So I managed to get into the beta for VALORANT, the upcoming 5v5 competitive FPS developed by League of Legends creators Riot Games. Now, for those of you who have been living under a rock, let me give you a crash course on what VALORANT is.
Each match begins with two teams made up of five players. Before a match begins, every player selects a character (called an Agent) with a unique set of abilities. The first team to secure 13 rounds wins the match. One team starts as the Attackers, and one team starts as the Defenders. After 12 rounds, the two teams switch sides. The Attackers’ goal is to plant a bomb (called the Spike) at one of the bomb sites, whilst the Defenders’ job is to defuse the Spike after it’s planted or to prevent the Attackers from planting the Spike in the first place. At the beginning of each round, players have money (called Creds) that they can use to purchase weapons, armour, and to unlock abilities. Remember rule one: buy armour. Please, buy armour.
Basically, it’s CS:GO meets Overwatch, pretty simple. Having played for a solid twelve hours straight, here is my initial impression of VALORANT.
Graphics: Performance Over Visuals
The graphics of VALORANT have certainly come under fire since the announcement of the game. Rightly so, I might add, as the game does indeed look years behind the times. However, it is clearly designed that way; when it comes to competitive 5v5 shooters, most people tend to play on a 4:3 aspect ratio with ultra-low settings anyway, so why even bother making the game look pretty? The graphics are not the selling point. The gameplay is.
So while we do get underwhelming graphics, what we get in return is excellent performance levels even if you’re using weak or outdated hardware. I played at 1080p on max settings with 16x anti-aliasing and never fell below 200fps, although I do have a very strong PC. In addition, I must add that the 128-tick servers that Riot Games advertised, (clearly a jab at Valve’s refusal to add 128 tick servers to CS:GO) are ultra-smooth, making gameplay and aiming fantastic.
The Weapons: Very Balanced?
The weapons in VALORANT are strange. No weapon is strictly good or bad. I never felt that one gun was significantly stronger than the other, unlike CS:GO where you have a clear tier list of AWP/AK47/M4A1 at the top. In Valorant, all of the rifles felt good, and the SMGs and shotguns were fun to use and far more useful than in Counter-Strike.
Strictly speaking, the best gun in the game is the ”OPERATOR”, the most expensive weapon and a massive one-shot kill sniper that’s great for defending a site but sucks when forced to engage in close-quarters combat. Now, it is possible that they will add more guns in the future or make stat changes with updates and patches, but for now, the gun balance is good… Well done, Riot. Keep it up.
The Maps: Three Bomb Sites, The Future?
Now, I don’t know how many maps will be made available in the final release, but in this Beta, I played on three different maps: Haven, Bind and Bonsai. One I loved, one I didn’t mind and one I hated! The map I had by far the most fun on was Haven, the map with three bomb sites, a change from games such as CS:GO and Rainbow Six Siege and yet a welcome one for me. The more variety and routes the better, I say. Hopefully, Riot will add more maps with three bomb sites in the future, as this is something that could help separate VALORANT from games like Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six Siege.
The Agents: Mayhem Incoming
There are currently ten ”Agents” in the game: Breach, Brimstone, Cypher, Jet, Omen, Phoenix, Raze Sage, Sova, and Viper. These 10 characters are split into four categories.
Controller: Controllers are experts in slicing up dangerous territory to set their team up for success.
Initiator: Initiators challenge angles by setting up their team to enter contested ground and push defenders away.
Sentinel: Sentinels are defensive experts who can lock down areas and watch flanks, both on attacker and defender rounds.
Duelist: Duelist are self-sufficient fraggers who their team expects, through abilities and skills, to get high frags and seek out engagement first.
I’m fairly sure that Riot will add more Agents after the game is released, but for now, we have 10. Each Agent has four abilities, one of which is your ultimate which can only be used once every few rounds. Every character gets an ability they can use for free each round. The two other non-ultimate abilities must be purchased at the gun shop during the buy phase, like you would a grenade in Counter-Strike.
This means that abilities cannot be spammed like they can in games like Overwatch. Instead, you need to really consider whether you’d rather use your abilities at the start of the round to stop a potential rush or save them in case you get into a clutch scenario later in the round. Finally, in order to use your ultimate, you need a certain amount of skill points. Skill points can be grabbed around the map, earned through kills and acquired at the end of each round. Nevertheless, the abilities in the game are not the focus. Your aim, positioning, game sense will always be more important than your talents which are to be used more as utility equipment rather than a primary method of attack.
In terms of stuff that I didn’t like: the audio. Particularly my teammates’ footsteps. They were far too loud, usually drowning out everything around me and making it hard to tell if I was hearing an enemy coming towards me or a teammate pacing back and forth. I’d also say movement could maybe be sped up a little. Having played Counter-Strike for years, the flow of Valorant can be on the slow side.
So, having played Valorant for a full day, what’s my final outcome? Will this be the CS:GO killer? Will this game surpass Fortnite and League of Legends, breaking all gaming records? Will this game be the next hot Esport?
No, I don’t think this game will kill CS:GO, although it might be the final nail in the coffin for Overwatch (at least until Overwatch 2 comes out). I can see this game being a huge success at launch. However, PUBG and Apex Legends were massive successes at launch yet quickly fell off. The challenge of VALORANT is going to be keeping players engaged months after launch, but I can absolutely see this game becoming the next hot Esport. Riot Games obviously have lots of experience when it comes to Esports, with League of Legends being one of if not the biggest Esport in the world!
Final questions. When does VALORANT launch? Summer 2020. Is VALORANT going to be free to play? Yes, VALORANT will be free to play, but in-game cosmetics will be sold.
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