Valorant hands-on: Mix of hardcore action and magical powers kicks ass

Valorant hands-on: Mix of hardcore action and magical powers kicks ass

April 15, 2020 0 By tecnb

Riot Games’ latest project, the hero-focused shooter Valorant, kicked off a closed beta this week. After playing plenty of matches, it’s clear that while it invites inevitable comparisons to other games, Valorant can stand on its own as a shooter that will scratch players’ itch for a tactical experience.

I imagine many people will want to boil Valorant down to “Counter-Strike meets Overwatch,” and while that’s true to an extent it doesn’t quite convey how Valorant plays. Yes, there are unlockable characters with special abilities to use in matches. Yes, there’s a buy phase for weapons and a match structure in which one team tries to plant a bomb while defenders hold the line. These are familiar elements that most online shooter fans will know. Valorant isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it does shine it to a mirror’s polish. Whether you’re lobbing defensive slo-mo grenades or leading the charge as a kill-greedy duelist character, Valorant will likely prove one of the smoothest and most rewarding online games you’ve played in a long time.

Valorant pits two teams against each other on a handful of maps featuring bomb sites. An attacking team needs to bring the “spike” to one of these sites and plant the explosives. It’s a tried and true multiplayer set up: Pick a path to the bomb site, push hard or defend harder. Valorant spices that up with hero characters whom you pick at the start of each round. They fall into a few categories.

Sentinels are defensive experts whose abilities tend to focus on controlling space on the battlefield. That might mean tossing a poisonous grenade that damages and slows enemies, but it can also mean conjuring ad-hoc magical walls to close paths or even healing teammates. I’ve focused heavily on Sentinel characters—the revive-granting agent Sage being a favorite—and found that their movement-hampering abilities create exciting possibilities for trapping enemies in choke points or zoning them out of bomb sites. “Controller” agents take this even further with fiery floor traps or big orbital strikes that force opponents to flee. These two classes are among my favorites. Turns out, adding a bit of science-magic to a familiar game mode can go a long way.

If you’re not into creative ability use or defensive play you can also select a Duelist or Initiator character. The former are highly mobile fighters who exceed in one-on-one fights, making them a good fit for lone wolves—though scurrying off to play Predator might irk your teammates looking for help.