Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of hero shooters like Overwatch. I’ve also never been a fan of Counterstrike even though I found those games to be thoroughly engaging. But surprisingly, the combination of the two has made a fun and deep objective shooter that requires teamwork and an intricate understanding of character abilities. This is Valorant in a nutshell.
The objective is simple, attackers are tasked with planting a spike in enemy territory and the defenders are working to prevent this. There are currently two modes, one being unranked and the other being spike rush. In unranked, teams are working to win 13 rounds to finish a match. Players earn currency and can use that to purchase weapons, abilities, and shields to help in the pursuit of their objectives. Unranked matches can take anyway from 20 to 40 minutes depending on the skill level of your teammates and opponents. Spike rush is best to four and players are given a predetermined weapon with all abilities unlocked. These are quick skirmishes and can be a fun substitute if a 40 minute match isn’t your thing.
Valorant, on its surface, has a simple premise, but the depth comes from its diverse roster of agents. There are eleven in all, but players will start out with five. Each agent comes with a signature ability, these are always available at the start of the round, an ultimate ability, these are unlocked either through your actions or through consumable orbs found through the maps, and two purchasable abilities. Unlocking two new agents comes through simply playing the game and accruing experience. After those two characters are unlocked, players will have to select an agents contract and gain enough experience to unlock them.
Before you unlock a agent, it is recommended that you head to the practice range and test out their individual abilities. Agents are broken down by type and these are detailed in the tutorial. Duelists are entry fraggers, initiators and controllers are second entry fraggers, and sentinels are considered support. Each agent has their strengths and weaknesses and here is Valorant shines in terms of its balancing. If an agent is utilized properly, everyone can be effective, and this is impressive considering that the game is in its infancy. There are titles out there that have been out for years that struggle mightily with game balance, its refreshing to see that developer Riot Games takes this seriously so early in the game.
Currently, there are only four maps, each with their own infiltration routes and choke points. They are large enough to force defenders to split up and cover different areas. This can be to the benefit of the attackers as long as they work together. Splitting up can be disastrous, especially given your agent type. Defenders have the advantage in regards sight-lines and if their aim is steady, its practically impossible to win. Using an agents abilities to disrupt those sight-lines is paramount when entering a room or an area with blind corners, Valorant emphasizes teamwork in these moments and it is incredibly satisfying when a plan works.
Movement in Valorant is slow and methodical. As in Counterstrike, equipping your knife will allow for greater mobility. But it is imperative that you walk before you enter an area as you are loud as hell when moving normally. Your location is given away immediately if you are not walking and this can result in an easy kill. I have come away impressed in regards to how accurately sounds can depict an enemy location. There are far too many games that screw this up and thankfully Valorant nails it. It makes firefights far more enjoyable and tense.
Weapons in the game are your run of the mill FPS. You have pistols, shotguns, light-machine guns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles. Each have a dollar value and you earn currency by playing through rounds. Winning a round, getting kills, will net you more currency and having access to the best weapons possible can give you the edge in a gunfight. For those familiar with Counterstrike, you’re in luck, as gunfights in Valorant are all about precision. Spray and pray rarely works and those with the better aim, win. It can take some time getting used too, but it is immensely satisfying when it works out in your favor.
Rarely is a competitive shooter release this polished. Valorant is fun, challenging, deep, and engaging. How it will fare in the current market is unknown, but given the amount of care that Riot Games has shown, hopefully this is a title that lasts. Best of all its free, what do you have to lose?