The pistols in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have been imbalanced since January updates, and AK47 continues to dominate the Colt M4A4. Why?
There was a massive outcry in January after Valve's update to CS:GO made the Glock far too powerful. Some of the complaints have disappeared after two updates and time passing though, despite next to nothing being changed in the big picture of things.
It's true the update on February 21st nerfed especially the burst mode of Glock quite a bit, but it still isn't enough. Terrorists still win two out of three pistols on average on all the maps. Check out some interesting stats below.
AK47 also still continues to dominate the Colt M4A4 as a weapon of choice among professional players, although Valve has continuously argued that a silencer would give the Colt, or rather the defenders, too big of an advantage.
We have now decided to look at our statistics database to see if we can find answers to the current gun balance in CS:GO, and maybe point Valve in the right direction for their future updates.
Glock, P2000 and P250
Prior to the initial update on January 23rd taking place, P250 was clearly the pistol of choice among top players in CS:GO, with some people sticking to P2000 and being Glock the third in popularity.
Just over half of all pistol round frags prior to the January 23rd update were scored with a P250, with an additional 22% coming from the P2000 and just 16% from the Glock.
For counter-terrorists, over 91% of all pistol round frags were scored with either a P250 (50%) or a P2000 (40%), while 86% of terrorist pistol round kills came from the gun barrels of P250 (53%) and Glock (33%).
To put that into perspective, it means that over the course of a map, less than two pistol round kills were scored with a weapon other than those three, with a fairly even split among them.
For comparison's sake, in years 2011-2012 of Counter-Strike 1.6 where the balance was widely considered good, 68% of all pistol round frags were scored with a USP, and Glock came in second with 27%.
Split among teams, over 59% of all terrorist side kills came from a Glock, with an additional 36% from a USP, whereas counter-terrorists over 94% of all kills were scored with a USP, with a majority of the rest coming through HE grenades.
Since the update P250 has seen a drop of 74%, down over half to about one tenth of all kills. Glock has soared from 16% to 52%, an increase of 223%, or roughly from two-to-three kills a map to a whopping ten kills a map, and that's only in pistol rounds.
P2000 usage has risen by just roughly two kills per map, which goes to show the imbalance of the pistols - counter-terrorists simply no longer score nearly as many kills as they did prior to the patch in January.
Pistol round momentum shifts
Prior to the January 23rd update pistol rounds in CS:GO were very well balanced; counter-terrorists had a very slight average after over roughly a thousand pistol rounds, having won 51,2%.
Counter-terrorists held the biggest advantage on de_train_se, where they were victorious roughly 60% of the time. On de_mirage_ce the advantage was 54%, while others had terrorist advantages of less than one percent.
In the update terrorists gained a sizable advantage, seeing a 32% increase, now winning 64% of all pistol rounds. That means terrorists went from winning slightly less than half to two-out-of-three of all pistol rounds overnight.
Broken down by map the biggest change has taken place on de_train_se, where terrorists now win two-out-of-three pistol rounds; a complete reversal of roles in comparison to the past, as seen in the GIF below.
The defenders now have the hardest time on de_dust2_se, where on average they win less than one third of all pistol rounds. No map is much easier though, as terrorists win at least over 61% of pistol rounds on every single map.
To put this into perspective, we can once again compare these numbers to what we saw over the last two years of competitive Counter-Strike, starting in January 2011 and ending in August 2012.
In Counter-Strike 1.6 counter-terrorists were actually favored on each of the most popular five maps, ranging from 62% on de_tuscan to just 51% on de_dust2; a fairly even, yet slightly defender favored split.
Overall in the older Counter-Strike terrorists won 43% of pistol rounds, while the number in CS:GO has been in the region of 64%; up from an even split prior to Valve's update.
Little change in the balance of sides
This absurd change in pistol round wins has not made a huge difference in how entire halves play out though, which could be caused by a number of factors not visible in statistics.
Prior to the massive update of January 23rd, terrorists had won 46% of all played rounds. The update only made the number jump to 47%; a mere change of 1%, or one round in five halves played.
Multiple things varying from the game generally being counter-terrorist sided to teams learning how to play angles to their advantage, control the spray or even focusing on defending in practice as a result of terrorist side being easier could play their part in this.
On the map where pistol rounds took the biggest turn, de_train_se, terrorists have won under 2% more rounds since the update, translating to less one round per two halves, although there's been a jump of 56% in pistol rounds won by terrorists.
That is true despite a won pistol round leading to a 2-0 lead more than 93% of the time, and a 3-0 lead 65% of the time as counter-terrorists. The number for a 3-0 lead is 78% for terrorists, more importantly.
By far the hardest map to win a second round buy is de_nuke_se. Counter-terrorists go up 2-0 an incredible 97% of the time; terrorists have only won that round nine times in our database of 324 such instances.
It's easier to win the first three rounds as terrorists on all maps but de_inferno_se and de_nuke_se, where teams often opt to buy early. Best odds to go up 3-0 are on de_dust2_se, 82% following a pistol round win.
To sum it up, teams must have gotten a whole lot better as counter-terrorists, especially de_train_se, to lose less than a round on average compared to before, despite starting the defensive side down 0-3 as much as 17% more often than in the past.
AK47 versus Colt M4A4
Perhaps the most requested change out of anything that has been brought up for GO has been the missing silencer for Colt M4A4. According to stats, adding it could certainly even things up in the rifle department.
As it stands now, the AK47 is a significantly more popular weapon of choice than its counterpart. A total of 39% of all kills in the game are scored with an AK47, versus a much lower 28% of the Colt.
In Counter-Strike those numbers were 38% for AK and 30% for M4A1; not a big difference on paper, but when you look at the breakdown for counter-terrorists it begins to paint a picture.
In CS:GO under 2% of all terrorist side kills are scored with an M4A4, compared to 13% of counter-terrorist kills starting from an AK47 barrel. That means a total of 15% of all kills are scored with the other team's rifle, and that on the opposing team an AK is picked up much more than an M4A4.
To once again compare it to the older CS title of 1.6, the number was just under 10%, with almost the entire jump coming from players choosing to use an AK47 as the defenders much more often in the new game.
Adding a silencer for the Colt M4A4 would make the weapon more popular without giving anyone an unfair advantage. We've seen literally thousands of people asking for it, and the time really has come for it to be included.
We know Valve's rational that the counter-terrorists would gain an advantage, but I don't think it's such a big difference. Sure, the quieter sound helps its case, but the silencer should also hinder the weapon in some way, as it did with recoil in 1.6.
It also wouldn't give the same advantage in spamming walls as it did in 1.6 on maps like de_nuke and de_dust2 because you can hardly spam anything, and because you can't really hear yourself hitting people through walls as effectively.
Everyone from the public players to competitors and professionals wants it back, and there's even a chance csgo_dev's tweet suggested it is en route back, so hopefully that is the case.
If not, the good guys will be stuck with a weaker weapon that costs $400 more than the AK47, on a side where you have to buy more equipment in general. Something must change.
Better off without changes?
Would Counter-Strike: Global Offensive be better balanced had Valve not attempted to fix the weapons based on what is likely for the most part, since there are more casual than competitive gamers, data from matchmaking and lower levels of play?
You can't be certain they aren't doing the right thing, but I can't imagine it hurting if they were to put a little more emphasis on how the maps are playing out in the professional circuit.
One thing to consider as well is that not every map should be intended to have a 50-50 split in rounds; some of the best maps in CS 1.6, namely de_train and de_nuke, used to be very counter-terrorist sided.
Half scores have lost a lot of their meaning in CS:GO where more often than not teams switch sides with a 9-6 lead at most, which means they often don't even get put in situations where they'd need to mount massive comebacks.
The game will keep evolving regardless of Valve's future plans, but I do believe making some adjustments and adding the silencer for the Colt M4A4 would improve the game in its current state.
Most importantly, something needs to be done about the pistols, as soon as possible. Regardless of the affect they are or aren't having on half scores, they simply aren't balanced as it stands.
Either the Glock should be nerfed, or the P2000 would have to be improved in comparison to its counterpart. As of right now, as the data proves, the Glock is simply out of this world as a pistol round weapon.
What would you like to see changed next in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive? Where should Valve's developer team next focus their efforts? Leave a comment below.