We’ve enlisted the expert analysis of Duncan “Thorin” Shields to analyze the ascendance of French squad G2 in 2019. Read on to find out why you should keep an eye on them at ESL One New York!
G2 Esports are a blend of old and new, with players yet to emerge as top challengers on the international scene have been blended with established legends battling back to relevance as stars. After a troubled 2018 for the French scene, lacking the deep major runs and circuit championships they had grown accustomed to, a series of unusual twists and turns have brought G2 again to the spotlight and they threaten to become a dangerous dark horse team on the circuit.
Out with the old
A couple of years ago it was the consensus within the French CS:GO scene that recycling talent was the only formula to produce an internationally relevant team, the order and blend of said talent being the only difference of opinion. The likes of LDLC had failed to produce top talents of their own, even with the legendary Ex6TenZ guiding them for a time, while competing under the top level of play. G2's 2018 line-up perhaps represented the end of that paradigm, as they recreated a core of players which could have suited up for France's best teams at the beginning of CS:GO, but were unable to do much beyond a single play-off run to the big stage of ESL One Cologne that year.
As the year wound down with ZywOo and Vitality threatening to not just overshadow G2, but leave them leagues behind, the once top-of-the-pecking-order organization made the bold move to entrust their coach, experienced veteran maLeK, with ushering in a new era of French Counter-Strike. While Vitality initially only harnessed the fresh talent of ZywOo, with ALEX coming in later, G2 picked up Lucky and JaCkz, players who had been competing but had yet to make names for themselves at an international level. JaCkz in particular was already at an age some might retire at and had been part of EnVyUs' Academy squad previously. Would players like these really propel shox and kennyS back towards the top? With the right system in place, yes.
What's old is new again
kennyS and shox were two of the best Counter-Strike players in the world in 2013, a time when the first major only crept onto the scene late in the year. As two of CS:GO's greatest ever stars, they were marked by a shared key quality, namely their ability to time and time again overcome slumps and return to the status of super-star player. The duo, who were supposed to wreck everything put before them in the server when they teamed up in 2017, found their games needing structure placed around them to again unleash their latent and undeniable skill.
At his best, there are few players to ever compete in the Counter-Strike franchise who can electrify an audience like kennyS. Flashy plays and impossible flicks are to be expected when kenny has his game rolling with the sniper rifle. A major champion and once the best player in the game entirely, one of the only players prime olofmeister admitted to fearing, kenny had lost his way for some time during the change-over transition between leaders in 2018. With the new G2 core, he has again become a candidate for MVP at events and he was a massive component of G2's push to the final of ESL Pro League S9, again enthralling a home crowd of French fans.
shox is my go-to answer to the hypothetical "which team of five clones of a player would be the best?" for many a year. Such is the completeness of his all-around game, that his absence from the top tier has been both startling and eerie. A player as skilled with all of the weapons, apt at controlling a round and masterful in the clutch should seemingly never fall out of favour with the game, but that was shox's plight for a while. Attempts to become one of the scene's best IGLs had cost one of its best players his strength individually. At the aforementioned EPL S9 Finals, shox himself threw up more than a few flashbacks to his prime as an all-around monster of the game, the final map of the tournament (inferno) being a sparkling example, as the French maestro clutched again and again when it mattered most.
A new castle for the old kings
maLeK and G2 came up with a structure which could both house the super-star potential of shox and kennyS but also integrate the newer players. This was fully implemented with the recruitment of former Misfits star AmaNEk. He proved versatile enough to rifle, AWP and potentially lead. With these pieces on deck, G2 moved to a system whereby AmaNEk set the round up and played a lurking role, while shox takes part in the entry pack and has autonomy to make reads of his own. This synthesis of structure and freedom has brought the team's effective level of play to one of interest for fans around the world again.
G2 are again a squad challenging the world's best, with a particularly interesting position as potential foils for Team Liquid right now. The North American side has been running through opponents, trampling them down with skill and hounding them across the map pool, but G2 have repeatedly played what is perhaps the most skilled line-up in CS:GO history close on a number of occasions. The French side's penchant for aggressive counter-pushes for information and to attack Liquid before they can get the entry frag, has made for some entertaining matches and a few moments of perspiration on the Liquid side.
As their map pool expands, so G2 advance up the rankings. One of their home maps remains the classic French playground of dust2, where players like shox and kennyS have more highlights than some players have in their entire careers. Considered a dangerous map to specialize in, due to its erratic patterns of play and ever-present holes to be exploited, G2 have ridden the feast-and-famine nature of dust2 to again become a side many would pay the price of admission to see.
How far they can go and who they can beat along the way are questions to be answered in servers over the next few months, but G2 are back as a team to follow and some of France's greatest Counter-Strike sons once again command your attention for their actions behind the crosshairs as much as their names.