Opinion: Inferno Is A Poor Competitive Map
Ah, Inferno. The map of Asian teams upsetting giant favourites, the map of third overtime victories in big best-of-threes, and the map of Cloud9 winning the Major - yes, it’s true that Inferno has given us a lot of good times, but I think it’s time we talk about the inherent flaws of the map. We’ve had some very notable upsets on it in recent times - remember Complexity going 3-0 on Inferno at the Major, think about TyLoo and Vici stomping everyone in their way in the most recent Major, and of course Cloud9 over FaZe at the Boston Major - but that’s because it’s a flawed map that lowers the skill gap between two teams far too much.
Let’s start at the A site. Pit and Mini-Pit are the most ridiculously overloaded position on the game. There are at least seven unique head-glitches alone (see video evidence below) that all give a huge advantage to the CT’s, even if they are low HP. There’s also Graveyard, which has another headglitch. Especially with the AUG, these positions are relatively simple to get double kills with and make the CT side very easy. Can you think of any other position that has that many powerful head-glitches? It also automatically sets up crossfires with the bombsite, which are very difficult to break if the player it has an AWP. As if that wasn’t enough, there is an extremely simple one way smoke for the CT player in Pit to watch Short through, which also denies any attempts to molotov the player out of position. It also very difficult to molotov the position without exposing yourself to the angle.
Pit is so powerful, that T side force-buy strats often revolve around a smoke wall, with the pistol-whipping Terrorists dropping out of Apartments into the Pit and it - at least anecdotally - seems extremely powerful, though I don’t have any hard statistics for it. In post-plant situations, Pit makes the A site practically un-retakeable without a man advantage or a full belt of utility, which, when rotating in from B, is unlikely. Retakes are a huge part of Counter-Strike and are also some of the most exciting to watch as a viewer. The highest octane moments in CS are retakes, post-plants, clutches - but due to Inferno’s size and lack of options to enter sites, we often see too many save calls.
Speaking of which, it’s time we look at Banana. Though it’s a much beloved part of the map, it’s outrageously linear to the point that every single team can throw their utility almost blindly and unthinkingly into the corridor of disaster and have control of it for free on the CT side. The T side have to take control of Banana in order to stop the CT side putting four players on the A site and making that completely imporous, but once the CT’s have control of it, a single Smoke Grenade or Molotov is enough to make taking Banana a suicide mission, and going into it before the utility comes out will just lead to you getting grenaded, giving the CT’s a man advantage without even seeing an enemy or putting much thought into it.
It’s extremely difficult to punish a team playing with one player towards B as they can basically hold it with just a smoke anyway, and if they are an AWPer, with the fall back route being extremely simple and risk free. That’s why we see so many stacks towards the A site in the mid round - because it’s risk free! CT’s can take Banana with two molotovs and two grenades, with a smoke, then just keep smoking the end of it until there’s 30 seconds left to go, then leaving one player to jump spot, back off, smoke again to buy time, and call a rotate.
One reason it’s so easy to play aggressive is because there is no chance of being pincered. Due to the lack of a proper Middle, splitting into B is impossible unless you have a lot of control of the other bombsite. We’re seeing more and more splits towards B now that teams have realised how futile it is to push five people through a narrow chokepoint - often through a smoke, however, due to the cacophony of off-angles in CT spawn, along with how powerful an AWP at New Box can be with T’s in the spawn, it’s very hard to split successfully. You also have to invest a lot of time and grenades into taking half of the A site in order to get into the CT spawn, which isn’t necessarily an issue, but does make splitting B an extremely hard strategy to consistently complete, which is why no team can consistently have a good T side on Inferno - it’s essentially an execute server. This is an issue, as it punishes teams with strong protocols and defaults, which are a key component of any good team.
Due to the difficulty of slow control strategies on Inferno, it makes tactical teams struggle to win rounds out of a strong default. What’s the point in a strong default if the entire map is two bombsites? The only map control that matters is Apartments - which CT’s rarely battle for due to the T side being able to spam the walls for free and potentially get some damage or a kill through the wall - Banana - which you can’t take at the start of the round anyway without dying to grenades - and Brackets. Taking Brackets does allow you to stop the CT’s getting information on when you’re backing off to B or setting up an A hit, but the CT’s can nearly always react by stacking four towards A.
Brackets control also opens you up to getting killed through smoke, possibly more than any other position. It’s a very simple spam from either side of Brackets and that along with spamming smokes in Banana and the entrance to the B site, is what gives Inferno the highest Smoke Kills stat of any map.
Why is this an issue? Because smoke kills are frustrating and generally invite more variation into the game. If more kills are found through smoke, essentially randomly, then that increases random variation which lowers the skill gap.
One final point I would like to make is that force-buys are probably too powerful on Inferno, as it’s almost impossible to avoid close range duels against CZ75s, especially if the pistols are on CT with a smoke each. Sean Gares posted a video about how simple it is for a team to essentially win a round with five smokes before they fire a bullet, which really shows how difficult it is to play against a structured team with just five pieces of utility and pistols.
By reducing the difference between a full buy and a force round buy, it makes the economic benefits of good money management mean less, and once again increases variation as the team with the weaker buy don’t have as much of an advantage as they should. That’s why we’re seeing more second round buys on the CT side after losing pistol.
I’m hoping some of these reasons are enough to convince you that my hatred for Inferno is not a blind one, and that I have actually put some thought into what makes Inferno an upset map that increases the randomness and lowers the skill gap. One might argue that good utility usage actually improves the skill gap, but given that nearly anyone can learn the ‘nade stacks, the simple smokes and flashes, and due to the size of the map, you don’t need to be particularly accurate with the timing of the grenades.