Kotaku Big Battles -- Counter-Strike 1.6 vs Counter-Strike: Source

In celebration of the large battles in Rome II, this week we’re looking back at some of the biggest PC battles in history. First up is Counter Strike 1.6 vs Counter-Strike Source

In honour of the big battles of Total War: Rome 2, and the huge screenshots coming out, we’re starting a series of the biggest battles in PC history. We’ve got a few lined up, though there are many more than we could include — and to start off, we’re tackling one of the biggest: Counter-Strike 1.6 vs Counter-Strike Source.

We wanted to do a few more, such as Nvidia vs ATI, or Quake vs Unreal. But we just couldn’t fit everything in.

Counter-Strike was, for a time, the most popular game in the world. People bought Half-Life just to play Counter-Strike. Businesses - nay, an entire industry - started up just because of Counter-Strike. All those internet cafes and eSports organisations owed their existence to one humble mod, and the horde of people playing it.

Counter-Strike players didn’t necessarily identify themselves as gamers - the phenomenon was larger than that. They were Counter-Strikers. Even people who wouldn’t be caught dead playing a “videogame” would be happy to join their friends at the LAN cafe for a few rounds of T vs CT.

But when Valve released Half-Life 2, and the (for a time, hated) Steam platform with it, they also released Counter-Strike: Source, the new version based on their new engine.

Counter-Strike had tried a sequel before, with the ill-fated Condition Zero. But this was different. It was scaled back in terms of new stuff; there were no rocket launchers, or picked locks. The graphics were also significantly better. And it proved to still have one of the key strengths of Counter-Strike: moddability. Being highly modifiable, it could harness the power of the entire community for map creation, game balance, and the creation of competitive modes.

But the community didn’t take. Not entirely, anyway. With Steam’s troublesome launch, people had to wait long periods trying to load Half-Life 2, and had further difficulties getting into other games. The design of the game was also questioned. Vanilla Counter-Strike loyallists claimed Source was “random”, and didn’t take as much skill to play. Players who quickly became loyal to Source quoted the unrealistic nature of hearing footsteps half a map away in vanilla Counter-Strike, and being able to shoot through several feet of concrete to kill someone after hearing them.

Before long, there was a 50/50 community split. Counter-Strike 1.6 had no takeup, but it had a hardcore competitive community that wouldn’t let go of the game. Competitive organisations were caught between a rock and a hard place - the 1.6 fanbase was rabid and vocal, but Source was also a good game, and looked better - an attractive aspect for acquiring sponsor interest.

Many competitions settled on supporting both games. But the World Cyber Games, arguably the largest global gaming competition at the time, made the move to Counter-Strike: Source. But the 1.6 hive-mind backlash was so severe, and so abusive, it only lasted a year. WCG reverted back to 1.6, and has never changed again since.

Source gave gamers a taste of watching matches live directly through the Steam client, being able to tap into special spectator servers, long before services like Twitch. Other high-profile competitions, especially video-based ones such as the Championship Gaming Series, preferred Source for its graphics.

Plugins appeared for websites and IRC channels that allowed the quick organisation of PUG games, and let teams quickly organise practice scrims. The game itself was modded for the competitive format that had arisen in 1.6 - 5v5, with a specific time limit, map list, and bomb detonation time. Though 1.6 and Source would dispute many things, there was a consensus on this format, and it would go on to become the “proper” way to play competitive in future games like Call of Duty.

Players also began to take it upon themselves to make the game more how they believed it should be mechanically. Add-ons like Pro-Mod aimed to combine the best of both worlds, but ultimately would take too long to be developed and only serve to split the community further, as opposed to bringing everyone together.

For a long time, Counter-Strike was the most competitive game in the world. Starcraft came close, though there’s an argument for that phenomenon being based around one country in South Korea. Conventional wisdom was that the only thing that could topple Counter-Strike was Counter-Strike.

That way of thinking started its downward slope in 2007, when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released. Even after Modern Warfare came out, most people doubted its ability to take down the mighty Counter-Strike. But Modern Warfare was modifiable, had servers and LAN play, and looked much, much better than even Source. It also included persistent rewards, a nice little touch that kept people coming back. Later, the Call of Duty series would take over as the competitive powerhouse, as the Counter-Strike series would go on to split itself further with the underwhelming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which only added some map alterations and an incendiary grenade, as well as features like GunGame which were already mods in the older versions.

But even with the popularity of Call of Duty, there hasn’t been a shooter since with the recognised dominance over the FPS scene that Counter-Strike had. For almost a decade, if you were good at shooters, that was fine enough - but were you good at Counter-Strike? That’s what mattered. To this day, the 1.6 faithful won’t give credit to Source phenoms, clutching a sense of superiority long rendered pointless. It’s a rivalry that never ended - right up until the day both games lost their dominance in the FPS market.


    I always prefere Source, mostly becauseof the grenade physics. In 1.6 it was like a damn paper aeroplane.

    Ahh it certainly was a golden time for getting PUGs or Scrims setup nice and quick. The days when you could play on a 512k adsl connection and a ping of 140 was just enough to get you by. The days of SONO, CP, FBANG, Q, and a bunch of other clans that have since faded into memory. When source burst on the scene the split was immediate, but goddamn it was fun being part of that community.

    I still remember playing until 4-5am, getting up 2 hours later and going to Uni only to doodle CS maps in the corner of the lecture notes. Fun times :) I also got introduced to gamer rage as I busted multiple pairs of expensive headphones, a front window and a couple of microphones. To this day no other game has captivated, infuriated and satisfied me so much :) Thanks for the trip down memory road Jungs!

      CP used to be my CS heroes, the day we beat them in a ladder match is a day I'll always remember. Fbang for life :P

        You're such a hobag haha. I ended up playing a fair bit with them in PUGS after their breakup. Voodzie was always a top bloke.

          Yeah I remember after their break, I was in pub with Voodz and another clan was trying to recruit him. He was open to it, but they were like "We think you might need to work on your rifle." He's like, "My rifle is fine."

          After a couple of rounds of typical Voodz ownage, same guy says, "Your rifle is fine." Haha

            I used to love his ridiculous rushing style hahaha. The man had it all. Another good person I still chat with is Gangsta. That man was unfucking believable. Just totally on the ball all the time. Him and his brother Shadowrunner were quite the couple of players back in the day. I think he's got global offensive now so I'll start scrimming with him again ;)

        Heh a mate of mine had a CS clan mate that lived with you in Sydney back in the day he tells me, ever remember meeting a kid called Elroy? Potentially hyperactive, bit of a personality etc..?

          Hmm can't say I remember an Elroy. Did he know Messiah or Ze German?

            Couldn't say, have lost touch with him sadly, though this was somewhere around 06, which is a whole lifetime ago now ha.

    Even though I was never a massive CS fan, I still loved to play it from time to time (1.6 & Source). If I had to pick one, I'd probably have to to pick 1.6 (despite how much I suck at it), just because I played it more back in the day.

    Thanks for the good read, Jung.

    Last edited 26/08/13 2:26 pm

    As someone that has put thousands of ours into CS1.6 and CS:source seperately, and also heaps of hours in MW., the way i see it is.

    1.6 is a far superior game in terms of competitive play, Sure CS:S looked better and was a nice upgrade, but it tried to change the backend too much, adding Lag comp and the Reg was always iffy, but in its own right a good game.

    MW however was all that 1.6 was and more, as mentioned above there was dedicated servers, mods, great looks, smooth gameplay.

    We still play 1.6 when lanning, i play CS:Source online, and MW when i feel like playing something with a bit of a difference.

    Over all 3 great games, all in there own right. (unlike what passes for comptitive FPS games these days)

    Last edited 26/08/13 2:25 pm

    Source for me. Why? Because it looks nicer, and I'm not good enough to ever worry about "competitive balance". Funnily enough I only ever play on the one map, CS:Office. As in, that's the ONLY map I play on, period.

    I remember playing 1.6 overseas (local lans centers) which led me to buy CS Condition zero on the way back :)

    Great memories from playing CS.

    tried to get into other games like Cod ect.. but they are nothing in comparison ie the community, gameplay and skill

    Now that i think of it in regards to competitive gaming CS did have the best community

    Cs 1.6 is the only competitive multiplayer game I've ever seriously sunk time into. From hours after school at the local LAN, to playing against bots on my own chasing a 10-1 kill / death ratio, I don't think any game will ever grab me the way 1.6 did. Source is great and all, but honestly? The gameplay supercedes the presentation. At the end of the day CS is about twitch reflexes and strategy, not high res textures and effects.

    Great article and looking forward to the other rivalries you have in store for us this week.

    i loved cs 1.5, and to a lesser extent 1.6 - i used to finish work and go to one of them new fangled cyber cafes and play for 4 hours before heading home. then i moved in the the gf. that ended that.

    I don't disagree that Global Offensive didn't add much to the game, but given the whole CS:S/1.6 debate, I would have thought that was the point, as 1.6 players weren't likely to move to a game that is too different. I guess that's the struggle of developing a game with such a dedicated fan base, trying to appease those who don't want anything changed, whilst actually trying to improve the game to bring in new players. I think Iceman said something to that effect as well. Anyway, well written article, just my thoughts.

    I was a wimp. Hearing the Arctic rifle gave me the heebie jeebies.

    Source was a joke if you were a vanilla veteran. I played CS all the way up to 1.6, but the change (especially in accuracy) from 1.6 to source was ridiculous. Going from competitive gaming in 1.6 where every kill was a hs, to struggling in source was stupid. Source definitely wrecked that game for me. I played CS: Source for a week, then dropped CS - never to play again. Such a shame.

      Not a shame, we did fine without you.

    As a long, die hard player of CS in all it's forms, since Beta at LAN cafe's way back in around 2001, this was a good read. Reminds me of how old I am.

    I moved whenever my mates moved. I didn't find the moves that hard, just needed to accept that there was a new version, it was different and took time to get used to it.

    When it was time to go to Source from 1.6, we all left in droves. Moving now to Global Offensive (which by the way has lead to a mini revival of CS as it has opened the game up to a huge number of new players who previously didn't play any form of CS), there are still a few stragglers playing Source, mainly because of lack of hardware and the occasional "CS:GO sux", but I don't find GO that bad.

    CS:GO is even more random than what Source was to 1.6. But you have to get with the times. I find the randomness balanced by the game being considerably easier because there are loads of newbies around, that's the truth. But if you are truly a crack shot, CS:GO is no different from Source which was no different from 1.6, just need to get used to it as with all new formats.

    What I like about CS:GO is they've made competitive matches much easier to organise. No more booking servers and all the thankless hard work of organising your clan and another clan onto a passworded server bla bla bla. Competitive 5v5 is literally 2 clicks to get going. They've also now introduced gun skins, yes it's a money spinner, but I support that. Programmers need to earn a living too...

    Last edited 27/08/13 9:44 am

    I miss the shield from 1.6... I really wish it would come back. It was so much fun.

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