I remember it was around October last year that I was sitting in call with some friends watching Riot Pls. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a showcase of everything coming from Riot Games in the next year or so. Needless to say, I was expecting a lot of League of Legends news, but what I was wasn’t expecting was some new games announced. Among those was Valorant, a competitive 5v5 shooter. I don’t know what it was specifically, but it intrigued me immediately. A big-budget shooter after the long drought we’ve had? This might just be what the genre needs. Since I originally saw the reveal, I’ve been keeping tabs on it and recently got access to the game through a Twitch.tv drop. So what was our outlook on Valorant? Overall positive.
Valorant, as mentioned above, is a 5v5 team-based shooter in the style of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The offense team tries to plant the spike at a bomb site and defend it, and the defense team does the opposite. Eventually, you switch sides, and whoever wins 13 rounds first wins the game. That may sound like a CS: GO clone at first glance, but it does quite a bit to shake things up. For one, instead of grenades, you have abilities making for more variety in your plays. With those abilities come a set of characters, each with their own set of abilities, including a signature one.
And I can happily report that this works great. Counter-Strike was never really my style, but I find that I enjoy Valorant much more and want to play games a lot. There’s something to the identity of each character and how they can play with each other well. I’ve been mainly playing Cypher, and it’s great to combo his Trapwire and Camera with Jett’s ult for a kill. There is some counterplay, but no character can hard counter another. I’m highly against hard counters in games like this, and thankfully it’s been promised not to appear here. It was one of my main gripes of League of Legends, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see that change here. Overall, character design is relatively solid.
It’s not perfect, though, with both Raze and Viper being poorly designed in different ways. Raze is a character who’s entire character revolves around damaging abilities, with some utility in the satchel’s knockback. No other character has this, and it makes for a less than ideal experience fighting her. Viper, on the other hand, has good utility, but her ult is a bit odd. It covers an entire area in gas that hurts both your teammates and enemies, but lets you take no damage and see highlighted enemies through the gas. It’s very selfish and doesn’t end until Viper exits it, making it unenjoyable to play with or against. As long as this isn’t a sign of things to come and gets fixed quickly, character balance is in good shape.
As far as Valorant’s maps go, things are looking alright. There’s currently three maps and only one of which I would consider poorly designed. That map is Split, due to its highly defender favored map design. In my experience, taking control of the middle of the map does help quite a bit, but having that limited option isn’t a great design. Bind (the teleporter map) feels alright and better than Split, and Haven feels excellent on both sides. If we can continue on the trend of Haven with future maps, including the one coming with the full launch, that’s good to hear.
With the characters and maps out of the way, it’s time for the bread and butter: The guns. Through my experience, everything currently there for guns feels great and better than CS: GO, in fact. It all feels very satisfying to use, and each gun holds its role whenever you need it. I especially like how each team in Valorant gets the same guns, unlike CS. It makes everything feel fair and doesn’t give priority to either side. There was a lot of thought put into each gun, and it does show, even from their design.
This is all rounded off with a solid cartoon style and decent animations. There are a few rough edges when it comes to animations right now, but that’s promised to be updated by the time the game is fully released. The art style plans to stay and is good the way it is. It’s not going to surprise you by any means, but this type of game doesn’t need stunning visuals. You’ll be too busy playing the game realistically to notice or care. As long as they fix animations a bit, the game should be good to go visually.
Finally, I’d like to touch on two minor things about the game. The Practice Range, for one, not only met but also exceeded my expectations. There’s a lot of depth that you’d expect from an aim training program, and it’s good to see. They thought of everything when it came to it. You won’t care too much if you’re a casual player, but those looking to climb the ranked ladder will love it for warming up. The other thing was the options menu, which felt up to par for release. It’s not super flashy, but it’s got all you’re going to want for customization and maybe a little more. The only thing I could’ve asked for was an actual FOV slider, but Riot has said that it’s for competitive reasons, and I can respect that.
Verdict: Valorant is a really solid shooter with a lot of passion and polish put in thus far. The gunplay feels excellent and satisfying all around, the characters all have specific roles on a team that synergizes and work, and map design seems alright. There are some rough edges here and there, but the developers have promised fixes before launch. Valorant won’t be taking down CS: GO by any stretch, but I have no doubts it’ll be a widely popular shooter in the months and years to come.
Valorant is currently available in closed beta on PC only. No other platforms have been announced. You can have a chance at access by linking your Twitch and Riot accounts and watching partnered streams.