Every regional CS:GO scene in the world has to battle the pettiness that comes in-tandem with a team-based competitive endeavour. Certain players won’t play with others despite their pairing clearly being for a greater good. There’s backstabbing, underhanded messages, cliques, and unfortunate alliances that can sometimes make semi-professional (and often, professional) CS:GO seem more like a diluted version of local politics than intense competitive discipline. Often times, these out-of-the-server contextualising factors shape a scene and its talent in a limiting fashion. Promising line-ups can fall apart because of a novel disagreement, and star talent can become locked in-step with lower-level teammates due to friendship.
While North American CS may have some of the most high-profile of these internal disputes, French CS has always been a haven for those who seek the melodramatic. There are no shortage of Game Of Thrones esq explainers, flow-charts and fan theories about the relationships between French players and why some are kicked and others added to top line-ups. It’s part and parcel with any discussion about the region.
One of the reasons French CS’s politics are so interesting is because they actually matter in the broader scope of pro CS. Historically, if the third-best NA team blows-up for internal conflict, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a drop in the pond. If, as we’ve seen, the top French team experiences the same difficulties, then we could be seeing potentially a top 3-5 team in the world plummet from international rankings. The draw of French CS’s drama is the inherent weight behind each dispute. Because underneath all the implications made in interviews and vague tweets made after matches is the threat of France’s scene getting its shit together.
For France does not lack proven, world-beating talent. History has, and continues to prove that French CS boasts some of the most elite individual players in the world. If they can just somehow assemble key pieces like shox and KennyS in a symbiotic fashion, it’s hard to argue against the neck-craning skill ceiling of one of these rosters. But maybe it is for this exact reason, the potential of an elite team waiting to be born from French soil, that the political posturing of certain relationships is amplified so much more. It’s an unfortunate paradoxical dance that the scene is yet to break out of.
The new G2 line-up that saw the removal of apEX and NBK, and addition of SmithZz and Ex6tenZ into playing roles, though, was the most recent attempt to break-out of it. And a ballsy one at that.The swap aimed to give the ever praised, veteran IGL Ex6TenZ a chance at leveraging a legitimately elite fragging core and kick-start the French giant back into gear. It saw the sacrifice of two proven, very valuable, highly sought after pieces for the addition of others that have been largely untested at an elite level in the modern day.
If the goal of this roster was to realise the potential of the French scene and form an elite side, three-months in it has failed spectacularly. They have won only two Bo3’s over top ten ranked opposition in Mouz and FaZe, both of which are on the verge of fracturing and on a massive downswing of form. Of the five LANs they’ve attended, they’ve bombed in the group-stage in four. Most recently, we saw them lose to NRG in a convincing Bo3 at ESL One New York 2018. Clearly this exact isn’t going to be the coup to save the French scene.
But the move of bringing Ex6tenZ on board might. KennyS and shox have proven themselves to still be high-performing, reliable star talent, and bodyy an important glue player that can tie a half together. G2’s biggest issue has always been that of an entry-fragger. SmithZz is one of the worst dedicated entries in the world, with a shocking 38% success rate in his opening duels, often forcing shox and KennyS to trade him out for the entry frag. Ex6tenz regularly posts better individual numbers than SmithZz which, given the stigma surrounding Ex6tenZ’s individual skill, and the importance of an entry in being able to grind back games should be a worrying sign to say the least.
Players like shox and KennyS often do their best work in later round scenarios when they have the space and opportunity to isolate individual duels and manoeuvre in post-plants. Being forced to essentially close 4v5’s and 3v5’s most rounds may yield impressive highlight clips occasionally but isn’t conducive to long-term success. It’s worth noting that G2’s structure, and overall gameplan hasn’t necessarily been at fault either. They have a very effective CT-side, better mid-round calls on maps like Cache and Mirage and actually seem to have more structure transitions in-general. But this is all for show if there isn’t the snappy punch behind the effective footwork.
As such, it feels like G2, as many French rosters have in the past, are one roster move away from being a legit high-level team. Clearly, it’s SmithZz who has to go, and someone like Rpk, apEX or potentially ScreaM to fill his place. That much, from a long-term, scene realising stand-point seems to be a given. Because the underlying pieces within G2 and leadership of Ex6tenZ are, with an added layer of T-side presence in the mix, is worth at least giving a go for a handful of months. This team definitely is dangerous, watch enough rounds of their Cache or Inferno T-side to see some of the ridiculous things KennyS and shox can do in such a regressive environment and it’s hard to see otherwise. With so much important being put on each individual in the current era though, a weak link in the chain truly does bring down the entire dynamic at higher levels of play.
While the French scene’s cultural, in-game, and social contexts may delay this move from happening, it doesn’t feel like it can stop it. Just as the scene itself is represented by the top team, G2’s potential is too great to not let it’s latent, easily identifiable problem not be resolved.