Riot Games has proved to be one of the best in the world in terms of competitive gaming, thanks to the massive success of League of Legends. The developer immediately captured the attention of both casual and professional audiences when they revealed plans for a new first-person shooter. Initially revealed as Project A, this title promised to deliver on all of the missteps made by the shooters currently on the market. Seemingly overnight, Valorant became one of the most highly anticipated games of 2020.
Valorant is centered on tactical gameplay. Pitting teams against each other in a 5v5 format, cooperation is key in order to succeed. Sporting a roster of 11 playable agents, these characters are the heart of Valorant. These hero-based shooters live and die by their characters, from both a gameplay and branding point of view. Characters like Overwatch's Tracer have not only become popular faces, but symbols of the modern gaming era. With Phoenix's larger-than-life personality and Jett's bursting energy leading the way, Valorant's agents could be the next to hit superstardom.
When jumping into Valorant, it’s immediately clear that this game was designed by hardcore fans of the genre. Valorant has often been compared to CS:GO and Overwatch, and rightfully so. Riot Games has cherry picked the elements that made these game’s so successful, and put their own special spin on them. The wall-hugging, peak-shooter style of play is distinctly Counter Strike, with a thick coat of polish.
Shooting feels incredibly responsive, I never had moments where it felt like my bullets didn’t register properly. Each kill feels satisfying, thanks to the instant visual and musical feedback Valorant gives to accompany the accolade. Each weapon has its own distinct feel and use. From the deadly close-range blasts from the Judge, to the Vandal’s ability to quickly rip through an enemy from a distance, choosing which gun to buy for each round is important for strategy.
Oddly enough, I found the melee in Valorant to be pretty underbaked. The ability to quickly react and stab or melee an enemy from a point-blank distance is vital in so many shooters. In Valorant, it just feels tacked on. The knifing in Valorant is awkward. Many times, I couldn’t tell if I actually made contact and stabbed my enemy, or if I was just knifing the air. When the knife does land, it does substantially less damage than you would expect from a melee attack in a game like this. It’s not a fatal flaw, but in a game with such a hyper attention to detail, melee feels like a strange omission.
The cavalry’s here
What separates Valorant most from CS:GO and draws comparisons to Overwatch, is its integration of agents. Their magical abilities can completely shift the tide of battle, and are probably the best aspect of Valorant. Having gun skill is pertinent to success in any shooter, but gameplay can get stale and repetitive if every encounter comes down to who clicks heads the best. The agents in Valorant add new variables to combat, forcing players to rely on more than just accurate shooting.
Knowing which agent abilities are best in a given situation, or how to counter them, requires players to develop a strong game IQ and sense of awareness. I’ve never been the most skilled shooter, but using Sova’s recon bolt helped me to quickly identify enemies for myself and my allies, giving me the upper hand in many encounters. Cypher’s set of abilities allow him to lockdown and watch over an area or objective, rendering his team nearly immune to flanks.
Riot Games has a great foundation with its agents. Creating a way for players to showcase their prowess outside of gun accuracy, agents add a layer to strategy without diminishing the skill gap. Valorant has already added 1 agent with its full release in Reyna, so it’ll be fascinating to see the roster and agent meta evolve over time.
A roadmap for excellence
The three maps in Valorant are another indicator of the development team’s dedication to create a well-rounded competitive experience. Split, Haven, and Ascent feature short and long pathways, along with various chokepoints, windows, and high grounds. For the most part, the maps feel greatly balanced, with an equal opportunity to attack an objective, and defend it. My only gripe comes with Haven. Being the only map with three different objective locations, I feel like defenders have a tougher go at it. Defending teams often feel like they’re spread too thin trying to cover their bases for all of the objectives on this map.
Valorant delivers as a highly competitive FPS. From a pure design standpoint, Riot’s shooter stands tall on excellent gunplay, diverse agents, and balanced maps. This alone is enough to capture the attention of hardcore fans of the genre. It’s been clear in Riot Games communication that they are committed to responding to player feedback and using that to shape their development path. Valorant is already an insanely good game, but it’s poised to become a superstar of the medium in the years to come.
This review is based on a digital copy of Valorant, which can be downloaded for free from the Riot Games website.
- Excellent gun play
- Great integration of hero mechanic with agents
- Expert map design
- Very responsive input controls
- Good deal of performance analytics and feedback
- Melee feels awkward
- Haven feels unfair for defenders