Tagged: Austin Wintory

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Music Kits Series 5: Of Masterminds and Missing Links.

I never thought I would ever come back to this. After a steady stream of music packs released throughout 2014-2016, I assumed Valve was done with the whole “CS:GO music kit” concept. After the Radicals Box hit in 2016, there had been nary a peep when it comes to that kind of content.

Then something changed. Throughout 2019 to 2020, Valve started slowly doling out individual kits, which was a better strategy to me as I could basically write about them when I had enough music kits to review. Then in late April of this year, they just dropped a pack of 7 new kits, which means I had to throw those plans immediately in the garbage.

It’s weird. The last major music kit release was in 2016, so to see them go from absolute silence to adding new ones every few months is a surprise. Especially with the spread of musicians we have on offer this time.

While I don’t play much Counter-Strike: Global Offensive these days – Call of Duty: Warzone has been my current vice, as my previous article could tell you – I still find some charm in the game. Global Offensive does things that seem absolutely baffling by modern shooter standards, yet works perfectly well without feeling too old school and too modern. That Valve has mostly stuck with it while adding elements of its competition like character skins makes it interesting to look at as a game, even if I’m not as invested as I once was. But we’re here to talk about the music, and talk we shall.

This was available first to people on Patreon. If you wanna see content like this one week early, check it out here. Just $1 will get you to see this content early.

To start, I’ll cover the four music kits released in the interim between the Radicals Box and the Masterminds Box. Like before, I’ll cover information about the musician in question, whether the music itself is good, and whether it fits in the context of Global Offensive’s gameplay. I’ll finish it off with a verdict. So let’s get started.

Like before, I’ll link to a YouTube video or to CS:GO Stash if you want to listen along.

The Verkkars, EZ4ENCE

DESCRIPTION: The Verkkars rise through the Finnish charts with a heart-pounding tribute to ENCE. Can it really be so EZ?

LISTEN ON: YouTube (courtesy of YouTube user ThEMaSkeD), CS:GO Stash

AVAILABILITY: Available for purchase as a standard kit for $4.99, a StatTrak variant for $7.99, or on the Steam marketplace.

The first of the interim kits, this was released as a promotional kit after the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice tournament in 2019. The Verkkars are an electronic dance band based in Finland, the same country that Major qualifiers ENCE are from.

ENCE is an eSports team that consists of noted Finnish CS:GO players, including allu, one of the replacements for Fifflaren in the classic CS:GO Ninjas in Pyjamas lineup, and was a fairly reliable player during his tenure with that team. Combined with some other good players from the Finnish CS:GO scene, they came to be the underdogs of the tournament, getting as far as the finals in Katowice.

The downside was that their opponents in that final were Astralis. Or as I like to call them, The New England Patriots of Counter-Strike: A team that you can’t deny their high-tier skill and abilities while playing, but they are absolutely boring to watch them dominate everyone. (Surprising no one, Astralis beat ENCE 2-0 in the final, winning their second consecutive Valve-sponsored major.)

This was clearly made as a promotion for the team ENCE, and the title is a reference to a line that people were spamming in Twitch chat about the team when they were at their peak. The song itself is… okay. It’s bog-standard EDM. It really didn’t grab me.

Then the chorus got stuck in my head. The whole song is in Finnish (except for some sampled English dialogue from a tournament that plays during the breakdown), but the tone of the chorus just… hits the right notes to just get stuck in my head in the most obnoxious way.

I put “EZ4ENCE” in a category I’ve called “terrible god damn earworms,” where a specific portion of a song – usually the chorus – gets stuck in your head in all the worse ways and never ever leaves you. The Verkkars’ ENCE anthem is in the same league as Paul Oakenfold’s “Starry Eyed Surprise,” or Paul McCartney’s “Temporary Secretary,” which is quite an impressive feat.

If you’re a fan of the team, it’s a good pack. If you’re not, Mord Fustang’s Diamonds does the same kind of EDM stuff but without the earworm chorus. Even listening to it again for this review has that damn chorus stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

EZ4ENCE, ENCE, ENCE

Dens putted upperbelt

Putted upperbelt…

VERDICT: Only recommended if you’re a fan of the team. Otherwise I lightly recommend it, get it on the Steam marketplace.

Scarlxrd, King, Scar

DESCRIPTION: Scarlxrd blends heavy trap beats with a flow and delivery that creates his own unique subgenre. With this exciting blend his live shows capture the attention of everyone in the crowd.

LISTEN ON: YouTube (courtesy of YouTube user George), CS:GO Stash

AVAILABILITY: Available for purchase as a standard kit for $4.99, a StatTrak variant for $7.99, or on the Steam marketplace.

Okay, I don’t want to be That Person, you know, the one who doesn’t “get” present-day music. But I do not understand the trap genre of music, and I certainly don’t understand Scarlxrd. (That’s pronounced “scar-lord,” if you’re wondering.) He’s a young musician that makes mostly trap music, a sort of electronic rap genre that admittedly I don’t know all that well. Scarlxrd’s style is mixing trap music with some Japanese style and unusual character replacements for flavor.

It’s a shame that it’s not good music. The song itself, also called “King, Scar,” is obnoxious, prodding noise. It’s really hard to listen to, where Scarlxrd basically yells his lyrics in a harsh, robotic tone, while sticking with the very swing-like rhythm of him screaming hey and amplified bass that makes it sound like my speakers are being blown out.

Since I don’t enjoy the song itself, which plays in the main menu, it’s really hard to recommend the rest of the kit. Any track that’s just the introduction with the prominent toy box sounds are the best part because it doesn’t go full force, in-your-face about it. But then the vocals kick in and it becomes outright unbearable. This doesn’t even have the “lightly bang your head along” factor that some hip-hop has to me, it’s just too brash to really enjoy as a song, even as a music kit.

Keep in mind, there’s probably good music in this genre, hell probably even by Scarlxrd himself, but this is a bad, bad music kit. If anything, this song now rivals Hundredth’s Free in the “great if you want an obnoxious MVP anthem” category, which I didn’t know there was competition.

VERDICT: Not recommended. Straight up. This will probably be the only one in this list that I can say I actively dislike.
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A look at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s original music kits.

So for the past month and a half, I’ve been fixated on something a bit unusual:

When you need some jams while getting the ace on Dust II.

Valve introduced “music kits” to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive back in October 2014. These special items replace the game’s default music with unique tracks by nine different musicians. You can get one of these offered randomly in-game for $4.99, or buy one on the Steam marketplace if you’re looking for a specific one. Alternatively while in-game, you can borrow anyone’s music kit if they have one equipped, so you can give it a try in action.

I love video game music. I also tend to get nerdy about the parts of video game music most people don’t notice. Naturally when this was announced, I was excited for something that was probably done to distract us from how broken the CZ75-Auto is in CS:GO (at the time). But I was curious on what each one sounded like, and if they were any good.

The first nine music kits introduced. A nice mix of game composers, DJs and hard rockers.

For the sake of this, I’m gonna give a review of each kit. Granted, I’m not an expert at reviewing music, but I’ll try to review it to the best of my abilities, and links that feature each kit so you can listen to them for yourself. Without further ado, let’s get started.

I’m not gonna review the stock default that’s been in the game since 2012, but I will say this: It’s fine. It works. It’s credited to just “Valve,” but some of it seems to be split between Valve composer mainstay Mike Morasky and DOTA2/Myst V composer Tim Larkin. It’s what I kinda hate about Valve’s philosophy of only crediting the company rather than specific employees: It makes it harder to credit who made who.

(Videos courtesy of YouTube user TheLeafyfille.)

Austin Wintory, Desert Fire

DESCRIPTION: Grammy nominated game composer Austin Wintory asks, why bother hunting your enemies when you can lure them in with a deadly, admittedly insane, tango?

LISTEN ON: YouTube, CS:GO Stash

Austin Wintory’s done music for most of thatgamecompany’s work, such as fl0w, and Journey, which I heard was a great game. (I still need to get around to playing that one.) Out of all the game composers featured here, barring Sean Murray, I’d say he’s probably the most famous game composer out of everyone here.

Wintory’s Desert Fire opts for an acoustic guitar with an orchestral accompaniment, fitting right at home on maps like Inferno, Mirage or Dust II. One of my favorites is the second action cue (startaction02) that plays immediately as a round starts, with a brassy horn section finely tuned to the action. The MVP Anthem is another favorite, with quick percussion and a flute solo, which fits perfectly for when you fragged the entire enemy team, or successfully defused a bomb.

It may be a bit cliche on the acoustic guitars and the woodwinds, but it works insanely well. We’re already off to a great start.

VERDICT: Highly recommended.

Daniel Sadowski, Crimson Assault

DESCRIPTION: Video Game Composer Daniel Sadowski delivers Edgy Action mixed with CRAZY FAT beats in this pulsating, exhilarating Music Pack.

LISTEN ON: YouTube, CS:GO Stash

I’ve never heard of Daniel Sadowski, but he’s done music here and there for some movies and games, most notable the 2009 A Boy and His Blob reboot, and doing music for something like Counter-Strike is enough to get you noticed more, so good on him.

Crimson Assault goes heavy on the techno, a 3-note motif appearing throughout all the tracks in his score, becoming the only notable thing about it. The score itself is very much pulse-pounding action, and the bomb timer music being one of the highlights, fitting perfectly with the suspense of bomb defusal mode.

This music kit took a good while to grow on me. At first, I felt it was bad techno and was probably the worst of the pack, but after a few listens and hearing it in action in-game, it fits in CS:GO. If you’re looking for something that will get your blood pumping, Crimson Assault’s not a bad choice.

VERDICT: Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam Marketplace on discount.

Dren, Death’s Head Demolition

DESCRIPTION: From game music composer Dren, this cinematic, superhero-metal inspired music pack puts the ‘ill’ into KILL!

LISTEN ON: YouTube, CS:GO Stash

For this first group of music kits, Valve really went all over the place with who they chose. Dren isn’t a composer I’m familiar with, but he’s done music for other games, mostly mobile games like Transformers: Age of Extinction. As I said, getting featured in a game like this gets you noticed, especially with his music kit.

Filled with heavy percussion and a chugging bass line, Death’s Head Demolition ends up being a good mix of dramatic orchestral score with subtle hints of rock, which does crop up on some other games like Call of Duty. It makes it feel very innocuous, which isn’t bad, it compliments the game without being too obnoxious. This was another one that I thought wasn’t great as first, but after a few listens and hearing it in-game, it fits perfectly fine in the game.

If CS:GO didn’t have a soundtrack in it already, Death’s Head Demolition would probably be the closest to an “official” soundtrack. It strikes a good balance of orchestra and rock, fitting right at home in a game like this. Death’s Head Demolition’s a good music kit, even if it’s not incredibly outstanding.

VERDICT: Recommended.

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