Riot Games, which I should go ahead and mention is owned by the same mega-giant Chinese corporation that owns the company that owns Fanbyte, pulled the covers off its mysterious first-person shooter yesterday. No longer “Project A,” the highly-competitive squad-based FPS is now known as Valorant, and Riot would very much like to show you just how Not Overwatch™ it is via the alpha gameplay video embedded below.
Yes, the characters (or as Riot calls them, “Agents”) have unique abilities — four, to be exact, much like Riot’s other game League of Legends — but everyone has access to the same pool of weapons, which are purchased between rounds in true Counter-Strike-like fashion. Players can also purchase better armor and/or more charges for their abilities between rounds, and if you’re a little short on funds, you can request that someone else on your squad foot the bill.
Better armor seems like it’s probably worth the investment, because the time ’till death (TTD) in Valorant looks incredibly short. Agents drop after one or two shots, unlike the sponge-worthy heroes of Overwatch, or even the Guardians found in Destiny 2‘s Crucible. This plays into one of Riot’s main selling points for Valorant, which is that the game is a place “WHERE PRECISE GUNPLAY MATTERS,” according to the newly launched official website. “Shooting in VALORANT is precise, consequential, and highly-lethal – we want you to win on your skill and strategy alone.”
In an attempt to garner favor with high-skill esports players and the die-hards that’re already committed to other games, Riot is also out here touting how much money its spent to make Valorant‘s infrastructure top of the line. As briefly mentioned when Project A was first unveiled last year, Riot will support Valorant with “128-tick servers, at least 30 frames per second on most min-spec computers (even dating back a decade), 60 to 144 FPS on modern gaming rigs, a global spread of datacenters aimed at <35ms [ping] for players in major cities around the world, a netcode we’ve been obsessing over for years, and a commitment to anti-cheat from day one.”
Riot is even going to pay internet service providers to route Valorant traffic directly from your local switching center to a Riot server, bypassing the maze of switches and hubs that normally transmit data for plebeian video games, according to a hands-on report from Eurogamer. This is how Riot plans to achieve ping rates as low as those quoted above — theoretically, a signal travelling in a straight line is the fastest.
Missing from yesterday’s reveal was any mention of pricing, and while Riot has yet to release a game that wasn’t free-to-play, it’s also only ever released two games, so there’s not much precedent to go on. Still, one of Riot’s two games was the most popular game on the planet (League of Legends) for most of its 10 years of availability, so the developer has little incentive to move away from its ultra-proven F2P model.
I spent hundreds of hours in Overwatch before I was mercifully uplifted by the gentle embrace of Destiny 2, so I gotta say that I’m not really feeling Valorant‘s ultra-quick TTD. Additionally, this is a Riot game with voice chat, and if we’ve learned anything from 10 years of people playing League of Legends, it’s that they aren’t very shy when it comes to telling you exactly what they think of your performance/lifestyle/life/existence. Add in the fact that Riot is, purposefully and from the ground up, designing Valorant to be as conducive as possible to super serious, high-stakes competitive gameplay, and you’ve got a recipe for an experience that I am in no way excited to participate in.
The real question, which I’ve yet to see anyone even attempt to address, is “how does Riot plan to help Valorant penetrate the highly competitive Source Filmmaker market?”