Valorant is Riot Games’ new hero-based, first-person shooter with an intense focus on hardcore gunplay and communication. It’s similar to CS:GO in the shooting, map navigation, and short time-to-kill department, but also unique in its own respect. The overwhelmingly punishing nature of the game has an innate tendency to turn off those originating from a more casual shooter experience, but this guide will surely help a new player hurdle the high skill ceiling. Easy to learn, hard to master is the name of the game, and your ticket to fragging.
Two teams of five are pitted against each other in four unique maps (as of launch on June 3rd): Haven, Bind, Split, and Ascent. As of launch, there are two game modes, Unrated or unranked, and Spike Rush – essentially, the abridged version that strips away economy with predetermined weapons for everyone, capping off at 1,000 earned XP for winners and losers. It’s important that you hit the firing range before queuing a match, as it allows you to practice your aim, abilities and characters – even those that are locked.
Before delving into the strategy behind gunplay and communication, it’s essential to note that a smart player is a patient player.
Valorant, much like CS:GO and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, relies on sound. In the upper left corner of your HUD lies the map. Every step you take, unless shifting to slow your walk, makes sound, indicated by a large circle around your character. This circle serves as an indicator for how much sound you’re currently making, as well as travel distance. Map navigation works in tandem with sound, as it is imperative that one knows or assumes enemy location depending on attack or defend phases.
Currently, Haven is the only map with three bomb sites – A, B and C – while the others have just two. Team dynamic, communication, and a vast understanding of your individual character’s role and abilities determines who comes out of 25 rounds victorious. Understanding the maps means you comprehend the potential flanks and are ready to take action against them, while also utilizing specific callouts to pinpoint enemy location.
Haven, being the most chaotic of the four due to the three bomb sites, offers countless opportunities for flanking. At each site, there are specific callouts that one must memorize and throw out at any given moment, considering the overall time-to-kill is almost instantaneous. “Short” refers to, well, the shorter path that an enemy could take, while “long” is the slower path to site. “Heaven” refers to an upper level window or ledge where an enemy takes advantage of verticality.
Each map has its own unique callouts, but understanding the basics will save you from a potential flank, or assist a teammate who is still alive.
Valorant, as of its launch chapter “Ignition”, offers eleven playable characters, most of which are locked behind XP walls: Omen, Sage, Raze, Reyna, Cypher, Viper, Brimstone, Breach, Jett, Sova, and Phoenix.
Towards the beginning of the game, a player earns a meagre amount of XP from matches to quickly unlock two characters. Knowing the roster is just as important here as it is in Blizzard’s esports juggernaut Overwatch, a game Valorant borrows heavily from in the hero department. The ten playable characters are separated into specific roles, and the difference between a good and bad team is understanding who a team needs and why.
Riot has created categories for its heroes: the duelist, sentinel, initiators, and controllers – all pretty self-explanatory. Reyna, new to the 1.0 launch, serves as a momentum-based character who players usually strategize aggressively. The enemies she kills leave behind soul orbs that can be consumed within a three-second life cycle to instantly retain rapid healing and brief invisibility. A character like Sage, Valorant’s healer, plays a much more passive role than Reyna. A good healer is one who is durable and understands when and where to block off sight. Minimalizing enemy vision is the creative spin on the popular ability formula of hero shooters.
Aside from a few characters, whose ultimates and utilities are used with the intent to kill, most block off site through circular smokes or large poison/flame walls. A smart player knows when and where to use their utilities to amplify an attack push or to support a locked down site on defense.
Understanding the basics of map navigation and communication, and then ultimately adapting from them, is just as essential as gun skill – the latter being extremely punishing.
Valorant differentiates its gunplay from CS:GO by including a randomized gun spray, instead of memorized patterns. The best way to win a gunfight is to spot, plant and burst. Moving while firing will spell instant death, as your shots do not align with your crosshairs, simultaneously alerting the enemy and leaving you vulnerable. Spot your enemy, plant your feet and burst fire. The first couple of shots are precise, but as you continue to fire the spray will become randomized, demanding a reset. Sometimes knowing when and how to back out of a fight, while also using utilities, is the difference between life and death.
Valorant has moments where you have to think on the fly. A 1v4 may seem completely one-sided, but moments like this are easily clutchable in the hands of a smart and patient player. If there is ever a situation where your gun sprays and the opportunity to escape has disappeared, it’s best to aim towards the feet of the enemy when a reset is not possible. The vandal, one of Valorant’s powerful assault weapons, has the capability to one tap an enemy from a distance, but once the randomized spray triggers you have more of a chance to hit the higher regions of the body if you aim lower. You also have the option to aim down sights, greatly increasing your accuracy percentage. Take your time and aim for the head with the accurate shots.
Most weapons have specific wall penetration damage outputs, meaning that shooting through cover could push back the enemy team.
Money, Money, Moooooney
Unlike more casual shooters, guns are purchased from a store at the beginning of every round. One must understand their economy, knowing which guns and armor levels suffice for a particular round. At the start of each half, known as the pistol round, players begin with 800 credits – enough to buy a smaller weapon like the Frenzy or the Shorty with small shields.
In the later rounds, where credits are more plentiful, you need to do 150 damage to kill an enemy. It offers a constant risk/reward system that ultimately depends on team and individual performance each round. Most beginners are unaware that planting the spike offers a credit return, creating a strategic layer in and of itself. If your team is at an advantage with three or more players going against one, some allow the enemy to plant the spike before killing them and defusing. The act of killing the enemy and then defusing the spike grants extra credits for the team.
Utilizing Valorant’s practice range is imperative, as knowing each gun by name and firepower will assist in how to attack an enemy. An operator in heaven? Probably best to not push them in an open area with minimal cover. Communicate with your team to have a potential flank into heaven, then rush in to take the site.
Hello? Anyone There?!
All of this means nothing without good comms. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a mic, ultimately hurting the team’s dynamic. Know when to speak up and for how long, as sound serves as a huge mechanic in the game. You die? Go on comms or text chat and give the callout for who killed you and where.
Once again, this works in tandem with map navigation, gun skill and economy. Valorant offers the ability to request and buy guns for your team. Does your top frag want an operator? Maybe take the risk and spend some of your credits to snag them one. Team synergy and layout is probably the most necessary tip one could give for Valorant. Let’s offer an example: on Bind, the attacking team decides to push A site. On this particular map, A site has heaven, showers, uhaul, CT spawn (originating from CS, referring to defender spawn), and A short. Showers refers to the back site near the attacker spawn, whereas uhaul represents the little cubby in between CT spawn and A short. A good attack pattern would be Brimstone smoking off heaven and uhaul, while Cypher lays a camera back towards their flank. An aggressive player helming Reyna, Jett, Raze or Pheonix could push the site with a flash or grenade, taking out enemies on ground level and reaching a position to plant and watch heaven once the smoke has cleared. Once the spike has been planted, Sage could heal up the attackers and wall off CT spawn or showers to impede the defenders’ retaking of the site, forcing them to run around to another entrance.
These characters are designed to work with each other. If you find yourself to be a player solely going for kills, Valorant will punish you.
Will We Ever Experience Valorant on Consoles?
As Riot Games usually operates exclusively for PC, prototyping for consoles has already begun. In a recent interview with Gamespot, Executive Producer Anna Donlan further explained their intent on translating Valorant to consoles, “We are definitely prototyping that right now…but there’s a way to play this game and a way to experience this game that we’re not entirely sure translates completely to console play.”.
Compromising the core competitive experience is something they want to avoid entirely. Translating this to consoles might compromise their competitive integrity, leaving players worried about unfair advantages on certain platforms. Donlan admits that bringing Valorant to consoles wasn’t the focus, but if it’s possible to deliver the same experience without compromising the competitive integrity, they will pursue prototyping.
As someone who has dumped well over 50 hours into the beta and the 1.0 release, it’s tough to predict how successfully the game will translate. Aiming, similar to CS:GO, relies on precision and quick flicks – something not as viable with a controller. Rounds last a mere minute-and-a-half, but the typical style of gameplay remains slow, precise and patient in most cases, often rewarding the players that strategize. Consoles have their fair share of strategic first-person-shooters like Rainbow Six Siege, and have even seen a console port of CS:GO back in 2012, but the idea of translating this experience from PC to console is possible, yet not exactly necessary. Randomized weapon spray might be more difficult to control without a mouse and keyboard, and the addition of aim assist would most definitely compromise everything.
Get in There Agent!
These are the basics for jumping into Valorant for the first time after the beta. Keep in mind that the more you play, the more you learn. It will be exciting to see the strategies people pull off for the future of the game. When it was around midway through the closed beta, a Sova player called out his drone with Raze on top of it, with a shotgun to push the enemy spawn – spoiler alert, it worked.
For more on Valorant and its colourful cast of characters, check out Riot Games’ homepage to create an account and play for free NOW.