Valorant is a bold step for Riot Games, indulging a familiar aesthetic with CS:GO like sensibilities that, when combined, forms a cohesive whole that works on almost every level. As a first step towards wider release, things are looking positive.
It caters to a specific crowd, one looking to dominate and master a very competitive Esports market, whilst also being open to the masses as a free to play, microtransaction supported title. It's hardly revolutionary, but the clarity of its design and well optimised performance help make it stand out in a highly saturated ecosystem.
Despite the current state of the world, and what we can only imagine were a deluge of logistical stumbling blocks to get this thing up and running, Valorant in its present state is healthy and functional. Not only is it smashing Twitch viewership numbers, but the servers have (for the most part) remained active and smooth, despite initial hiccups.
Access is being strictly controlled, with limited press / streamer availability, and a very specific entry method for the wider Riot fanbase.
The game itself demands precision, situational awareness, and smart leveraging of your own abilities. You'll quick find yourself getting bombarded by an effectively coordinated opposition, raising the stakes for each quick fire, single life round. Sound plays a massively important role here; walking mutes your footsteps, opening up all manner of corner ambushes and sneak attacks.
That being said, you'll want to stay light on your toes, particularly if there's an objective to diffuse or a flank to be exploited. Death happens quickly, especially if there's headshots involved. Prepare yourself for late game clutches, and self directed fury at your lack of skill.
The CS:GO comparisons continue in the pre-round buy menu, allowing you to equip all manner of weapons and gear. However, your character specific moves (bar one) are also tied into this system, meaning there's often a trade off to be made between equipping a primary beast, decent shielding, and stocking up on your class based single use abilities. Once in game, the lack of sprint, and the importance of keeping your head on a swivel, make this a taut and often times very intense experience.
One of Valorant's greatest strengths is each character feels useful in their own way; there's a huge emphasis on obscuring opponent views or blocking their paths, with Brimstone, Cypher, and Viper being notably well suited to these tasks.
By the same token, character abilities don't particularly dominate the game. A well placed Recon Bolt from Sova or cheeky flash from Phoenix's Curveball might help turn the tide in a pinch, but for the most part, this is a skill driven proposition, where map mastery and ability usage are somewhat secondary to tight shooting and on the fly tactics.
There's also flanking opportunities aplenty, which can make even the most one sided engagements feel vaguely surmountable. The pop of the kill icon, after a successful sneak assault, is immensely satisfying, and even in moments of thigh punching failure, you'll never be short of ways to mix up your approach in each subsequent firefight.
By all accounts, Valorant is a confident debut for Riot in the realm of first person action, and as they approach launch, all eyes will be on the final release to see if it can live up to the extremely high bar set by this Closed Beta event.
Valorant launches Summer 2020, for PC.
Closed Beta press access provided by Riot Games.