Editor’s note: This review is currently in progress to allow more time to experience more of Valorant in a post-launch environment. We’ll update and finalize the review as the author digs deeper and plays more of the game.
Think Counter-Strike with hero elements. That’s the elevator pitch for Valorant, Riot Games’ first foray into competitive first-person shooters. 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 where one team (defenders) defends bomb sites while the other (attackers) tries to plant at bomb sites, switching sides about halfway through a best-of-25. 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. You also have to consider the team’s economy–depending on performance, money gets distributed to players each round which is used to buy gear before the round commences. This factors into a team’s decision to buy better equipment or save for future rounds. In turn, each round ratchets up the intensity as the tide of advantage can shift at any moment or between rounds.