Valorant, analysis: Riot Games' tactical shooter aims
Valorant, analysis: Riot Games' tactical shooter aims

It was on October 27, 2009, when Riot Games launched ‘ League of Legends ‘, the eSport par excellence. On October 27, 2019, the title celebrated its first decade and Riot took the opportunity to announce a new project outside the ‘LoL’ universe: ‘ Project A ‘, a tactical five-on-five shooter. It was a mystery until a few weeks ago when Riot Games gave it an official name and said that it would start working in a private beta phase until its launch in summer. We speak, of course, of ‘ Valorant ‘.

First thing: a bit of the always-needed context

Before moving on to the bulk of the article, I would not like to stop explaining how the game’s deployment is taking place. ‘Valorant’ has a week and little to live and at the moment it is in the private beta phase. Not everyone can access it, but to test the game you have to link the Riot Games account (the same as the ‘League of Legends’) with Twitch and watch the streaming of ‘Valorant’. Before, only the streams of certain people were valid, but now any user can distribute betas.

There is nothing you can do to improve the odds, although ‘Valorant’ said on his Twitter profile that after two hours of viewing the odds increase. Where do I want to go? Because you don’t have to follow anyone, subscribe, make donations, or comment. It is a matter of sheer chance, so you have to be patient.

The only way to get access to the beta, for now, is by streaming the game on Twitch

The reason for doing so is that Riot Games is testing the servers. I can tell you that they are very stable and that I have never had problems in the game, but this is the way they control the performance of the game before millions and millions of people access it. The game, by the way, will be totally free and will be monetized through microtransactions with which to get cosmetic items.

That said, I find it interesting to review the minimum requirements to play. ‘League of Legends’ moves on almost any computer and ‘Valorant’ follows the same path. It’s easier if we look at all the minimum and recommended specs in one table, so here it goes. Needless to say, neither is nor is expected for consoles, at least for now.

The computer I have played from is my personal PC. This consists of 16 GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti GPU, and an Intel i5-7400 @ 3 GHz, all under the umbrella of Windows 10 Pro, so in the eyes of ‘Valorant’ it is a high-end PC, although you see that it is not at all. The computer is connected to the network via an Ethernet port, which I highly recommend for competitive games like this.

As a general rule, I have played in “medium” graphic quality, since in titles like this I prefer to prioritize the frames per second to the textures. Even so, in high quality, it still got 60 frames per second, so I attribute it to a ‘Counter-Strike’ mania. All the images that you will find in this text have been obtained in the highest quality. Now yes, we are going to talk about ‘Valorant’.

More ‘Counter-Strike’ than ‘Overwatch’

When the first images of ‘Valorant’ came out, there were not a few who said it was like ‘Overwatch, while the characters have abilities, reload times ( cooldown ), and more powerful attacks ( Ultimates or Ultis ). Rather not. ‘Valorant’ is more similar to ‘Counter-Strike’, except for the fact that there are abilities, most of them support, and that there are no explosive grenades, blinding, Molotov cocktails and smoke, but they are extra abilities that are bought in departure. The same, but with another interpretation.

The objective of the game is exactly the same as in ‘Counter-Strike. The attackers must plant a  Spike and the Defenders will have to disable it or kill the attacking team before they have time to plant it (and vice versa, if the attackers kill the defending team before planting the bomb they win). Each map has a series of zones to put the bomb, so the team must divide up to defend the strategic points during the almost two minutes that each game lasts. The winner is the one who reaches 13 rounds won before.

There are currently ten characters, each with their respective role and skill set. Each character has a specialization because a sentinel is not the same as a duelist. One is more designed to cover areas and another to enter them and initiate the action. All characters have an always active ability, the “E”, which can be anything from a dash to a surveillance camera or a firebomb that damages area or heals.

The key to the game is to know which characters work best in each situation, and for this, my recommendation is to specialize in a role. A sentry-like Cypher is not played in the same way as a duelist like Jett, because with Cypher you don’t have attack skills, but you do have support and zone control skills.

This is one of the nice things about the game right now: everything is new. No one knows exactly how a character is used and which skill combos are the most “broken” (way of saying they have too much impact in a game). We are all learning as we play and we discover things, but I am sure that as soon as the professionals of ‘Counter-Strike’ enter, the game will become more competitive, there will be more or less optimal combinations of characters and ‘Valorant’ will become what is ‘Counter-Strike’ right now.

Reflections aside, the abilities of the characters come to be what in Valve’s game are grenades. Almost every character has an ability that creates a digital, smoke or fire barrier, which comes to be the smoke grenades in ‘CS: GO’. Others have a flash that works like blinding, still, others have rocket launchers that double as hand grenades, and still, others do area damage or heal. The crux of the matter lies in knowing your role, that of others, and how your skills will impact the game. A character may have a smoke, but no blinding abilities, for example.

Then there are the ultis, which are recharged by killing players or by securing some orbs that are scattered around the map. These more powerful abilities usually either give more information to the players on your team, do a lot of damage to the opposing team, or cover large areas. Be that as it may, they all have something in common: they make a lot of noise and the players of the opposing team hear it, so they can be alert and defend themselves.

On a personal note, I recommend starting with Cypher or Phoenix. They are two fairly simple characters to control and with a basic and easy-to-master skill kit. The characters are unlocked as you play, so it’s a matter of testing and finding the one that suits your gameplay. I’m more leisurely and cautious, that’s why I like Cypher, but it’s a matter of playing and becoming each hero.

But this is a shooting game, let’s not forget We already know that the characters have abilities and that they serve to initiate the action, defend or control opponents, but we cannot forget that ‘Valiant’ is a tactical shooter game. It is important this nuance of “tactical” because it involves two things we already know from the ‘Counter-Strike’: each weapon makes them different damage depending on the area of impact of the bullet and the distance and you need to know to control the recoil ( recoil ). Here the one who knows how to not only use the skills at the right time wins, but the one who knows how to shoot, and it’s not easy.

As in the Valve title, each weapon has its style, its recoil, its benefits and its limitations. It is not the same to fire a submachine gun as an assault rifle or a sniper, and it makes no sense to fire long bursts because then the bullets will end up scattered all over the map and your character on the ground, dead. Now we will talk about this.

First of all, there are six types of weapons: five hand pistols, two submachine guns, two shotguns, four assault rifles, two snipers, and two light machine guns, to which we add the four skills of each person and the two shields, the light or the heavy. The light gives 25 additional hit points and the heavy 50 points but has no effect on movement speed.

The weapons have recoil, a lot, a lot, and the most normal thing is that the first two or three bullets go straight and the rest begin to move from one side to the other. You have to know each weapon, know how they apply the recoil, and learn to control it. Like in ‘Counter-Strike’, wow. The ideal is to aim for the head, because the most powerful weapon, the Vandal rifle, kills with a headshot, or the Sheriff pistol, which does the same, but up close. A couple of tips for those who have never played ‘Counter-Strike’ or ‘Valiant’:

  • Take your sight high, at the height of the enemy’s head, and do not move it. The weapon movements in these games are always sideways, never up or down. He always looks up at her. It seems silly, but it is not at all.
  • Shoot in short bursts at first, two or three shots, until you master the recoil. On many occasions, you will not need more bullets if you know how to aim.
  • Try different weapons in the tutorial and spend the magazine to see how the bullets are dispersed. Sometimes controlling recoil is “as simple” as firing the first three bullets, lowering the mouse down, dropping two or three more bullets, and then crouching down.
  • Lower the mouse sensitivity. For those of you coming from ‘Counter-Strike’, divide your ‘CS: GO’ sensitivity by 3.18 to get a similar one on ‘Valiant’.

You have to know how to shoot and that requires practice, a lot of practice, that is why at the beginning the game can be frustrating for the uninitiated because it is enough for two players from the other team to know how to shoot so that ours has nothing to do if nobody has mastered the shot. My recommendation: give yourself time and don’t despair. It is a complicated and very competitive game, so arm yourself with patience and try to enjoy yourself.

All weapons are scoped, except for handguns and shotguns. They do not zoom much (except for snipers, for obvious reasons), but they are useful for first shots or distant fights. In the end, the game always ends up being from the hip because it is faster, you have more field of vision and when you have the point caught on the back, more effective, but it is an added that is appreciated.

That said, the gunplay is pretty cool, as it is. The game invites us to improve our aim and penalizes mistakes with great force (with death, being clear). It is important to know how to get the bullet to the area we want and the rounds are very intense. If you like very competitive games that require skill, ‘Valiant’ more than fulfills its mission.

That’s where matchmaking comes in. Currently, it is a bit “random”, perhaps due to the small number of players there are, but it has happened to me on several occasions that I play a game with people who show that they are new and the next with people who have been playing ‘Counter-Strike for years ‘. At the moment it is what it is, but Riot has already said that over the next few weeks the rankings will arrive, that is, the qualifying games, so it goes without saying that sooner or later we will be able to play with people of our level.

Latency is also very important. Riot Games promised that the servers would be optimized to play at 35 ms, which is not bad at all, and while I have never played at 35 ms, I have never exceeded 60 ms. For a game of this type, it does not seem like a bad figure at all, especially considering that we are in beta. The servers are stable and except for a couple of hitches that I have had on occasion, the experience has been very good. Be that as it may, I insist on the importance of playing with a wired connection.

Let’s talk about maps

Right now there are three maps in the game: Bind, with two bomb zones; Split, with two other pump zones; and Haven, with three zones. After having played them all on several occasions, the one that seems easiest to me is Split, but it is not something that matters too much because the maps are random and change in each game, so we cannot choose them except in private games, at least for now. Maybe in the future or in ranked, yes, but not right now.

The most complicated, as you can imagine, is Haven because it has three zones to defend and the teams are five people. Dividing the team on a map of two zones is easy, because two covers each bomb site, one covers half and then they rotate, but on a map of three things changes, because if the opposing team suddenly enters an area like C, players in A (on the other side) take forever to arrive to defend. Haven is crazy.

All maps have one thing in common: each zone to plant the bomb has two entrances that are often called “short” and “long”. The difference, obviously, is the distance between one and the other and, therefore, how you defend and attack. The only exception to this rule is Haven’s point B, which has three entrances, two lateral and one central.

Tactical games are precisely tactical because you can’t go crazy like in ‘ Call of Duty ‘. Before each round, you have to plan the attack/defense and how the team is distributed on the map because you do not revive. If you die, the round is over for you (unless a player has the ability to revive). It is important to communicate with the team and in that, it helps enormously 1) know the map and 2) that the correct terminology is used to describe the locations. I highly recommend playing with friends, the game wins a lot.

Unlike in ‘Counter-Strike’, where you must know the map by heart, ‘ Valorant’ has a little help on the radar. We always have the minimap activated, showing the entire map and as we move from one area to another, the text under it changes, showing us that we have gone from “A Garden” to “A Lobby” or “A Short”. That greatly facilitates communication with the team and is something that I appreciated during the first games because all the maps are unknown. There is voice chat built into the game itself (and it works perfectly), so that part is covered.

On the minimap, we can see the location of our allies at all times and a “?” when an enemy player shoots. It’s the game’s way of telling us that something strange is happening in that area and a good way to know when and where you have to rotate. Ultimately, the speed of movement will depend on the map. Split, where you get from A to B in 15 seconds, is not the same as Haven, where it takes you almost a minute to go from A to C, or Bind, which has two teleports to go from AB instantly.

Also on the minimap, we can see the areas that the rest of the players are covering. Each icon of our allies has a cone of vision that allows us to know at a glance where our allies are looking. That way we can tell you to move or move us to cover as many tickets as possible in the best way. That is very, very useful.

That said, when the round begins, the player is free to move to the middle of the map (there are blue walls in key areas that prevent further progress) and to buy at any location, not just at the spawn. That you can move to the middle of the map means that the preparation is done too quickly and when the round begins you find yourself exchanging shots at two seconds. That makes the game very hectic, but maybe too hectic.

For example, in Bind, if you enter “A” short, you can literally move almost to the entrance before starting the round, so opposing players will know that in a couple of seconds you will appear around the corner. The same is true of the long “C” in Haven. What causes this? That there are casualties as soon as you start the round and you find that 10 seconds have passed and you already have less than half a team to attack or defend. The maps, because of how they are designed, invite the action to happen as soon as possible, the better, and in a tactical shooter, I think the round should be more relaxed, more leisurely.

In each and every game I have played, the attackers move to that blue wall that prevents progress beyond the middle of the map. The defenders, on all maps, have a vision of the area through which the attacking players are going to exit, who are glued to that wall. When the round begins, you know that in two or three seconds the attacking player will appear around the corner, and if he doesn’t, it’s because he’s not there, ergo he’s in the other area of ​​the map, so you have to rotate. In just three seconds you know where the action is going to take place, and that takes the tension out of the game. Solution? Don’t stick to the wall.

The graphics in tactical shooters could be said to be the least of it. The important thing is to have a higher number of frames, the better (and a suitable monitor, of course) because that way we will see the movements of the rivals faster and without ghosting. To give you an idea of ​​how unimportant the graphics are in ‘Counter-Strike’, which is the greatest exponent in this sector, professionals usually play in 4: 3 at 1,024 x 768 pixels, because that is how heads look larger and on a gaming computer the frames are shot.

Likewise, it is worth giving them a brief review. The graphics are more cartoon than in other shooting games. They do not seek to be faithful to reality, but to give an aesthetic closer to ‘ Fortnite ‘ or ‘ Overwatch ‘, but more serious. The edges are sharper and more detailed, and each character has its own distinctive elements and animations.

 

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