Valorant Review: a shooter for the next generation
After a closed beta and much hype, Riot Games first-person-shooter Valorant has arrived at last.
The free-to-play game pits two teams of shooters against one and other, to plant a spike (a bomb) in dedicated sites around the map. One team attacks, the other defends.
So far, so Counter-Strike. But Valorant throws in hero powers for each character that makes gameplay rather unique.
It’s a bit of a mash-up between shooters such as Counter-Strike, as well as hero games such as Overwatch and Riot Games own League of Legends. But don’t take that the wrong way – Valorant blends both playstyles together seamlessly into something entirely its own.
Valorant Review: Gameplay
As mentioned, there’s nothing about Valorant that will surprise regular FPS players. Counter-Strike players will be immediately familiar with planting the spike (bomb) and the various guns on offer.
There are two snipers, two main fully-automatic weapons (that you will use, at least), and a hefty gun that has a complicated name but we’ll call it a ‘Deagle’.
What keeps encounters fresh, however, are the powers.
The game has various characters and players, roughly broken down into three categories: defensive, offensive and passive.
The flame-wielding Phoenix and agile Jett are all about going after the other team, using blinding and movement speed buffs to get frags. While Breach and Rage are all about defending areas, using smokescreens and area-of-effect grenades to keep attackers at bay.
Then there’s characters like Sova – who uses a recon bow to spot enemy players on the map – and Sage, who acts as the team healer. Each character has an ultimate, that works well within each’s position in the team.
It is those powers that make playing Valorant so much fun, as is trying out different team combinations for both attack and defence.
Valorant Review: Game modes
At launch, there are two primary game types; regular competitive and Spike Match.
The regular puts five players against another five. Word to the wise, these games are traditionally longer than a regular game of Counter-Strike, for example (each takes around 30-minutes). And as there are so little players, dropping out early can leave you heavily penalized the next time you go looking for a game.
Spike Match is a lot quicker – pitting the same five vs five players against each other, but giving team members random weapons at the start of each game. Each member of the attacking team also has a spike (bomb) to plant, so games are naturally a lot quicker and less tactically minded.
Both are fun, but you will naturally see more casual players move towards Spike Matches and those who want to take the game seriously/professionally regular and competitive modes.
Valorant Review: Anything else?
Valorant is a free-to-play game. That is both a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it.
There is no shortage of players for one, which means at least for the next sixth months you’ll never be short of a game.
Also, not having to shell out US$65 for a brand new title is always welcome (especially for those who aren’t regular FPS players, but who might be interested in Valorant’s hero gameplay).
But then there’s the grind – and without a Battle Pass – earning new guns and characters will indeed be a grind.
Oh, and at launch there are no dedicated Middle Eastern servers. Those playing will be siphoned to either European or Asian servers at launch – so you can expect high latency warnings whenever you enter a match.
There’s also no cross-play between regional servers. So if you have mates outside of Europe or Asia that you want to play with, you’re out of luck.
Valorant Review: The Verdict
There is lots of fun to be had in Valorant, for either the shooter fan who wants a crack at something new, or for those who prefer playing strategically and getting to grips with new heroes and powers.
It looks great, it handles well and puts a very interesting spin on the archetypal FPS game. It’s great, and because it’s free there’s no reason not to give it a try.
But Valorant does feel like it was custom-built for competitive play. And in any game that puts that much emphasis on teamplay, those who don’t practice or have a likeminded and like-skilled group of mates to play with will be discouraged (at least outside of the more casual Spike Matches).
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