’ – that is, just holding the trigger down – is normally reserved for close-quarters combat or submachineguns. When spraying, pull your aim down to compensate for the recoil. If you’ve only spent a few bullets, don’t automatically reload. It’s better to make sure you’re ready for another enemy to pop out. Find a safe place to reload, don’t do it willy nilly. This video by voo can introduce you to tapping, bursting and spraying techniques.

Another important thing to know; every gun has its own spray pattern. You can see all of these over at a fantastic website called CSGO Skills. Spray patterns are important to know about because after the first shot or two, your bullets will go way up over the enemy’s head and fly wildly from side to side. One of the most difficult skills to learn in CS is spray control, the art of being able to reproduce the spray pattern in reverse with your mouse, so you nullify the recoil. Sounds difficult, because it is!

Something to consider: you’re also totally accurate when you change directions. So if you strafe to the right, the split second that you start to strafe left you become accurate enough to get a shot off.

CROSSHAIR PLACEMENT

Once you’ve got the knack of simply shooting, the next thing that makes a huge, noticeable improvement in new players’ gameplay is decent crosshair positioning. Bear in mind this requires a little bit of map knowledge, so this is for when you’ve played a few games. Adren made a great video (embedded below) that demonstrates crosshair placement really well, and if you’re going to watch one video from this feature I think it should be this one. I recommend watching the other videos in that same series too. They’re great. I found some of them useful just recently, having taken a year away from CS to learn Dota (oh god I’m so bad at Dota) and honestly, just being reminded of this stuff once in a while is enough to realise where you might have gotten sloppy. Just make your life easy and have people run into your crosshairs. No aimbot required!

Adren mentions and demonstrates pre-shooting quite a bit in the video. This is also a great technique for newer players, especially if you’ve been in the situation where a guy has taken the same goddamn position every single round and he keeps nailing your team if you ever engage him. Again, it requires some map knowledge and movement control but it’s really not hard. Just stop at the corner the guy’s behind, line up your aim so when you strafe out your crosshair will be on his head, pop out, click, pop back in. This is where the ‘perfect accuracy when changing directions’ thing comes in handy. War Owl gives a good demo of pre-shooting here.

MAP CONTROL

When I was new to the game I was too scared of giving my position away. I’d just hold shift and walk (no footstep sounds!) around bomb sites, be too afraid to pre-shoot until I knew where someone was, and generally never go aggressive. I was always worried I’d give my team away and fail horribly. If you find yourself playing like this, get over it. There’s an art to knowing when to stay sneaky, when to pre-shoot, when to go aggressive, and it’s something that comes with a lot of experience. I still don’t feel like I’m there yet. But tip-toeing around bomb sites does not make for very good terrorism, so pre-shoot lots! Aggressively push a CT at the start of the round, when you think they won’t expect it. Play loads of different strategies and see how they work for you. Get used to analysing your opponents and playing in ways you think they won’t anticipate. Be brave. Just don’t rush B every, single, round.

Map control is a big deal in Counter-Strike and if you know lots of different play styles, you’ll have lots of different ways to get or keep control of an area. And speaking of strategies, once you’re confident with how the maps play in competitive mode and you know roughly how people attack and defend sites, try to take some time out to learn how to throw decent grenades. There are loads of videos on this and even some community-made maps that will show you in-game. Take a few minutes and I promise you, these grenades will make your rounds a lot easier.

Wallbanging is something you’ll discover as you develop a good map sense as well. Certain materials can be penetrated with bullets, and some of them aren’t very obvious. Spam walls when you hear an enemy on the other side and even, sometimes, when you don’t. You never know, you might just land a lucky headshot. TrilluXe has a good video that shows some of the technique:

ECONOMY AND GUNS

It’s not immediately obvious to new players how important the economy is in CS. It can be a simple thing to manage if you have good team communication. I’ll run through some fundamental things you need to know…

In competitive mode, you must buy kevlar! It costs $1000 for both armour and a helmet. The M4 and the AK-47 are the two ‘default’ weapons of choice for CT and T sides, respectively. Both are powerful, versatile weapons that are very cost-effective. You’ll want to master these two guns first and buy them on ‘buy rounds’ when you have lots of cash. The AK can kill an enemy with a helmet in one headshot. The M4, however, can’t. You’ll need to hit them with two shots if they have a helmet.

You should also get familiar with the concept of ‘eco rounds’. There are many nuances to this, but a common rule of thumb is to not buy anything if members of the team have significantly less than $4000. If all members have more, you’ll be expected to do a ‘full buy’, including guns, defuse kits, and grenades. The key here is communication – look for others asking to eco, or call it yourself when you’re short on cash. During an eco round, your primary objective is to plant the bomb or get a few sneaky kills, gearing up for the following rounds. If you have enough money for a full buy plus an additional rifle, and one teammate is lacking, just drop them the extra gun. Your money is your team’s money. Check out this guide for waaaay more depth on economy and what other buys you can try.

Pistol rounds are also super important, so what should you buy? Well, it tends to depend on the current patch, but right now Tec-9s are particularly good guns and I always like a good Five-Seven. P250s are also wonderful and cheap. If you’re not entirely confident in your aim, you can always buy body armour for $650 and tank some body shots. The pistol round is important because, if you win, you’re likely to win the subsequent two-to-three rounds.

If you have a successful pistol round, chances are the enemy will play safe and do a full eco, making SMGs the weapons of choice for second-round buys. SMGs give a very tasty $600 for each kill (except the P90!) and are great against opponents who don’t have armour. So buying SMGs could get you more money and guarantee easy kills. However, I see new players buying SMGs on full buy rounds an awful lot. While you might get lucky a few times, SMGs suck hard against armoured opponents, making them a not-so-hot choice compared to the rifles. They may be more expensive and they may give you less kill reward money, but buy the goddamn rifles. They’re very good, I promise.

If you have a lot of money and you can handle an AWP in casual matches, you’re welcome to pick one up for your team in competitive. AWPs are a great way to lock down an area on CT or make a quick pick with on T side. Generally speaking, just one AWP is great for a team, but in some situations two is okay.

SETTINGS

There’s not much you need to do here. First and foremost, lower your mouse sensitivity loads and then lower it some more. I would also recommend changing your radar. Tobys CS has a good guide that I like personally, but I’m sure there are other radar options out there. Secondly, you can change your crosshair settings as much as you like. I like having a static classic crosshair in any colour that isn’t featured in the environments much. So, for instance, pink is a really good colour because it stands out against all the background noise and people’s big balaclava’d heads. Lastly, make sure to turn off “switch weapon on pick up”.

I’m sure a lot of people who are better at CS than I am would swear by some other changes, but I think these are some good things for newbies to get started with, and most other stuff is personal preference. My advice would be to just take a look around different sites and see what sounds good to you, try stuff out and see how it feels.

Once you’ve nailed down the basics, one of the things that helped me the most, before I started playing Dota and became a big fat scrub again, was playing aim maps and just getting into the habit of clicking heads. You can search for ‘aim’ or ‘headshot’ in the Community Servers list to get maps where you can practice this. Otherwise, download these two aim training levels from the Steam Workshop here and here and practice without the humiliation of other people watching.

Most of all, just trust Shia. He’s got some solid advice.

26 Comments

  1. Petethegoat says:

    Here’s the autoexec.cfg I used to use: link to github.com
    Be warned that it will mess up your crosshair by default.

  2. Bostec says:

    I have a tip with most FPS, you point at something you don’t like and shoot. It works for me.

  3. shaftz0r says:

    this is basically true, except in cs, the rule is, aim at the feet of whatever you dont like, to get a headshot

    • shadybearfaced says:

      Nah, dude. Not true at all if you learn to shoot without spraying. Especially with the AK, it’s like a sniper rifle if you can shoot it with the perfect left-click rhythm.

  4. Shakes999 says:

    Lol won’t help. The last time I played CS was at a lan party and after 3 hours I had accrued 2 kills. I am so laughably bad at that game.

  5. TheRealHankHill says:

    Step one: rage bc of false hits that you REGULARLY get.
    Step two: don’t play unless you are playing on 128 tic servers bc you will regularly get false hits.

      • TheRealHankHill says:

        LOL, yes. It does. Especially in games with terrible server desync like CSGO.

      • TheRealHankHill says:

        Even if that was true, doesn’t fix or explain the REGULAR FALSE HITS that people have been getting for YEARS now in CSGO. Apparently Valve is FINALLY trying to fix it, we’ll see. But to say that tic rate has nothing to do with it is ridiculous. Tic rate + valves shitty code mean a really fucked game for many of us.

        • Petethegoat says:

          False hits can be readily explained by shitty netcode itself, instead of the tickrate of the server.

  6. shadybearfaced says:

    Changing the radar is absolutely crucial to playing CS competitively (or playing it well, at least). The default radar is absolutely trash because it only shows you like 5 meters around you instead of showing you the whole map, which is extremely useful for seeing where enemies are spotted, where the bomb’s down, etc.

    Also, learn to shoulder-peek corners so you don’t completely expose yourself and get killed all the time. Not dying really helps you and your team out :P

    As a side note, I really like that this guide exists even though it’s not particularly useful to me. Most experienced CS players just give condescending advice like “Just try harder” or “Just suck less” etc., and it’s really kind of obnoxious. In the same breath, I’m gonna be one of those guys and say: Left click on the other team’s heads, and try not to die as much as possible.

    • shadybearfaced says:

      One last thing: Always buy flashes and smokes. IMO on an eco round, a smoke and two flashes takes priority over a gun or a pistol and then just losing it because you got flashed and rushed.

      And if you’re CT, the USP-S is actually pretty darn good for eco if you can learn to use it well despite the low ammo count.

  7. wcq says:

    while(true) {
    spawn();
    buy(weapon.MAC10);
    run(rand());
    shoot(rand());
    die();
    }

  8. heretic says:

    Thanks for this! Last time I played cs:go my kd ratio was not very good, will have to try these tips, though probably every body does the strafe dance these days, must be quite funny to spectate :p

  9. DrollRemark says:

    Wait, you get different amounts of money per kill, depending on your gun?

    As a 1.6er who only started getting into GO recently, it’s the nuances between the two games that I still need to work on. The grenades fly ever so slightly differently, which has messed up a few of my throws, and I’m not entirely certain which walls can be shot through now.

    If I could add a tip it would be: when you don’t know a map, use the free look in spectator mode in casual to fly around and get a grasp on the layout of it, don’t just follow one player doing not much. You’ll learn the maps a lot quicker than you will by just playing them (where you’ll usually end up stick in the same old places).

  10. Belmakor says:

    A few of my own tips

    1) Buy a pair of good headphones and LISTEN. Once you know the maps you will be able to tell where the enemy and your team mates are from their footsteps.

    2) Play the maps alone and try quick buying and then running the various routes as quick as you can (running with pistol is faster). This will give you an idea of how quickly to expect an enemy on that team at each choke point. Make sure you have a key bound to quick change to primary weapon so you can switch from pistol to primary at touch of a button.

    3) practice throwing flash bangs off walls and down corridors with minimal exposure of yourself. You should be able to prime, pre aim and then glance round corner and throw before retreating without getting hit. Unless you get shot in the head you will be fine!

    4) in spectate mode work out where most people camp after planting the bomb, these are usually locations with good shooting arcs. Use these when T , or use knowledge of these locations when clearing bomb site as CT.

  11. vence333 says:

    Played CS once long ago and never picked it again, never understood the appeal of it, it seem to be a highly unrealistic game with no bullet ballistics, no bullet drop, no nothing just put the cross hair on some dude head and press the button, that and camping on every corner, i played every FPS there is in the universe but this one for some reason doesn’t appeal to me at all.

    • AimHere says:

      CS isn’t really meant to be realistic; it’s more or less an arena shooter with skins pulled from real-life, and without rocket jumping or railguns. Treat it as something closer in spirit to Quake 3 or Halo – the 5v5 matchmaking mode in CSGO is an austere, disciplined, and (somehow) minimalist game where every one of the players on the board matters and it starts to feel a little chess-like. When you’re in a 5v5 competitive CSGO match, you’re thinking in terms of where everyone is, and what they can do, and it all feels somewhat individualistic and personal, compared to the big battles in Battlefield or CoD, where you rarely feel that whatever you’re doing matters.

      Anyways, I’ve never fired a gun, but at the ranges at which gunfights take place in CS, would bullet drop be much of a factor? It is a pretty short ranged combat, where nothing takes place over more than about 100 metres or so, and bullets go *very* fast. For the AK47, a staple weapon in CS with a muzzle velocity of 700m/s that’s still taking 1/7 of a second to traverse 100 metres, so bullet drop would be 10cm or so – not hugely significant, and not really worth recoding the entirety of the game for.

      • Cederic says:

        Nearer 7cm, which is still the difference between a headshot and hitting someone in the chest. Which is relevant if they’re wearing kevlar, I guess.

        I suspect most combat happens closer than that though, so I’d agree, it’s not terribly material relative to the many other aspects of the game.

        • AimHere says:

          I was ignoring air resistance, and using yer basic high school physics, and it still comes out nearer 10cm.

          From Wikipedia, AK47 muzzle velocity is 715 m/s
          Meaning bullet takes 0.13986 seconds to go that 100 metres (if nothing slows it down).
          In that time, gravity will pull it down by 1/2 * 9.81 * 0.13986^2 metres ~= 9.5946 centimetres.

          If I factored in air resistance, it would drop further still. Which of us made the mistake?

          • AyeBraine says:

            I’ll drone a little =) Rifles are pre-sighted (zeroed) at much farther distances even at the minimal sight setting – most likely about 200-300 m. Anyway, the “ideal” physical bullet drop is non-relevant, only your zero is relevant (because if you’ve zeroed your rifle, you literally aim where you intend to be hitting). But the reality is, with most rifles sighted at “battle range”, e.g. 200-300 m, they’re more or less spot on at 100 m. That’s why it’s the minimal setting.

            Next, REALLY close up you have parallax from the sights (they are several centimeters higher than the bullet trajectory, so shooters just take windage); meaning you hit a couple of inches lower. Farther out though, in most urban instances, the shot will actually hit _higher_ than you aimed it, not lower – because surved bullet path and straight sighting vector form an angle before converging at zero distance. Moreover, 1x reflex sights, being a CQB solution, may be zeroed for 50 m (or even 25 m for SMGs/pistols), and then you pretty much get WYSIWIG functionality. Finally, realistic dispersal is so much higher than ideal dispersal because of various factors, that the ideal drop gets lost in the noise. Even if you’re camping, you don’t expect actual minute of angle accuracy in the “CS” conditions, you fire until the threat is down.

            For reference: bullet drop in games like STALKER is very, very amplified, to the tune of a bow (to simulate more realistic encounters that take place at 100-500 m).

      • vence333 says:

        Maybe thats the main reason why i don’t like it, for me gaming is a way to relax and have fun, not really interested in the stress of ” competitive ” gaming, i never liked any of the MOBAs either …

    • badmothergamer says:

      CS isn’t the type of game I’m usually interested in but a couple of years ago I picked it up on a whim when it was on sale for $3.50. I was playing a lot of DayZ mod at the time and was looking for something to give me a quick PvP fix versus the long slog of DayZ. After getting slaughtered and coming to the conclusion that everyone is hacking I quit for awhile, but eventually I came back and got better. I ranked up in competitive matches but now I just jump in for a few quick casual rounds these days.

      I love it because I can join a game within 2 minutes, play a round or two, get a few kills, then walk away. You don’t have to get good, just learn a few tips and tricks and you can have fun. Just understand that even in casual people will chew you out for not playing well. Of course, in casual people also mock players who do try to play well, so you really can’t win. :)

  12. vahnn says:

    lol

  13. bl4ckrider says:

    My tip for getting into CS: Get a good book.
    You walk around a corner: You are shot. Read until the next round begins.
    You pop up behind a crate: Headshot. Read.
    You look through your scope: Knived. Read.

    It you ever wanted to read Ulysses: Play Counterstrike.

  14. anduin1 says:

    the twitch based shooting aspect is why I cant get into it, any amount of lag on either side and you’re F’d, don’t have money for a gun, youre F’d