It seems that developers have been churning out FPS games at a staggering pace over the last decade or so. However, only a handful have stayed relevant over the years. The one game that comes to mind is Counter Strike and all of its variants. From CS 1.6 as far back as 2000 to CS:GO now, CS has been a staple in the team based competitive shooter scene and is considered the gold standard for this genre. It is essentially what games such as Valorant and Rainbow 6 Siege are striving to become.
How has CS stayed on top?
- Skill. All players, regardless of experience, have the same weapons/controls and there is no pay to win advantage. There is always a bit of RNG as with all games, but skill is still by far the determining factor in winning/losing.
- Team Dynamics. CS was one of the first games that emphasized team play and different roles. It is important to have superstar play makers but rarely does one player outweigh the importance of proper team play.
- Round Lengths. Battle Royale style games are all the rage still but there is a large segment of gamers that prefers the shorter round matches. This keeps things fresh and engaging. 20-30 minute games just aren’t for everyone.
- Maps. Balanced maps and map design are extremely important. CS has had the benefit of 20+ years of trial and error and millions of hours of playtime to perfect its most popular maps. You don’t want a map that heavily favors one side or another or that is complicated to figure out.
- Skins. Cosmetics and visual addons has fueled CS:GO. It has been instrumental and extremely important from a profitability standpoint as well helping players stay engaged with the game.
- Computer Requirements. CS has always been a computer friendly game. Most PCs can probably run CS in some playable fashion assuming you have a semi decent video card.
- Free to Play. This has kept CS:GO popular since...who doesn’t like free?
Valorant is trying to duplicate the CS franchise but they want to go a step further. From just looking at the gameplay without the special abilities, it seems very similar to CS and you would be right. Each gun has its own special pros and cons, rounds are fairly short, and there is a period that allows you to purchase weapons/abilities at the start of every round. It even seems that the majority of CS pros have found success playing Valorant during this beta run and that should not be surprising to anyone. However, the addition of special abilities, further game development, and the promise of faster servers and seamless gameplay have made Valorant one of the most anticipated games of the year.
In Valorant, you can control an agent of your choice and each agent has a special role and abilities that hopefully complements the rest of your team. From resurrecting and healing allies, to shooting wall hack arrows that reveal enemies, the possibilities are endless. These agent classes give a bit of spice to the typical CS:GO team where all players are exactly identical except for different cosmetics. The gameplay and shooting is fairly similar, but the agent classes adds another layer of tactical skill and specialization skill that CS doesn’t offer. It allows for more team composition varieties and tactical exploration.
Valorant also is hoping to provide the fastest servers and most seamless gaming experience. Short wait times and low pings are what most gamers look for and Riot is hoping to deliver. It is rare when a developer emphasizes exemplary coding as a main. There is nothing more frustrating than shots that don’t register or long wait queues to play.
By making this game free to play, Riot is trying to get as many players as possible and this is also apparent by looking at the graphics and hardware requirements. Minimum requirements are Intel i3-370M and Intel HD 3000. That means that most $300 laptops should be able to run this or even 5 year old desktops. While you may not get 240FPS, the game will be playable and the more players that play, the better for Riot. One of the reasons CS:GO has stuck around is the cosmetics and Riot is trying to capitalize on the exact same thing with their new in-game store. Large amounts of players with optional in-game cosmetic purchases has proven to be a printing press for money.
Riot has also emphasized anti-cheat and development as important cornerstones of the game. Cheating is self explanatory. While it is frustrating getting stomped on by a team of good players, nothing grinds my gears more than cheaters. Cheaters ruin the experience for players on both teams and are in essence wasting everyone’s precious time. Valorant has run into cheaters already during this Beta test (Shroud documented a cheater in one of his games on youtube). This is a beta run so we’ll let it slide for now. Hopefully, Riot can clean it up a bit by the time the game officially launches.
Constant improvements and updates will also be a breath of fresh air. One major issue with CS:GO is that it has seemed stagnant for the last decade or so besides the cosmetics store. The most popular maps are played over and over again and there hasn’t been anything groundbreaking new development/official gameplay. You don’t fix what’s not broken but we hope Riot treats their first entry into the FPS world seriously and gives players, new and old reason, to be excited going forward.
Is Valorant a subtle rip off of CS? Probably a bit. The weapons, maps, objectives, and overall style is very similar. But the new feature abilities and promise of optimization/development will hopefully push this game to the next echelon of not only casual, but competitive gaming. Riot has been able to sit back and see what works and take cues from games such as CS and Overwatch to improve their product. With a strong development team, an overall positive response to the beta so far, and the deep pockets of Riot, we expect this game to be not only polished, but extremely fun to play. We look forward to the official launch.