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Hands-on with Valorant on Xbox – the next big shooter to take the console market by storm


Valorant keyart
Valorant is on Xbox – in beta form

Spend time with anyone over in PC land, complete with the finest gaming chair and RGB keyboard, and chances are you’d have heard of Valorant. From Riot Games – of League of Legends fame – Valorant is an ultra-competitive, free-to-play FPS that will have you sweating from tension, and being shot down time, time and time again before you finally understand what is going on. However, push through the steep learning curve, and you’ll have a mighty fun time when it releases on console soon. 

I was lucky enough to go hands-on with the console Closed Beta of Valorant; read on to hear my thoughts, as well as a few tips for getting ahead of the crowd.

Attack vs Defence – it’s that simple!

Valorant preview 3
On the attack…

If the hero shooter element of Blizzard’s Overwatch met up with the extremely low time-to-kill of CS:GO, the baby would undoubtedly be named Valorant. The inspirations are clear to see, from the fact that all 24 playable Agents have typically three magical abilities to use, all the way down to the all-important fact that every player will go down in just a few shots. Aim for the head, and it’s pretty much a guaranteed instakill. 5v5, one life in each round, attack vs defence – simple enough!

All Agents are automatically unlocked with an Xbox Game Pass subscription, but alternatively unlocked through gameplay or micro-transactions. Split into four roles – Controllers, Sentinels, Duelists and Initiators – each comes into their own at different points in the round. Some are best towards the start as teams look to reveal enemy locations; others help to lock down a position, and others still are best in straight gunfights, with offensive abilities.

It’s only when you get into a match – following a quick and useful tutorial and practice game against bots – that you release that Valorant is as layered as a massive onion. Fundamentally, each match consists of 12 rounds of one team attacking, and another defending, after which the roles reverse. First to 13 rounds total takes the dub. Each round will only take a minute or two, meaning that matches are down and out pretty quickly, despite the many rounds you’ll work through. 

Win-conditions are dual: either team can take out all five of the enemy team to win a round, or indeed the Attackers can plant a bomb (Spike) on a plant site across the map, and defend it until explosion. Defenders, on the other hand, can win a round by defusing the bomb. In order to win, you’ll have to sparingly use your abilities to block off choke points, reveal the locations of enemy players, and use smoke in order to get by unseen. Communicating in voice chat, therefore, is highly important. Failing this, the ability to ‘ping’ enemy locations and the like also does the job well.

Before a round, there will be a buy phase. Taken straight from the likes of CS:GO, the buy phase allows you to pick up a new weapon, as well as stock up on uses of your abilities. Additionally, you can purchase Light or Heavy Shields, which will see you survive just long enough to get a few extra shots off. Usually the difference between life and death, Shields are pretty much a must-buy in each shop, with the remaining cash facilitating the purchase of weapons. SMGs, Shotguns, Rifles, Snipers and LMGs – take your pick! Whatever weapon you choose, you can be sure that the gunplay is tight and responsive – the only thing to blame for death therefore is yourself… or the occasionally laggy connection, but I didn’t experience too much of this. 

Good to Go

Valorant preview 1
Valorant on Xbox feels good to go

What is perhaps most impressive about the state of Valorant on Xbox and console is just how complete it is. Perhaps it’s unsurprising, given that all Riot had to do was port over a lot of the PC content and add in controller support, but I believe Valorant has emerged in a pretty complete state and is good to go. Whilst there’s no confirmed full release date on console, there are not many reasons I can see that it can’t release before Holiday 2024.

It’s the UX (user experience) in particular that really hammers home the fact that Riot Games knows what they are doing, here. Ever-present in the top-left corner of your screen, the mini-map is exceptionally detailed, whilst never getting in the way. Whenever enemies make noise they appear on the map, if only briefly, and any abilities that produce walls and other area effects also pop up, so you know how best to rotate across the field. The excellent audio design on footsteps similarly ensures you can understand enemy placements. On the topic of audio, there’s also nothing more satisfying than the ramp up of the kill-confirming audio-beat as you rack up simultaneous kills!

Of course, you’ll also see the position of your compatriots at all times, and how to move through to the plant sites. Seriously, I’ve never seen a more informative but less obtrusive way to present information in all of gaming, and the minimap ensures Valorant is a very polished experience, allowing you to quickly learn the lay of the land across the many maps present.

On the other hand, the lack of information regarding the different weapons and Agent abilities is a bit jarring for a newbie player coming in. At least in the Closed Beta, all you get is a tutorial explaining the basic win conditions, and the opportunity to play a practice match. Expect to be doing some YouTube searches of ‘Valorant tips for beginners’ early-doors – but from our limited experience, picking an Agent with a diverse set of abilities (healing, offensive, defensive eg. smoke) alongside a cheap weapon like the Judge shotgun in order to save money for Heavy Shields, always saw us do decently. 

Of course, a greater degree of tutorialisation may be present when the full launch comes about, and the practice range is also a good place to start your education.

It’s a Learning Curve

Valorant preview 2
Expect a learning curve…

Ultimately, if you are prepared to put in the time to learn the ropes of Valorant on console, and then move onto more advanced team composition info and weapon stats, then you’ll find a lot of satisfaction from the rewarding gameplay. The opportunity to jump into shorter matches in Swiftplay (best of 9 rounds as opposed to best of 25), or take things old-school with conventional Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch options, also opens things up to a more casual player. In fact, I’d argue that the best way to play Valorant is indeed in Swiftplay, cutting matches from approximately 30-40 minutes in length to a match more manageable, bite-sized 10-20 mins. Additionally, the lack of abilities in Deathmatch means that it’s a pure way to hone your gunplay.

With tons of cosmetics to unlock (or, most often, buy with hard-earned cash) as well as a free and Premium Battle Pass to work through, and the competitive ranked ladder to climb, there’s tons of rewards for consistent gameplay. At present, it’ll be difficult for Valorant to shift the attitude that it’s a super, super competitive shooter with maximum punishment. But then again, that’s not such a bad thing – just be aware of what you are getting into.

Valorant will soon be available on Xbox Series X|S and PS5, with the game having been available on PC (Epic) since June 2020. Riot have confirmed that there will not be cross-platform play in order to preserve competitive integrity, but cross-platform progression of levelling and items will be present. Make sure you check out our full review of Valorant around the full launch, and for more details the Xbox Store page has you covered.

Let us know in the comments below and on our social media channels – will you be getting involved in Valorant when it launches on Xbox and console? Or perhaps you’ve already managed to play on PC or console? We are all ears!

Huge thanks go out to Riot Games for providing us access to the beta of Valorant on Xbox Series X|S.

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