Valorant Review (2023) – A Superior Counter-Strike

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Valorant (2023) Review

  • Story And Setting
  • Gameplay
  • Visuals And Performance

Verdict

Despite its rather young age, Valorant has quickly risen the ranks to become a foundational part of the FPS genre. And by flawlessly combining top-notch mechanics from several rivals, it’s clear to understand the game’s mass success.

Pros

  • Intriguing Lore
  • Strong Gunplay
  • Great Maps
  • Vibrant Art Style
  • Proper Optimization
  • Consistent Updates

Cons

  • Weapon Balancing
  • Intrusive Anti-Cheat Software
  • Egregious Cosmetic Prices

After the massive success of League of Legends, the team at Riot Games decided to try their luck yet again by breaking into and redefining another genre. But this time the competition was much more intense, and they had to go up against the likes of Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six Seige in an already saturated market.

However, against all odds, Riot managed to find a specific spot in the industry and launched Valorant, their competitive FPS title. As an underdog, this project garnered heaps of attention from both the media and the public. And looking back at it now, it seems Riot indeed hit the jackpot, as the game has become a staple in the industry, attracting millions of monthly players, conducting tournaments, and always staying trendy with regular updates.

Story And Setting

Valorant story
Story And Setting.

You’d think that a multiplayer-only shooter wouldn’t have any interesting narrative, but surprisingly enough the devs have managed to introduce a somewhat basic storyline to the whole thing. The story takes place in a universe where two different Earths exist, Alpha and Omega, as well as a mysterious substance known as Radianite. Alpha Earth has a lot of Radianite, while Omega does not, and so the central conflict is based on the acquisition of this substance.

That’s the most basic premise, and Riot has done a fantastic job of progressing this narrative over the game’s lifetime. They regularly showcase shorts where we learn more about the world and characters, and how the various different characters fit within it. Besides that, the maps’ design and the easter eggs within them reveal interesting yet vague parts of the story.

You can find a few tidbits of lore in the characters’ dialogue before and after each round, where they talk about their motives, backstory, and relationship with other agents. Overall, Riot has incorporated an intriguing narrative behind all of Valorant‘s gameplay, where you can learn as much or as little as you want. It’s always minor details that keep the players engaged and let them connect with their favorite agent.

Gameplay

Gameplay.

Valorant brings the best of both worlds by combining the hero-class system of Overwatch with the gameplay loop of CS:GO. In a standard match, you can either play as Attackers or Defenders, and the first 5-player team to win 13 rounds wins the match. After each round, players will get credits based on their performance which they can use to buy weapons, abilities, and armor for the next one.

The Attackers’ objective is to either kill the enemy team or plant the Spike (which is basically your bomb) at the dedicated sites and protect it until it explodes. On the other hand, the Defenders must either defend the site until the timer ends or defuse the spike if planted by the Attackers. Once you play 12 rounds, you’ll reach the half-time after which the teams will switch sides.

To prevent the experience from getting stale, Valorant offers players to choose from 8 game modes – Unrated, Competitive, Swiftplay, Deathmatch, Spike Rush, Escalation, Replication, and Snowball Fight. It’s worth noting though that the first 5 of these are permanent modes, while the latter 3 are seasonal formats that are temporarily available.

Moving onto the hero system, the game has a selection of 21 completely unique agents. Each agent has 4 different abilities, including an Ultimate ability, which is basically the character’s final trump card. At round start, you can purchase all the abilities except the Ultimate, which automatically charges up as you get kills and play the objectives.

Besides that, the agents themselves are categorized into 4 types according to their playstyle and role in the team. Duelists are offensive agents meant to lead the charge into sites and get kills with their combat abilities, while Initiators can help teams gain control of areas on the map. Sentinels are defense experts for locking down areas and watching flanks as both defenders and attackers and finally, Controllers can divide up hostile territory to make it easier for their team to enter sites.

Overall, the addicting and often stressful gameplay loop coupled with the unique agents and their abilities makes for a fresh experience every time. The agents’ abilities are definitely the highlight here though, adding a ton of versatility where you can come up with your own strategies for crafty plays.

Unfortunately, the weapon balancing and variety in the game leave a lot to be desired. While the gunplay is satisfying and the weapons themselves encourage several unique playstyles, a select few often overshadow most of them as being much more viable choices, like the Spectre in budget and Vandal/Phantom in all-out rounds. And with only 17 weapons to choose from with roughly 3-4 of them defining the meta, your purchasing options will feel forced and repetitive most of the time.

Valorant guns
Gun Collection.

Although this gun meta has improved since Valorant’s initial beta phase, there’s still a lot to be done. One way Riot did somewhat tackle this issue was by making players rely on their agents more than their weapons, so they brought several new agents to the game, growing the roster from 10 to 21.

This, of course, made the game drastically more enjoyable, letting you play and play against a lot more agents than in 2020. And with new agents releasing roughly once every 3 months, you can bet there will be a lot more options coming in 2023.

Visuals And Performance

Visuals.

Riot Games has always had a distinct and vibrant art style, and no other game probably shows it off better than Valorant. Despite being a few years old, the visuals of the game continue to thrive compared to most modern competitive shooters. And while it might not look photorealistic, the art direction Riot chose makes it radiant, no pun intended.

Each map and location is filled with bright colors, intricate design choices, and stunning vistas to keep you hooked as you play. You can further see these aspects with the agents themselves, who have distinct color palettes that make them stand out from each other. Even the minor map and gun bits have extreme details that your eye can often catch and appreciate. 

And best of all, you can get these visuals with a modest desktop setup. Like most competitive shooters, Valorant prioritizes performance so that it can run on most hardware specifications. Our gameplay had consistent FPS throughout the board, even in moments with a lot of particles and action filling the screen. The game is mainly CPU-bound, yet we were crossing 300 FPS on a Core i5-9400f, which is several generations old. And we got these figures on 1080p resolution with everything turned up to maximum settings.

Furthermore, Valorant lets you review and customize all your graphical options for better control over performance and quality. You can change your resolution, visual settings, and in-game stats according to your preferences. You can make these changes both in the menu and in-game to instantly see the results on the go. Even on the lowest settings, it still manages to be readable without looking like a dated title. Thanks to the art style, the game can still keep that modern look even while you’re churning for more FPS.

Valorant settings
Graphical Settings.

As a PC-exclusive game, it’s clear that Riot has done a fantastic job with Valorant’s optimization and visual fidelity. With barely any stutter or performance dips, you’ll undoubtedly have a smooth in-game experience without any hassle.

The accessibility, simple UI, and lack of visual and performance bugs show the devs’ care for the overall user experience. And the multitude of graphical settings adds another layer of convenience, letting you choose performance over visuals or vice versa.

Verdict

Verdict.

Riot has been actively supporting their game since launch, introducing 11 more agents from the initial 6, adding brand new maps, as well as several balance changes to keep the meta everchanging. It’s one of the many reasons why the game’s player base has only grown since release and why it’s quickly become one of the titans of Esports.

Besides gameplay, we’ve even seen drastic improvements in narrative worldbuilding, with Valorant introducing new plot points, character arcs, and lively personalities into its world. It adds a certain charm to the game that many competitive shooters usually overlook.

All things considered, Riot Games has done the unthinkable and successfully entered a gaming space previously ruled by Esports’ juggernauts. Valorant once considered the underdog, filled a tight gap in that space which ultimately grew so large that it made the game just as popular as its competitors. And with a dynamic story, crisp gameplay, and visually appealing graphics, that popularity isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

This has been our Valorant Review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles. 

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