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.
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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?
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
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.
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. Continue reading…
I’ll admit that my interest in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has dropped off in recent months. There not being a lot of major updates is the main reason, but also because I love when they announce new music kits. Just when I thought Valve was basically saving 2017 to be the “year of CS:GO,” they drop a bomb on us:
A bunch of gloves that are rare as a god damn knife, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about those darn music kit!
I know this whole project sounds silly, but I’m always interested in what musicians Valve can cajole into this project. This time, it’s all lumped into a $7 case called “The Radicals Box”, and they’re all “StatTrak” versions so any time you get an MVP in a competitive match, your teammates and enemies will know how awesome you are.
This time, we got seven more music kits. Three of them are from bands from Red Bull Records, which I covered previously, while three more are from a different record label, Hopeless Records, the band that notably had artists like Taking Back Sunday, Sum 41 and Yellowcard. Sadly those bands aren’t featured here, but instead we get the B-tier bands on their catalog. The last remaining kit is from a returning musician, and it fits with the theme of rock and metal. (Hint: It’s not Daniel Sadowski.)
Like before, I’ll link to a YouTube page and the CS:GO Stash page so you can listen along. That being said, let’s get rocking.
DESCRIPTION: Beartooth is back for round two. This new music kit hits harder and is even more aggressive. We’ve also made the MVP anthem extra heavy so your opponents feel really bad after they’ve lost to you.
Our first returning act, Beartooth has another pack based on their newest album, Aggressive. Their last music kit was one of those that took a while to warm up to, but this one’s actually damn good. All the tracks are various cuts from the album, in instrumental form. “Loser” highlights as the main menu track, and their other singles “Aggressive,” “Always Dead” and “Hated” contribute to various parts of the kit from action cues to bomb timers. But they even went for album cuts for the remaining sections, such as “Censored” being one of the round/action cue timers.
Since these are the instrumentals, they really do highlight the rocking metal feel of the tracks without someone screeching over them. This also didn’t take long for me to like it, compared to “Disgusting”, which took a while for me to warm up to.
VERDICT: Recommended. A lot less harsh than Disgusting, and is quite catchy in spots.
Blitz Kids, The Good Youth
British Pop/Punk band Blitz Kids brings you the perfect music kit for rushing B while thinking about those night drives you had with your friends in High School. This kit is for going fast and feeling young.
Another Red Bull Records contributor, Blitz Kids’ appearance here is a bit of an odd one. An alternative rock band, the music kit name and the songs are all from their second and final album, and their sole one with Red Bull Records.
Notice I said “second and final album.” Yeah, Blitz Kids disbanded in late 2015. I seriously hope that the disbanded band members are getting royalties from this kit, otherwise it’d be pretty scummy to make money off a band that’s no longer active.
The kit itself features “Run for Cover” as the main menu track, and much like the Beartooth kit above, Red Bull Records opted for lots of album cuts to round out the kit, such as “On my Own” being the bomb timer, “Sometimes” as the Choose Teamcue, and “Keep Swinging” being one of the action cues.
I like this kit because it’s got that nice alt-rock feel, with occasional synthesizer breaks and string sections, giving it a nice, grandiose feel to the music. Though, using the same song, “The Soul of a Lost Generation” as both the Win and Lose Round cues seem a bit off since they sound too similar. It’s not a deal breaker, but certainly weird.
Again, I hope Red Bull Records vetted this with the previous band members, otherwise they might be in legal trouble. It would be funny for a music kit to become “contraband” like gun skins did, though…
VERDICT: Like alternative rock? Want something a bit lighter than the harsher metal fare? This will work. Recommended.
DESCRIPTION: Hundredth is bringing heavy to the world with their unique take on melodic hardcore. Break free or return to Dust with this perfect soundtrack for fragging the unworthy.
Our first collaborator from Hopeless Records, Hundredth is who you’d expect: Hard riffs, fast pacing, screeching vocals. If these guys were around just five years earlier, I’d see them being prime Rock Band Network candidates.
Now, at this point I’ve been lauding Red Bull Records and their PR/mixer guy using the entire album for various tracks in their music kits. I wish I could say the same about these guys.
First, no instrumentals, so these are the first music kits where we having singing and actual lyrics. Second, only three songs encompass the entire music kit, and they’re all album singles, and finally, lots and lots of awkward choices for tracks because they’re not instrumentals.
“Break Free,” “Unravel,” and “Inside Out” are the three songs used here, and they just seem so chopped together that they sound awful. It doesn’t help the “screechy heavy metal” is not my kind of genre, so this is one I have a hard time recommending to anyone, unless you’re familiar with the band itself. At least the MVP Anthem is probably enough to annoy people.
VERDICT: So lazily put together. Screeching vocals ruining good music, and using three songs to mash up into 6 minutes of music feels slapdash. Not recommended.
About a day or so after I finished writing the last post about Counter-Life, I took a nap. When I woke up, I found out about this:
More CS:GO music kits.
Not only more of them, but practically doubling the total number of music kits from 16 to 30. I nearly fainted after that. This time it seems we’re getting a big variety sampler pack, from returning artists to new contributions from notable film composers, to even an interesting collaboration between Valve and a record label. In addition to the new music kits, they now added “StatTrak” variants that keep track of the times you’ve become the MVP in competitive matches. It seems a bit silly, almost like a joke someone made to Valve without saying they were kidding afterwards. But if you want it, it’s there for $6.99 if you want them, or on the marketplace for cheaper.
Since I’ve written about the previous ones before, it’d be remiss of me not to continue the tradition. Like before, I’m gonna write how I felt about each one, mentioning some of my favorite tracks, and whether or not it’s worth the $5-7 to grab, with a quick verdict at the end.
Now in the last collection, I had made videos of the new kits, but this time I passed on doing that. It’s not that it wasn’t fun to make, it’s that considering my meticulous nature for making these things, I would’ve taken a month to work on something that’s already been eclipsed by other YouTubers for lesser effort. So for the sake of this, I linked to other YouTubers or CSGOStash if you wanna listen along.
So without further ado, let’s get started…
AWOLNATION, I Am
DESCRIPTION: AWOLNATION Alternative Rocker AWOLNATION brings you a music kit for the ages. This kit is jam-packed with an eclectic selection of tunes and includes cuts from singles ‘I Am’ and multi-platinum hit ‘Sail’.
Over the past year or so, we’ve gotten fairly notable electronic musicians: Noisia, Feed Me, that sort of jazz. For this series of kits, Valve teamed up with Red Bull Records to bring three notable artists from their label, including AWOLNATION.
AWOLNATION (yes, in all caps) is a notable artist because of their multi-platinum award winning song “Sail.” A lot of this music kit features tracks from their recent album Run, though it’s all instrumental with the occasional shout here and there.
Alas my knowledge of the band comes from “Sail” and little else, so I had to hunt down what songs were used for each track thanks to Spotify.
The kit is named after one of the songs, “I Am.” Surprisingly, it’s not the main menu track as expected, but another track from the album, “Windows.” Other songs like “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”, “Run” and “Jailbreak” are used for the Action cues, Bomb Timers and Lost Round/10 Second Timer, respectively. “I Am” shows up as one of the action cues, whereas their biggest hit “Sail”, the only song from their previous album, shows up as both an action cue and the MVP Anthem.
Yep, once you frag dudes and get the MVP, everyone will be hearing the keys along with Aaron Bruno yelling “SAIL!” at the end. It’s worth it just for that alone.
VERDICT: Recommended just on the MVP Anthem alone.
DESCRIPTION: Beartooth brings an agressive [sic] back-to-basics hardcore stomp that gets crowds moving and breaking stuff. A perfect soundtrack for your no-scope scout frags. Rock ’till you’re dead.
Here’s Valve/Red Bull Records collab number two. Beartooth is a metalcore band by Caleb Shomo of Attack Attack! fame. (Just so we’re clear: We’re talking about the Attack Attack that did that awful guitar crab-walking to a song called “Stick Stickly,” not the Attack Attack from Wales that’s the infinitely superior band.)
I’m fairly picky about my taste of music. If there’s anything I hate about metal sometimes, it’s a guy screeching incomprehensible words into the microphone. If that’s all the talent you need to be a metal singer, then I should be auditioning to be one right now. Thank god the music kit is strictly instrumental, which unearths some pretty decent metal underneath.
All the songs here come from their 2014 album Disgusting. Their single “In Between” serves as the main menu track, whereas other songs like “Keep Your American Dream” and “Body Bag” are the action/round cues. There’s some pretty okay metal on these tracks, and if you loved stuff like Skog’s Metal from the original set of nine, this is right up your alley. I’d be okay with them releasing more stuff like this.
VERDICT: Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam marketplace for cheap. Great for those who want more rocking in their CS:GO soundtracks.
Daniel Sadowski, The 8-Bit Kit
DESCRIPTION: Daniel Sadowski creates the first ever 8-bit Music Kit for Counter-Strike complete with authentic 8-bit sounds.
Our first returning composer, and I honestly wasn’t expecting him to return for a third time. This is Sadowski’s third music kit for CS:GO. This, along with the DOTA 2 music kit he also did recently, makes me think he’s practically a official composer for Valve considering how much he contributes to their games recently. It’s great, really.
Considering the name, you can guess this aims for a chiptune approach, which is drastically different from his previous offerings (Crimson Assault and Total Domination). While we got fairly close to chiptune with an unused MVP track in Feed Me’s High Noon, this is the first music kit to actually go for the retro game music approach, and he does a fine job here.
Some of my favorites include the Start Round, Choose Team and Start Action tunes. A lot of these fit right in line with NES-era music, which I consider to be a fairly difficult thing to master.
After hearing this, I’d love to actually see notable chiptune composers have their take on chiptune game music for CS:GO, such as Rushjet1, or Danny Baranowsky. If someone like Sadowski can make a solid retro game music soundtrack, I’d love to hear someone else’s take at this.
VERDICT: Recommended. Good for those who love chiptunes that actually are chiptunes and aren’t just someone adding samples to crappy MIDIs.
Darude, Moments CSGO
DESCRIPTION: Yield freely in the soundscapes of Finnish producer Darude’s familiar musical flavours and tones. Enriching yourself with access to a heavy fusion of progressive overtones and scores of tingling melodic structure from the sounds banks of one of dance music’s most renowned pioneers.
Ah yes, Darude. That guy who made that “Sandstorm” song that got popular in the early 2000s. Then it got popular again because Twitch chat users thought it’d be funny to go “DUDUDUDUDUDUDU Kappa” and make “Sandstorm” jokes on DOTA2 and CS:GO matches. It seems Darude has taken this in stride, at one point DJing at The International 4 after party and pretty much trolling the entire crowd by teasing “Sandstorm” the entire night before finishing it as the encore.
I’ll mention this upfront: No, “Sandstorm” is not in this kit. The kit itself has tracks that sound like “Sandstorm,” but none of the tracks are actually “Sandstorm.” Rather, it’s a unique track made specifically for the game, though it’s titled after his most recent album. Despite being named after an existing Darude song, “Moments,” it sounds nothing like the music kit featured here. In fact, I really couldn’t find the song he used here, so it’s likely an original composition named after his most recent work.
A lot of the tracks have the same catchy beat to it, with additional instrumentation where appropriate. The first Start Round/Action has good instrumentation, and I like the slowdown touches on the Round Loss and Deathcam cues. But a lot of it sounds similar, which is slightly disappointing, but hey, this is a bigger get than when DOTA2 got deadmau5.
VERDICT: Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam marketplace on discount. It’s not Sandstorm, but Darude made a good enough substitute.
Let’s ignore the stickers here and look at the big prize: NEW MUSIC!
It’s that time again. On February 12, 2015, Valve introduced a second batch of music kits for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I had written about the first nine late last year, and it’s become one of my more popular posts recently. If you wanna see my reviews for the first nine music kits, click here.
Since there’s new ones, I thought it’d be nice to come back and write about these brand new ones and see if they’re worth your money.
Naturally, I’m going to review these, complete with videos so you can listen along. Like before, these music kits will randomly appear in the game as an offer for $4.99 for a standard one, or $6.99 for a StatTrak one that counts your MVPs in competitive matches. If you’re cheap like me, you can buy these on the Steam Marketplace at a cheaper value if there’s a specific kit you’re interested in.
I’m also gonna throw one in that came out in December, after I had written the original CS:GO music kits post. Consider these music kits part of a “Series 2,” if you will.
(The Midnight Riders music kit video is courtesy of YouTube user wtiw. All the other music kit videos are made by me.)
Wow, the first official Valve crossover in CS:GO. Granted, some of the maps in Arms Race and Demolition are based off stuff from Left 4 Dead 2, but this is the first item that actually references another game entirely.
Midnight Riders is a fictional band that appears in the Left 4 Dead 2 universe. Their music is mostly southern rock, with such awesome songs like “Midnight Ride” and “One Bad Man.” In late 2009, they released a new track, “All I Want for Christmas is to Kick Your Ass,” which is used as the base of this music kit.
Most of the kit is taking the 3 minute track and splicing it together to fit CS:GO‘s music. Some of these, like Round Start 1, Lost Round and Death Cam make good stingers, but the rest is kinda slapped together, especially since a lot of the tracks like Won Round have a hard stop that’s a bit jarring. More proof that this feels slapped together is that the Bomb 10 Second Timer and Round 10 Second Timer are exactly the same. There’s not even any changes in instruments, they are literally the same track. Feels real lazy.
Compared to the other music kits, this seems slapped together as a Christmas promotion, and it could’ve been better. This one is currently unavailable for purchase in game, but you can still buy it on the Steam Marketplace if you’re curious. Though I can’t blame you if you’re not interested.
I wouldn’t mind seeing another Midnight Riders music kit, just put a bit more effort into it next time, Would you Valve?
VERDICT: Want some holiday cheer? This’ll work. Even works outside of the holiday season. Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam marketplace on discount.
Damjan Mravunac, The Talos Principle
DESCRIPTION: “Composer Damjan Mravunac blends energetic cinematic grooves with epic choirs in this music pack featuring music from Croteam’s critically acclaimed title “The Talos Principle”.”
Looks like most of these music kits are going into crossover territory lately. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, personally.
Damjan Mravunac (that’s a hard name to spell and pronounce, btw) is a noted composer who’s been in the game music world for years. Most notably he’s worked on the music for most of Croteam’s games, going back to Serious Sam: The First Encounter in 2001, and returned for Croteam’s then-newest game, the critically acclaimed The Talos Principle. This is the second time an existing soundtrack has been modified to work in CS:GO, so let’s see what they did.
The main menu opts to use “False God” from the official soundtrack, though a little faster than the soundtrack variation, which makes the main menu sound very dramatic. In fact, all the tunes featured here seem faster than the ones according to the official soundtrack, which actually fits more than the original versions did. “Virgo Serena” and “The End of the Process” art used for the Round Loss and MVP Anthem respectively, which is probably the more triumphant one I’ve heard out of all the music kits to date.
Alas, I couldn’t pinpoint where the other tracks are used according to the official soundtrack, so I assume they’re based on in-game tracks that are not part of the official soundtrack. (Though if I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments.) Despite my inexperience with research, the rest of the music is a perfectly dramatic bombast, making even planting bombs in game sound like the most suspenseful thing in the world.
Mravunac made a very suspenseful and dramatic score in The Talos Principle, and it fits wonderfully here in CS:GO. Even though I haven’t played The Talos Principle, I still enjoyed the music kit because of its dramatic nature. One I’d recommend even if you haven’t played the game.
VERDICT: Highly recommended, even if you haven’t played The Talos Principle like I have.
Daniel Sadowski, Total Domination
DESCRIPTION: Composer Daniel Sadowski raises the bar with aggressive electronic beats, creative sound fx and an exhilerating, [sic] driving, futuristic vibe. “Warning: Will cause a rise in adrenaline!”
Oh hey, Daniel Sadowski‘s back. Our first returning composer, Sadowski did the Crimson Assault pack last year, which took a while for me to warm up to. His second work, “Total Domination,” however, hit me from the get-go, and it sounds amazing.
Much like Crimson Assault, Total Domination opts for lots of synth, though no dramatic Call of Duty-esque strings this time. At times, Total Domination sounds like it’d fit in a late ’90s-early 2000s era action game, like Unreal Tournament. It even has random speech samples that remind me of MOD tracker music, and anything that reminds me of that era is great in my book.
Even though the main menu and bomb timer are action packed, certain tracks like the Round Start and Round Action cues tone down the action, giving it a bit of suspense and reminding me of similar music from other games, like Overgrowth’s Receiver. It must be the instruments used, but it has a similar sound.
Total Domination is a great music kit just for the main theme, the rest is just a bonus. A very solid music kit.
VERDICT: Highly recommended, especially if you’re into that late ’90s electronic sound.
Various Artists, Hotline Miami
DESCRIPTION: A multitude of electronic artists deliver brutal beats in this exhilarating Music Pack from the iconic Hotline Miami.
Oh boy, a third crossover?! Man, we’re getting all buddy-buddy in this CS:GO world. The Hotline Miami music kit takes select tracks from the critically acclaimed soundtrack of the same name. Since all the tracks are taken from the original game and modified for CS:GO, I’ll review it by comparing what tracks they chose.
MOON’s “Crystals” is the Main Menu theme, which doesn’t fit that well here. Sun Araw’s “Horse Steppin” or “Deep Cover” would’ve been much better choices, especially since the former is the original game’s main menu. MOON’s “Hydrogen” and Scattle’s “Knock Knock” are the game’s action and round start cues, though I would’ve thrown in El Huervo’s “Turf” or Scattle’s “Inner Animal” for a potential third set. Oddly, both the round start cues have a weird reverse effect before the track begins, and a strange slow down fade on the action tracks that you probably won’t hear in game. Not sure why Devolver Digital thought it’d be cool to mix them this way, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Where I think they made the biggest blunder was the bomb timer cue. They used Perturbator’s “Vengeance.” But the portion they chose to use was the introduction of the track and then cut to a different part of the track for the 10 second timers, but they just fade out, sounding real sloppy in game with no tension whatsoever. I would’ve chosen Scattle’s “To the Top” as the bomb timer music instead, or would have edited “Vengeance” a little better to make it better fit CS:GO‘s mold.
Despite that issue, they made great choices for the round win (Purturbator’s “Miami Disco”), round loss (Eirik Suhrke’s “A New Morning”) and MVP anthem (Jasper Byrne’s “Hotline”). If CSGO supported multiple win or loss cues, some of the other cuts from Hotline Miami’s soundtrack would’ve been great additions.
This isn’t a bad music kit, it just has some strange soundtrack choices. Hotline Miami had an amazing soundtrack, and for them to outright omit some of the best tracks is disappointing. Though if you loved the hell out of the game’s soundtrack, being able to hear it while playing CS:GO is a treat.
VERDICT: Recommended, but honestly could’ve been a better selection of cuts used. Get it on discount on the Steam marketplace.
Mateo Messina, For No Mankind
DESCRIPTION: Own your enemies. Pure intensity by Grammy winning composer, Mateo Messina.
So we’ve seen crossover works, and a returning game composer do a music kit. How about a film composer next?
Mateo Messina is a noted film and TV composer, composing music for many films such as Juno and Thank You for Smoking. I believe this is his first video game score, and it’s interesting in his approach with For No Mankind.
For No Mankind goes heavy on the cello with mixed synths and heavy percussion. This is very apparent on a lot of the tracks. This reminds me a lot of John Powell’s work on the Bourne series of movies, especially Start Action 2, which would probably fit right at home in a scene from a Bourne movie.
Some other tracks, like Start Round 2, the Round 10 Second Timer emphasize piano, sometimes to compliment the rest of the track, or in the case of the Bomb 10 Second Timer, emphasize it strongly. However, I think the Round and Bomb 10 second timers should be switched so that they flow a bit better, since the Bomb 10 second timer doesn’t have cello in the background and it’s a bit jarring. Though that could be intentional, who knows?
I really like this one because of its dramatic spy thriller tone. This is a good one if you want something brings the dramatic tension much akin to a modern spy thriller. Here’s hoping Messina tries to branch further out into video games, I could see him making a wonderful game score if this music kit is any indication.
VERDICT: Recommended, especially if you’re wanting something that feels like you’re in a spy/drama flick.
Matt Lange, IsoRhythm
DESCRIPTION: Indulge your aural senses in a collection of cinematic, glitchy atmospheres and hard-hitting throbbing rhythms by electronic producer and innovator Matt Lange.
Our last one is Matt Lange, a noted DJ/producer who’s done lots of electronic music work. While he’s done remixing for games like Halo 4, I believe this is his first exclusive video game score. According to Vibe, he’s their #1 electronic artist to watch out for in 2014, so he’s probably gonna be a big name in the electronic scene. But for now, let’s see how he did with his CS:GO music kit, IsoRhythm.
The Main Menu reminds of some modern electronic music, with syncopated beats mixed in with dramatic strings. Eventually it slows down, leading to a piano interlude before the main melody drops back in with heavy electronic guitar riffs. Other cues, like the Start Round cue, go for fast techno beats that would fit perfectly while dancing in the club.
Other cues, like the Round Win and Loss cues, are very subdued, which remind me a bit of Sasha’s LNOE and Noisia’s Sharpened. Though the big standout track is the bomb timer. It’s a really tense, dramatic cue that slowly builds up as it goes through. The Bomb 10 Second Timer is especially interesting, it’s not really a tune as it’s a bunch of heavy pulse-pounding beats that sounds very much like a ticking timebomb as the bomb is about to go off. I bet this sounds great in game.
The electronic musicians that are featured in CS:GO thus far have been good to great, and Matt Lange’s IsoRhythm is no exception. While I’m not a super fan of this kind of music, I can see this being real popular with some of the CS:GO community considering their fondness for electronic music, if tournament streams are any indication.
VERDICT: Recommended. Fits the electronic mold better than some of the other contributions.
That’s it for now. I’ll say it again: I like this idea because each and every individual composer featured here has their own unique “take” on the game, and it makes each of them stand out that much more. Unlike the original nine kits, I’d say these are all pretty good in their own unique way, and there’s really no bad one here in the bunch.
PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: The Talos Principle, Total Domination, For No Mankind.
I hope Valve keeps going with this, just to see who else will contribute music to the CS:GO world. Still waiting for that Simon Viklund music kit…
Check out the other CS:GO Music Kits collections:
– “Series 1” is the initial set of nine music kits, released on October 10, 2014. Featuring a varied group of musicians from game composers Austin Wintory, Daniel Sadowski and Sean Murray, to EDM artists like Feed Me and Sasha, to hard metal from Jocke Skog.
– “Series 3“, released on September 24, 2015, added 14 new kits, featuring return musicians Jocke Skog and Daniel Sadowski alongside Red Bull Records bands like AWOLNATION, Beartooth and New Beat Fund; and from other TV and film composers such as Michael Bross, Ian Hultquist and Lennie Moore.
– “Series 4“, released on November 28, 2016, introduced the “Radicals Music Box,” featuring works from Red Bull and Fervor Records bands like Blitz Kids, Twin Atlantic, Hundredth and Neck Deep, as well as another pack by Jocke Skog.
– “Series 5“, released on April 16, 2020, introduced the “Masterminds Music Box,” featuring many return composers like Austin Wintory, Dren McDonald, and Daniel Sadowski; alongside newcomers Sam Marshall, Tim Huling and Tree Adams & Ben Bromfield. This also covers the loose music kits released in the interim between the Radicals and Masterminds Music Boxes, such as music from Scarlxrd, and Halo and Half-Life: Alyx themed 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/MystV 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?
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.
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!
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.