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- Learn to buy your weapons and equipment quickly
Time is money, as they say. The faster you can buy your weapons and equipment, the faster you can get out there and get either prepare your assault or mount your defense. Instead of using the mouse to navigate the menus, use keyboard shortcuts, or buy scripts.
Buy quickly, start quickly.
- Fire automatic weapons in short bursts
Almost all automatic weapons have massive accuracy penalties for sustained fire. Some weapons, such as the AK47, are almost entirely useless when the trigger is held down, even at short range; some, such as the M4A1, hold up better. The key issue is to fire in short bursts, giving a brief pause between for the accuracy to improve (indicated by the contracting crosshairs). How short a burst you want and how long a delay depends on the weapon: the Colt is sufficient for three-shot bursts with brief delays; the AK warrants two-shot bursts with slightly longer delays. One weapon, the UMP, has almost constant accuracy with sustained fire, but unfortunately does not do much damage. Only hold down the trigger at point-blank range.
Fire in brief, short bursts.
- Aim at the upper chest
Counter-Strike has positional damage; how much damage a hit does depends on where it lands. Maximum, of course, is the head; normal damage is done to the torso, and considerably less damage is done to the extremities. For example, the AWM is normally a one-shot kill weapon, but an AWM hit to the extremities is not fatal. The best place to aim, therefore, is the mid-to-upper chest; hits will tend to land in the nominal area, thus doing reasonable damage. Given that almost all weapons have significant recoil, the tail end of each burst will land higher than the chest, which will result in a better than average number of headshots.
Just like in real combat, you want to aim at the trunk.
- Switch to knife or pistol for rapid movement
One's movement speed depends on which weapon is currently readied. Knives and pistols have the least encumbrance; submachine guns have some; rifles have more; and the largest weapons -- the AWM and the Para -- have the most, requiring the holder to move at a slow walk (which has the side benefit of not making much noise). When a player has one of these guns and has to make a quick move, equip your knife or pistol in order to move faster. Switch back to your primary weapon when you reach your destination and continue the fight.
Switch to a knife or pistol for fast movement, and then switch back.
- Be aware of accuracy problems while moving, on ladders, in water, or in air
Learning how to use weapons in Counter-Strike depends most strongly on judging weapon accuracy. All weapons have reduced accuracy when firing -- most players are fully aware of this. But the accuracy problems are not just limited to normal movement. A host of other behaviors can also severely limit accuracy, yet only the more experienced players are aware of it. In particular, when climbing a ladder, one is subject to the same accuracy penalties as when one is moving. If you are climbing a ladder and an enemy is waiting for you at the top, this puts you at a massive disadvantage -- even at very close range, your shots are unlikely to land many hits. The same accuracy penalties are also in place when one is swimming in water (but not when one is merely standing in water), and when one is in the air, such as on a low gravity server.
Make sure you know the situations in which accuracy is reduced and you'll be a much better player.
- Learn to stop just before firing sniper weapons
All weapons have some loss of accuracy when they are fired by a moving shooter. This is especially true of the sniper weapons -- the Scout, AWM, G3, or SG550 -- which are not only less accurate, but in fact nearly useless when fired while moving. The conflict here is that any competent player knows that keeping moving is an important part of play -- particularly when a sniper war is taking place. The solution is to stop moving just a split second before firing; this will allow fully accurate shots even though the shooter was moving just a moment before. Particularly when using cover, this can be very effective -- you can pop out of cover, top, and fire, all within a fraction of a second.
Remember: strafe, stop, fire.
- Heavily favor armor to weapons when low on funds
Armor is absolutely essential in a game with even somewhat realistic weapons. Without armor, only a few midsection shots will bring even a completely healthy player down, and without a helmet, any headshot will. (A helmet won't protect from sniper rounds to the head, but something is better than nothing.) When buying at the start of the round, always factor in armor cost when choosing your weapons so that you don't find yourself out of money after you buy your weapons and ammunition.
Always buy the armor/helmet combination if you can afford it; it is well worth the extra $350.
- Learn to deliver grenades effectively
Grenades can be very effective weapons -- they can soften up the enemy for a push, finish off an entrenched and already injured foe, or provide cover where none is available. But to use them, you need to be able to throw them accurately, and know not to try throwing them when you're open to enemy fire. Aim above your target, depending on distance, so that gravity can drop the grenade down into your opponent.
Lobbing is the key.
- Use say_team/radio/voice chat to coordinate with your teammates
Use radio commands, or -- better still -- voice chat via a good headset to communicate with your teammates. The radio commands -- or in the worst, case just using the say_team command -- can help organize your team, but there's nothing better than being able to talk directly to your teammates and have them be able to talk back. If you're a serious Counter-Strike player, you should have a microphone and have your voice chat subsystem configured. Consider the difference between using the canned "Enemy spotted" radio chatter and simply saying, "One in the building on the left, and one sniping from the roof on the right."
Voice chat can easily turn even a group of intermediate players into a well-oiled killing machine.
- Use hud_centerid
Enabling hud_centerid prints the identifying string -- the text that identifies the person currently under your crosshairs and indicates whether they're friend or foe -- just under the center of the screen, instead of in the lower-left corner. This is a far better place for it to appear, since the center of the screen is where your eyes will tend to be looking in the first place.
This helps avoid excessive unnecessary eye movements -- concentrate on the center of the screen.
- Use hud_fastswitch
Enable hud_fastswitch in your client. This will allow you to select weapons without having to hit the trigger in order to select them. Every second counts; having to hit the weapons category key and then the left mouse button takes time, and sometimes it's time that you don't have. Note that hud_fastswitch won't help when you have multiple types of grenades; in those cases you'll have to select the type you want and then hit the trigger to select it. But for all other weapon categories primary, secondary, knife, and bomb (for the Terrorists in a bomb/defuse map) -- this will allow an instance switch.
Sometimes a single keystroke or mouse click can mean the difference between life and death.
- When climbing ladders, do so quietly
Normally, when climbing (or descending) ladders, a fair amount of distinctive noise is made; if you're using this to gain access to an enemy-controlled location, this sound can give you away. You can substantially reduce this noise by holding down the crouch key while moving up or down; this reduces the amount of noise that you make to about half: It's still audible, but it's far less noticeable than the normal volume. Particularly if there is background noise, such as gunfire -- hopefully provided by your teammates -- this can make a stealthy incursion much more possible. Another little-known tweak is that you can turn sideways on the ladder (so you're facing the side) and use the strafe keys to get some added speed when moving on the ladder. For instance, get on the top of the ladder, face off to the left, and then hold down the backward, strafe left, and crouch modifiers; this increases your movement speed substantially without making more noise.
Crouch while climbing or descending a ladder; you'll make much less noise.
- Use radar to locate both friendlies and hostiles
Your radar (when enabled on the server) is an absolutely invaluable resource. It locates your teammates relative to you, and even indicates whether they are above or below you, and by how much. Effective use of the radar goes far beyond merely locating your friendlies; coupled with close attention to sounds, you can use a process of elimination to locate the enemy as well. Use of the radar can also help you avoid friendly fire incidents; when you hear someone nearby, you can determine with the radar whether or not they are a friendly or a hostile.
Use of the radar coupled with attention to sounds is a powerfully effective combination.
- Stay out of water
Water is trouble for three reasons: first, you move more slowly when swimming; second, when swimming, your accuracy is severely reduced; and third, you make considerable noise when entering and exiting a body of water, and even when swimming (bubbling sounds occur occasionally). It's best to avoid water unless you have to, since it will put you at a disadvantage and let your enemies know where you are.
Avoid water unless you have no choice.
- Don't hop when covered by good snipers
It's common in first person shooter games for players to hop to avoid enemy fire by making themselves a harder target. But when under watch from very good snipers, hopping can in fact be counterproductive. In normal gravity, in the process of jumping, one's path becomes very predictable -- a good sniper will aim at the bottom of the parabola and pick you off as you land on the ground. To counter this, hoppers can perform mid-air maneuvers in order to try to make their paths less predictable, but in general (especially with the anti-hopping measures coming in 1.4) it's best to just avoid hopping when you know you're under close scrutiny from snipers -- it won't help you avoid getting hit.
Hopping can help make you harder to hit, but not when your opponents are experienced snipers watching you closely.
- Open grates and vents with knives instead of bullets
When on a map with destructible grates or vents, it's often best to open them with a knife instead of a gunfire. Even the most sturdy vents will fall to a knife thrust (the alternate attack), which is reasonably fast and will make considerably less noise than an (unsilenced) firearm. Particularly when coupled with timing -- open a grating when there is nearby gunfire to cover the sound -- a knife, or at least a silenced USP or Colt, can make an effective tactic for sneaking up on an enemy.
A knife thrust (or at least a silenced firearm) is the best way to open a destructible grating or vent.
- Take advantage of background noise when being stealthy
Running at normal speed makes noise; so does opening moving boxes, and opening grates or vents. Walking instead of running will eliminate the noise you make when moving, but to move or open things you generally must make some amount of noise, potentially giving your position away to the enemy. When you're being stealthy, it's in your best interest to wait until there is ambient noise -- such as gunfire -- to make your move. This way the noise you make is less likely to be noticed among the din. If there's no background noise available, you can make your own -- throw a grenade as a decoy.
Take advantage of background firing and grenade explosions to make your move.
- Avoid jumping in low gravity (low gravity)
On servers with low gravity, the worst thing you can do is jump. It sends you sailing through the air in a nice, slow arc, making you an easy target. More importantly, though, your firing accuracy is severely reduced when jumping -- most rifles are nearly useless at even short range when in the air.
If gravity is low, whatever you do -- don't jump.
- Use smoke grenades to provide cover when none is available
Smoke grenades can help provide cover when you're under sniper fire and won't survive a charge. Note that smoke billows out of the grenade slowly, in a rotating pattern -- so make sure you're on the right side of the smoke if you want to take advantage of its cover. Note that the obscurity goes both ways -- if they can't see you, then you can't see them. Excessive use of smoke grenades is often considered exploitative, since it is sometimes used to malicious reduce frame rates for others.
Use smoke for cover -- but quickly, before the smoke fades away and leaves you exposed.
- Use flashbang grenades before charging
Flashbangs are one of the secret weapons of Counter-Strike. Flashbangs blind their opponent, for a period of time that depends on their proximity to the blast. A flashbang at close range, for instance, can leave the victim completely incapacitated for a full ten seconds -- an eternity in close quarters combat. When you know the enemy is lurking around a corner, a flashbang can be a devastating softening up weapon: Throw the flashbang, blind your enemy, and then charge and finish him off. Note that due to their relatively short duration, flashbangs are not very useful unless they are followed up with an immediate charge.
Needless to say, take care not to flashbang yourself or your own team.
- Cover when reloading
When you are reloading you are at your most vulnerable. Different weapons take different amounts of time to reload. The shotguns -- the M3 and XM1014 -- have the most rapid reloading mechanism: You can reload them one round at a time, and fire between rounds. As for the rest of the weapons, they must be reloaded one magazine at a time. It's best to take cover when reloading -- don't continue your assault, and avoid enemy contact until you've finished reloading.
When reloading, take cover and avoid getting the enemy's attention.
- Don't habitually reload after a kill
Many single player games that are superficially like Counter-Strike encourage players to reload almost instinctually after they score a kill, since the next enemy will be around the corner waiting for them. In Counter-Strike this a bad idea, since your enemies will often travel in groups. Instead, conserve ammunition by only using as much as you need to kill your target, and then wait until a lull in the fighting before reloading.
Suppress the urge to immediately reload after every kill. Instead wait until you know there are no enemies nearby.
- Use high-explosive grenades to finish off injured, pinned-down enemies
Grenades are good for softening up the enemy before a charge. They really come into their own, though, when you're fighting against an enemy at moderate distance who has already taken some damage. If he has nowhere to run, then you can toss a HE grenade right into his lap and there's little he can do about it. It is particularly effective when your target is in a confined area where they cannot move about much.
Corner them, pin them down, injure them, and then finish them off with a grenade.
- Switch to sidearm when out of ammunition in a firefight
Out of ammunition with your primary weapon? Switch to your sidearm, or, in the worst case, your knife. Practice this; if you know you're about to have an encounter with an enemy around the corner and already have a few rounds left in your primary, switch to your sidearm early so that you don't waste time switching mid-fight. If you get caught reloading, you can still switch to your sidearm (although obviously your reload won't have completed so your primary will still be out of ammo).
Be ready to switch to your sidearm at a moment's notice.
- Watch alcoves and corners for ambushers
When rushing, be sure you watch for enemies in the nooks and crannies that you're passing. It's quite easy for an enemy to take cover and prepare for an ambush when you're rushing; you can easily find yourself when enemies in cover behind you.
When rushing, don't go blindly; check for ambushers.
- Follow hostages to Counter-Terrorists (Terrorist)
On hostage rescue maps, when the Counter-Terrorists collect the hostages, you can hear the hostages respond (when the Terrorists collect hostages, the hostages do not say anything). As most players know, hostages are somewhat sketchy about how ably they follow their rescuers; often they get stuck in corners or at doorways and have to be led by the nose. When in an open area, though, hostages will make a beeline for their rescuer -- and this affords the pursuing Terrorists an advantage. When you spot a moving hostage, you know he's being rescued, and his motion will provide a direct line to where his rescuers are. Hostages move at about the same speed as a player at a dead run, but given their beeline motion you can often head the rescuers off at the pass.
When the Counter-Terrorists collect the hostages, all is not lost: Follow the hostages to their rescuers.
- Concentrate on what's ahead when rushing
When you're rushing, when you near your target (say, a doorway or a corridor), you should get tunnel vision. Trying to keep tabs on everything that's going on around you is counterproductive; you will easily fall to an enemy up ahead when you're busy looking around. Concentrate on the task ahead of you; you're not going to be able to effectively deal with threats that are flanking you anyway, and your best defense from there will be to get to where you're headed and secure the area.
When you're decidedly advancing, don't get distracted by what's going on around you.
- Immediately retreat when blinded by a flashbang
When you get blinded by a flashbang, it means that the enemy is about to rush. Pull back as best you can (given where you were just before you were blinded); if you can pull back enough, you might widen the distance between you and the advancing enemy enough that your sight returns before they engage you. The worst thing you can do is freeze, or continue your advance. If you are really caught by surprise and know that no friendlies are nearby, sometimes firing blind is the only choice left open to you. You'll probably fall anyway, but maybe you'll manage to hurt one of the advancers so that one of your teammates will have an easier time taking him out later.
When blinded, retreat as best you can.
- Provide assistance for your teammates
You and your team are in this together; the goal is to help your team win the round, not for you to be on top of the heap. When your teammates call for help, provide assistance. When you hear nearby gunfire, divert to the area to see if you can flank an enemy.
You are part of a team; act like it.
- Follow your teammates' lead
In a team-based game, it's important to follow the lead of your teammates that are nearby. If your teammates are waiting in ambush, you should wait in ambush too instead of rushing out and giving their position away. If you're following some people who are clearly trying to be stealthy (by walking instead of running), you should be quiet as well, or otherwise you undo their attempts to not be detected.
Even when you're dealing with players who are far less experienced than you, doing things together as a team will benefit your whole team.
- When sniping known enemy locations, line up and zoom, and then strafe out of cover
When you're sniping, you will frequently find yourself facing off against other players -- possibly also with sniper weapons -- who have either directly spotted you or know the general area in which you're sniping from. When it's snipers vs. snipers, the first to get off the accurate shot wins. When you know the general area of your victims, instead of walking out of cover (where you yourself can be shot), zooming, lining up, and firing, try short-circuiting the process: Instead, when still behind cover, zoom one level and then step out. If you're aiming right, the enemy should be within your line of vision, at which point you can line up, possibly zooming in another level, and finish him off. This can substantially reduce the time you're exposed to enemy fire.
Particularly when the other enemy is already out of cover and is waiting for you to pop out again, this can give you a fighting chance.
- Always buy defuse kit (Counter-Terrorist)
On bomb/defuse maps, it's in the best interests of the Counter-Terrorists to always buy a defuse kit. In previous versions of Counter-Strike, it was fairly expensive, but in 1.3 and up it is only $200, the cost of a flashbang. You should always go out of your way to pick up defuse kits that are lying on the ground due to fallen comrades, as well.
Always get the defuse kit. It's a steal.
- Accomplish your objective to force the other team to make a move
Often the other team will be either camping, or moving cautiously, or waiting for you to make a move. Particularly when the round is drawing to a close and there are only a few surviving players left, you can try and turn the tide of battle by putting your enemies on the defensive. If you're a Counter-Terrorist on a hostage rescue map, go grab the remaining hostage and make a run for it. If you're a Terrorist on a bomb/defuse map, try planting the bomb in order to force your enemies out. And so on. If done carefully, this can often turn the hunter into the hunted, since now you will be taking the initiative and forcing your enemies into predictable, sometimes exposed, behavior (chasing after the hostages and their rescuer, defusing the bomb, etc.).
If you're being hunted, try flipping the script.
- Leave gratings and vents intact when possible
Untouched windows and vents serve as an early warning system. It takes noise to open a vent or grating -- not much if a knife is used, but enough to to be noticed if it's nearby -- and this can alert you to sneaking enemies even when they're not direct line of sight. Even for vents and destructible objects far away, seeing them destroyed -- or noticing later that they're destroyed -- can give you a heads-up as to enemy locations, provided you know your team isn't shooting at them.
If you hold off on destroying vents and gratings, you'll know that when they're gone an enemy was responsible.
- Don't hesitate to sacrifice yourself for the team
The goal of Counter-Strike is for your team to win, not just you. To be a successful Counter-Strike player, you need to put your team above yourself -- and that means your team, not whatever clan you're in this week. To accomplish your objective, that sometimes means laying down your life for the good of the team. When your teammate is planting a bomb, you need to put yourself between him and the enemy. When the VIP is making a hasty retreat, don't hesitate to try to lead the enemy astray by moving out of cover and drawing fire while he can escape. When your teammate is making a run with the hostages trailing behind him, step in the line of fire to give the enemy multiple targets.
Your team always comes first.
- Take out snipers first
Snipers -- enemy on high ground and watching over your advance, whether they're actually using sniper weapons or not -- are your primary concern. When you're on the offensive, competent snipers are the main impediment to achieving your objective. Give the highest priority to taking out the snipers; once they're gone you can continue on.
Snipers are your biggest threat when advancing. Eliminate them first.
- When low on ammo and enemy is nearby, pick up enemy gun
When you're in the thick of things, often successfully reloading before you come across another enemy is the primary impediment to your success. When you've just downed an enemy -- particularly if you caught him unaware so he did not return much fire -- and you need to reload but other enemies are nearby, consider picking up the downed enemy's weapon. Obviously, this is a particularly good idea if his weapon is superior to your own. If your enemies are hunting you, they may wait until right after a firefight to make their move, figuring that you're probably distracted or low on ammo or reloading. Being fully prepared with a fully-loaded weapon can give you the upper hand.
If you're low on ammo, consider picking up weapons from your downed foes.
- When sniping, relocate after being spotted
Snipers are deadly in any realistic game like Counter-Strike -- running out into open without cover is tantamount to suicide. But by the same token, an uncareful sniper can easily be taken down by an enemy sniper, or even an assaulting foe with an accurate weapon (like an AK47 or a Colt) and good aim. If you're sniping, once you're spotted, relocate to another position. It doesn't necessarily have to be far away, your head just needs to be poking out of another area. If you're firing at another sniper who doesn't yet see you and miss, he shortly will -- move to another position and resume the attack.
A sniper in a known location is a soon-to-be-dead sniper.
- If the round ends and you survive, avoid enemy contact
If the round ends by something other than elimination -- i.e., the Counter-Terrorists rescue all the hostages or the Terrorists successfully destroy the bomb site -- then avoid enemy contact. At this point it does you no good to engage the enemy: The round is already over and you only risk getting killed. Part of Counter-Strike is managing your money, and risking losing your current weapon is not worth it when the round is already over.
It doesn't do you any good to engage the enemy once the round is over.
- If you find yourself isolated and outmatched, concentrate on taking out one enemy
Every Counter-Strike player has found themselves out on point and has accidentally stumbled into the spearhead of an enemy assault. When you have no choice but to die, take someone out with you. Instead of spraying bullets at the entire general area, hoping to whittle all of the opponents down, concentrate on one individual and inflict all your might upon him before you get taken down. Your remaining teammates will be better off with one fewer enemy rather than that same amount of damage spread over each enemy.
If you find yourself being overrun and are certain to die, concentrate on taking one enemy with you, to help out your teammates down the line.