Think Counter-Strike with hero elements. That’s the elevator pitch for Valorant, Riot Games’ debut on the competitive first-person shooter scene. I say that not to disparage Valorant, though. In fact, that’s what I love most about it, especially since it executes on the formula extremely well. Valorant thrives because of tight, tactical gameplay and a mix of character-based abilities that provide a necessary strategic layer. Although it’s a slim package with limited features and barren presentation, Valorant has the potential to be great.
The core mode of Valorant revolves around five-on-five matches in a best of 25 rounds with two teams of attackers and defenders of bomb sites, switching sides about halfway through. The stakes are high as everyone gets only one life per round, and the focus on precise gunplay with low time-to-kill leaves little margin for error. Teams must account for buying guns, armor, and ability charges based on money allocated (depending on performance) on a per-round basis. In turn, each round maintains a high level of intensity as the tide of advantage can shift at any moment.
Agents introduce an essential X-factor to the mix with their unique abilities as well. While it’s easy to compare them to heroes/classes from other games, Valorant’s Agent abilities function more like gear in a loadout. Two are subject to limited uses per round (but thankfully carry over even if you’re killed) while a default ability subject to cooldown or replenish upon kills. Knowing how and when to execute these abilities, including Ultimates that can come in clutch, is key especially for highly competitive matches.