The mighty Counter-Strike: Global Offensive just pivoted to free-to-play with a new battle royale mode called Danger Zone. You can try it out now. Danger Zone is one third of Valve’s big gestures towards the market to remind us we love Steam and that we shouldn’t think about that nasty Epic Games store and its juicy exclusives.
You can join Danger Zone as solo, duo, or trio. Solo matches have 16 players, and the other two make for a crowded 18 players. At the moment there’s only one map: Blacksite.
Players will find cash throughout the map and can use a tablet to order gear, after which a friendly Amazon-like drone will fly it to you. The tablet can also be used to see which sections of the map are occupied by players. Much like normal CSGO, there’s an information war before the shooting begins.
More Hazards Than the Circle
The different kinds of hazard is one of the best things that Danger Zone does — even if a lot of its ideas seem lifted from Darwin Project.
For starters, this isn’t your average circle. Different hexagons in Danger Zone’s map will become out-of-bounds (forming a kind of “danger zone,” geddit?). But the way this zone contracts is irregular and random.
It’ll invade different sides when it feels like, and we’ve even seen it start in the middle of the map and grow outward. Players have to keep an eye on their tablet to monitor safe zones.
The map is also periodically bombarded with artillery, at which point it’s best to be inside. Turrets are sprinkled around, attacking anyone they see and denying certain areas until someone is brave enough to blow them up for the ammo they’re guarding.
We’ve seen players die instantly to artillery, but the out-of-bounds zone and turrets actually do minimal damage. It’s entirely possible to dip into danger if the reward is worth it.
Blacksite, the Danger Zone Map
Blacksite is a wider, more open map than CSGO players are used to. It features longer lines of sight, yet the weapon balance is the same as normal CSGO.
This means you’ll often see someone who isn’t worth shooting at. The early game is an extended pistol round, until you can get SMGs and shotguns. Best to save those bullets for when they count. Rifles don’t appear until there are only a few players left, and are airdropped into the middle.
The lack of ammo actually makes shotguns quite desirable. There may not be many shells available, but they’re powerful. You’ll stand a better chance killing someone with five blasts from the Nova than you will from the Glock.
These rocky hills are a change from the flat, polygonal maps CSGO players are used to. Keeping your crosshairs at head height is a tried and tested technique, which is harder when a target’s elevation keeps changing and you get stuck on ankle-high stones.
There are also two hostage rescue points on either side of the map. The unlucky captives can be found at random points, to be carried towards the rescue point for more cash. Similarly, you might find a briefcase with a contract to kill another specific player. Both these in-game missions result in a small amount of money — not worth going out of your way.
The Information Game
Of course, the real hazard is always the other players. Every player can see if a hexagon on the map is occupied or not, and thus which direction to be wary of. If a hexagon shifts its “occupied” highlight to its neighbour, you can pretty accurately guess where they are on the border.
Danger Zone also allows players to gain limited intel on each other and map hazards. Tablet upgrades can be found that show future safe zones, and reveal the paths of drones delivering gear to your rivals.
Even your friendly helper drone can give you away. Enemies can either follow it to your location to ambush you while you loot gear, or they can shoot the drone down to pillage your purchase.
Amusingly though, the drone actually follows the tablet — not the player. It’s entirely possible to order something and ditch the tablet as bait for opportunistic drone hunters.
Is Danger Zone Good?
It’s not competitive, but it’s a good bit of fun. We’re a bit sad that a great pioneer like Darwin Project has no more players, and its bones are free to be picked clean of ideas by larger games like CSGO. But hey, no one truly owns an idea.
It’s encouraging that Valve has been updating the mode constantly throughout its launch period. The initial version suffered from issues with weapon distribution and felt a lot more luck-based. But feedback was rapidly responded to with updates that improved the experience.
There’s no shortage of battle royale games at the moment, but if you’re a CSGO player, you already know the weapons and gear here. It’s an easy transition. Danger Zone isn’t worth getting into CSGO over, but it’s certainly worth it for CSGO players to dive in for a few games.