Valve’s core idea for the newest installment of Counter-Strike is a simple one: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The first new addition to the much-loved Counter-Strike franchise in almost 8 years drew throngs of fans at this year’s Penny Arcade Expo. The line to be one of the first people to demo the new game stretched through the crowds of nerds, peaking at nearly a two-hour wait time.

For those of you Counter-Strike fans who might be worried about a maiming of your beloved franchise, calm yourselves; while there has been a major graphical overhaul and a couple of tweaks, this is still the Counter-Strike you know and love. All the major elements that have stuck with the franchise from the beginning are still there, as well as a few additional elements aimed at making the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Foremost among those additions are a skill-based matchmaking system and separate servers for competitive and casual players, which are meant to pit players of the same skill-level together. For the competitive players, games will feature longer “freeze time” (immobile time before the game begins) for strategizing and planning and shorter, quicker-paced games than the casual servers.

Valve’s understanding that not everyone is out to be a pro and that some people just want to play a game or two with their buddies is the driving force behind the new casual mode, which will give players more money, longer and more relaxed games, and the ability to chat with the opposing team. The mode will also prioritize matching you in games with your friends over games with matching skill levels.

Some other changes to the game include 8 new weapons including the first area-denial weapon, the Molotov Cocktail, tweaks to under-powered weapons from Source that saw little play, new game modes (Valve is remaining tight-lipped on the details), and the addition of cross-platform play. Players on the 360, PS3, Mac, and PC will all be able to get matched with each other.

The game is planned for launch sometime early next year, but for those of you eager beavers who just can’t wait that long to try it out, the game is expected to enter beta sometime in October.

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