Valorant review | PC Gamer

Need to know

What is it? A Counter-Strike-style FPS from the League of Legends studio
Reviewed on: RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 2600 3.4Ghz, 16 GB RAM
Price: Free-to-play
Release date: Out now
Publisher: Riot Games
Developer: Riot Games
Multiplayer: 5v5 round-based competitive
Link: Official site 

It’s wild how quickly Valorant has captured the collective consciousness of FPS fans. Riot’s competitive shooter is just barely out of beta, yet it already stands toe-to-toe with the biggest games in its genre. It helps that Valorant comes from a gigantic studio and that its deviously smart partnership with Twitch streamers to selectively hand out beta access gave it a running start. But that enormous marketing push wouldn’t mean much if Valorant weren’t also very good. 

It’s true that Valorant is Riot’s best crack at Counter-Strike, but the ways it remixes Valve’s blueprint are what make it excellent. Anonymous gangs of counter-terrorists are replaced by a cast of vibrant agents with talents that match their personalities. In a very Overwatch fashion, agents quip at each other at the start of rounds and break the fourth wall to announce they’ve eliminated their “imposter” on the other team (the enemy playing the same character). It has the same upbeat vibe of Overwatch that helps every loss feel a little more friendly.

The 5v5 games take place over up to 25 rounds, which can last anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple minutes each. The attackers want to plant the bomb (called the Spike here) and the defenders have to defuse it or die trying. Other games have borrowed Counter-Strike’s round-based bomb mode over the years, but far fewer have ever mimicked Counter-Strike’s exact shooting style, map design, and weapon economy. Even in 2020, CS still stands out as a shooter that’s won with equal parts mechanical skill, strategic frugality, and deep mind games.

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Valorant manages to reproduce those great qualities while tossing magical ice walls and drones into the mix. The deliberate detachment from reality also allows traditional support tools like smoke, flash, and fire grenades to become playful abilities with varied uses. Take Phoenix’s Hot Hands, a molotov-style fireball that burns enemies while healing Phoenix, or Jett’s Cloudburst, a smoke grenade that she can steer through the air after throwing. It’s not only fun to use, but inspires skill shots that aren’t possible in Counter-Strike.

Using my camera and Trapwires to tag an enemy and wallbang them through a box is reminiscent of the coolest moments in Rainbow Six Siege.

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