On Tuesday, April 7th, Riot Games’ new 5v5 tactical hero shooter VALORANT was released into the wild. The game plays with the intensity of a high-skill, no mercy shooter, but with the fantasy and abilities of more common hero shooters. While the game has a pretty steep learning curve, the quality of the game is already shining through. There’s obviously a focus on long-term esports franchising, but even a casual like me was able to have some fun after getting to know the game.
Not everyone can jump right in just yet, though. For now, access to the game is sequestered to a smaller number of players in North America and the EU, but that will likely expand soon as development of the game ramps up. VALORANT will eventually be free-to-play, but for now, be on the lookout for larger Twitch channels streaming the game to try to get your access by chance.
What is VALORANT?
If you have ever played Counter-Strike in the past, VALORANT (yes, it’s all caps, no, I’m not sorry) will make you feel right at home. The game is focused on a hardcore tactical 5v5 Bomb mode with a moderate list of heroes to choose from at the start of each match. Matches are best of 25 rounds so be prepared for a long haul if you’re looking to commit to one more game at the end of the night.
As with CS, each round starts with a “Buy” phase where players spend credits build up in-match on weapons, shields, and hero abilities. Every time a player is killed, these items get reset and must be bought again. Even on my first match, it wasn’t challenging to afford some of the better weapons and shields so no worries there.
I’ve found that, for the most part, heroes are generally focused on gaining different tactical advantages instead of falling into more standard hero archetypes. The more common “Damage, Rogue, Tank” trinity seems to be mostly absent. Crowd control reigns supreme with portable walls, smoke spheres, slows, blinds, fires, and others being more common than full-on attack abilities. This is not to say that these don’t exist, but they are not the focus.
I played mostly as a hero named Sova, an archer focused on initiating and enemy location awareness. He has a recon arrow and a scouting drone that players can use to help locate the enemies. Player location is an enormous factor in success. Footsteps are loud when not pressing a button to walk softly. Not being aware of the noise you make and the walls you must peek around will most certainly mean a quick death.
How Does VALORANT Feel For New Players?
I’ll be upfront here. I’m not normally a PC player. In fact, I’d wager that more than 99% of my time with video games has been on my Xbox. Jumping straight into a hardcore tactical shooter like this with shockingly pre-pubecent mouse and keyboard skills may not have been the best idea. Thankfully, it also gives me a pretty clear picture of where the game is for players new to the genre.
I’m very clumsy with my fingers in this orientation so playing well is going to take time. That being said, I still appreciate how tight the guns feel, and how precise one can be with some of the bigger rifles. In the Buy phase of each round, players can see over a couple dozen different weapons. These range from SMGs, to Shotguns, to Sniper Rifles, and more. Each has their own price based on how strong the gun is. The time-to-kill is so fast with many of these weapons, however, that I just didn’t feel the different prices made that much of a difference.
Sure, if it were to come down to counting bullets, the stronger gun would win. Often times, though, one player will have the first jump and that’s all they need, no matter the weapon. The exception to this, though, would be the Operator sniper rifle. This beast is the most expensive weapon by a long shot but will kill any player with any in one shot. Hide your kids!
There was also little to no description of the rules of the mode itself. I had to figure out how cash worked. I had to learn about losing gear on death, but not on round’s-end. It feels like this game was made knowing that Counter-Strike players would be the first to jump in. It’s possible that more training and tutorial will come with the full release, but I’m unsure. There is, however, a great firing range where players can practice their skills and adjust their sensitivities accordingly.
How Well Does VALORANT Run?
Valorant was made to run highly optimized, even on older computers. This has been especially marked by companies who specialize in building PCs from scratch. PowerGPU.com has stated that the game gets 200+ frames per second in high definition even on a four year old CPU! Granted, this is with a stronger graphics card, but it’s still great to see such a focus on quality.
In my hours with the Beta so far, I’ve seen very few technical issues. Only a couple times did our Buy phase get delayed because all keyboard inputs had been frozen. It was match-wide so no one got an advantage, and it wore off before our time expired. The game runs extremely well and already feels like a fairly well-polished product.
One issue that many games on PC run into is player hacking. Downloadable programs that use cheats such as aim-assist, wall hacks, and more can run rampant in some games. These can ruin the player experience before a game even gets off the ground. In order to combat these issues, Riot has made an in-house program called Vanguard. This proprietary program seeks to detect and shutdown any sort of security breaches players may look to use maliciously. From a recent Valorant blog post:
“Both the client and the driver of Riot Vanguard have been developed in-house, with both game safety and personal computer safety being a priority. We’ve made this commitment through extensive testing and by reviewing the product both internally and with external security reviews by industry experts.”
Hopefully all of this means that cheating and game-breaking hacks will be at a minimum. VALORANT seems primed to be the next big thing in esports and it would be a shame for its downfall to be outside software.
When Does VALORANT Release?
Right now VALORANT is set to release Summer of 2020. Obviously this only really gives us a window and nothing concrete but that’s okay. Communications from Riot have all been honest about wanting to take testing slowly and seriously. We don’t even really know how long this Beta will last. If you were able to get your hands on a key, play while you can!
I am really enjoying the game myself. Seeing my stats climb is thrilling in a game that is meant to be an elite shooter. I’m already looking forward to seeing the esports scene for this game grow. The Call of Duty League is doing amazingly well, even in the face of the current pandemic crisis. Injecting new blood into that world will make for some amazing content. Let us know what you think of the game! And as always, show off your best clips on Clutch.Win.