Esports News

Luci Kelemen
Written By: Luci Kelemen

Telling tales of esports, one word at a time, six years and counting

July 28th, 2023

The Godfather of Counter-Strike continues to dance – but what is the tune in the background?

It seemed like Imperial would be the final competitive project of Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo, the mastermind behind the emergence of Brazilian Counter-Strike on the international scene. While his contributions after the legendary Luminosity/SK squad's back-to-back Major wins have been limited, he has revitalized the in-game leading and AWPing role at the same time during his prime and has left a massive, permanent mark on the state of competitive CS.

Now, pushing 33, he finds himself in a brand new adventure on FURIA, after he has openly discussed the possibility of retiring at the end of this year on many occasions. This time, FalleN isn't the one building the project from scratch – in fact, he's joining a superior team to his previous outlets this time, so much so that they clearly surpassed MIBR and co. as the "main" Brazilian roster a long time ago.

You could make a strong argument that this is the project he will have the least control over in all his career – five and a half years after his last S-Tier tournament win, the sixth season of ESL Pro League. It begs the question: how much is he capable of reinventing himself at this juncture, with his usual formula no longer producing the gold it once did?

Notably, FalleN himself has said that it will be "hard" to mix his style with FURIA's in the video above. To further underline the point, here's how arT described the systemic setup and the relationship in a recent interview with HLTV:

"There are some maps in which I still help a lot because we're used to playing these maps a lot, and FalleN didn't play them that often [...] Some maps we play more the way FalleN plays, and some maps we play more my way. It depends on the map and the way we approach rounds." The article also refers to FalleN's pre-game interview, where he acknowledged their different approaches, with the interviewer, LucasAM, summarizing it as such:

"You're more focused on micro, him on macro."

This is a revealing sentence, and it meshes with the playstyles of the two leaders. FURIA were known for their ultra-aggressive rounds in CS:GO matches for many years, but the admittedly unique approach never yielded an S-Tier trophy and continued to bring diminishing returns, so much so that the team opted to completely revamp their strategies for the BLAST Paris Major, an experiment with disastrous results.

Is G2 about to become NiKosports 3.0? I investigated.

Perhaps you could see FalleN taking the reins on economy management, conditioning the enemy and multi-round plans while arT throws in some spicy mid-round calls. Still, one has to wonder how many cooks can survive in FURIA's kitchen in the long run and whether the team would actually benefit from FalleN's full-time focus on the big green, given just how much of a struggle it's been across the year to fill that role.

Individually, FalleN and chelo are clear upgrades over saffee and drop, and their previous experience together on Imperial should help them gel better in the new team. However, we've seen before how a logical role fit isn't necessarily enough – FalleN was supposed to fix the exact same issues on Team Liquid as on FURIA, plugging the gaps in the AWPer and leadership roles at the same time, with very limited results.

As the last day of the IEM Cologne 2023 play-ins dawns upon us, FURIA's qualification is hanging by a thread after losing to Monte. They received a beatable opponent in the form of The MongolZ, but it is by no means a lay-up. No project deserves to be judged by its first outing, but there are real questions about FalleN's capability to reinvent himself this late into the game.

This is not as big a criticism as it might seem: every revolutionary turns into the establishment, only to be toppled again by fresher, hungrier newcomers. Not even gla1ve managed to reach new paradigms, and arguably karrigan is the only leader with the sort of multifaceted longevity in CS:GO that would be required of FalleN to push FURIA to become title challengers.

The game has definitely changed, and this squad, with its unique profile, offers FalleN one more shot at creating something new and exciting. In all likelihood, this laster-than-last dance will be the coda of his career in competitive Counter-Strike, and it's going to be a fascinating one, no matter which way it turns out. However, should it turn out to be more of the same, pushing six years in the wilderness, any final evaluation of the life and times of Gabriel Toledo will have to factor in his ability – or lack thereof – to reinvent himself.

Photo credit: HLTV