You can still play CS:GO, at least if you consider bizarre custom servers where you fight Final Fantasy summons 'playing CS:GO'

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Playing a normal game of CS:GO with my regular pals. (Image credit: Valve/ze_FFVII_Mako_Reactor creators/hard to say, really)

The launch of Counter-Strike 2 has been exciting, but it comes with the disappointing caveat that, rather than succeeding CS:GO, it has completely replaced it. Well, almost completely: It's actually still possible to launch CS:GO, and will be indefinitely, although you get a very limited version that may break in the future.

If you recoil from such modern Source 2 engine contrivances as dynamic volumetric smoke grenade smoke, here's how to return to the warm embrace of regular smoke grenade smoke:

  1. Install Counter-Strike 2 on Steam
  2. Right-click on Counter-Strike 2 in your Steam library and open its Properties
  3. In the Betas tab, select "csgo_legacy: Legacy Version of CS:GO" in the dropdown menu

After you do that, Counter-Strike 2 will update itself, and the tag "[csgo_legacy]" will be added to its name in your library. You can still play CS2 even if you've opted in to the CS:GO legacy beta branch: When you launch it, you'll be asked which version you want to run. 

When you run CS:GO, you'll see a warning that support for CS:GO will end on January 1, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to launch it in the new year. According to a Valve FAQ, the end of CS:GO support means that "the game will still be available, but certain functionality that relies on compatibility with the Game Coordinator (eg, access to inventory) may degrade and/or fail."

That doesn't sound like a big deal given how degraded the CS:GO experience already is. The realities of the games-as-a-service model have not been kind to it: You won't find any official matchmaking at all. Unless you want to play with bots, your options are to play with friends or on community servers, and as of right now, the community server list is not updating properly for me. I have to set my region to see any servers, and when I set it to US West, it doesn't seem like I'm actually seeing US West servers because the listed pings are all 200+.

If you do find yourself a CS:GO community server to join—and there are many still populated—you might be in for a treat, or possibly just bewilderment. People don't generally run custom Counter-Strike servers just to play regular Counter-Strike. They run custom servers to play maps where you "surf" by strafing into angled surfaces, or fight Final Fantasy summons like in Ze FFVII Mako Reactor, one of many bizarre custom maps that seem to defy all game design conventions. (After running around with Master Chiefs, Scout Troopers, and bananas, I got turned into a zombie for reasons I will never comprehend, and then watched the other players cast Ultima and beat up Bahamut.)

(Image credit: Valve/ze_FFVII_Mako_Reactor creators (and uh, others))

Here's a sampling of the server names you'll find to give you a sense of what you're in for, which is just about any game but Counter-Strike:

  • Legend of Zelda (Zelda World Mod)
  • CARTING, only racing maps
  • Need For Speed 4 [Cars, tracks, ferrary, dodge]
  • Mutants Attack Roleplay
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean Sea [Abordage, Ships, Swords, Sabers]
  • TITANIC ESCAPE [Escape sinking Titanic]
  • The Godfather,
  • Apex Legends [Apex mod, Apex items, Weapons]
  • Christmas server #1 (santa,presents,tree)

Meanwhile, even if we're disappointed by this modern trend of sequels gobbling up their predecessors, there is a lot to like about CS2, which really doesn't stray too far from the game it replaces. And I'm looking forward to the eventual Source 2 versions of some of these delightfully weird CS community maps.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.