The ESPN Esports staff was up bright and early Tuesday to test out VALORANT as a group, and after a full day of testing out Riot Games' first-person shooter, we finally have our thoughts together.
Some of our staffers had a chance to try out VALORANT during a bootcamp put on by Riot in late March, but this was the first time everyone on the team got time with the game. Here are our first impressions, and some of our hottest takes, on the game that everyone seems to be talking about.
With how big launch day has been, have your expectations for VALORANT'S future as an esport changed?
Tyler Erzberger: Not really. If I was going to bet on one company to create a competitive but accessible game and turn it into a long-lasting esport, it was always going to be Riot Games. VALORANT is a hit (at least after one day), and the developers have already promised a game for players who want a high competitive ceiling. There is no limit how big VALORANT as an esport can be, and that's what makes it so exciting.
Sean Morrison: I still don't feel like VALORANT will kill any other esports, but it sure is smooth, and we've already seen players like Fortnite World Cup solos runner-up Harrison "Psalm" Chang announce they were leaving their games for VALORANT, and teams like T1 Esports signing players for VALORANT this week. I'm shifting my opinion of whether it can beat Counter-Strike in viewership within a year from "probably not" to a firm "maybe."
Jacob Wolf: I'm not really sure what to expect for VALORANT as an esport. This is the first time Riot will launch a game out of beta -- as Legends of Runeterra and Teamfight Tactics are technically still in beta -- since League of Legends, the game that obviously made the developer the most successful esports publisher in the world. So no, it hasn't. I don't know what to expect yet.
Darin Kwilinski: I don't have any expectations for VALORANT as an esport yet, so, no. I'm optimistic that it will do well, whatever shape it takes -- Riot does have 10 years of League of Legends esports behind it, after all.
Emily Rand: My expectations for VALORANT as an esport differ wildly from my expectations of it as a game. I think the natural hype, the fact that it is a legitimately fun game and the positive reception from major streamers, influencers and pro players from other FPS games all bodes well for VALORANT's future. However, when it comes to creating an esports scene, I think a few things have to happen for VALORANT to be on par with Riot Games' other major title, League of Legends, so I'll be watching how Riot handles the official release, especially in South Korea and China, who were not part of this public beta test.
Arda Ocal: Launch day doesn't equal esport. Yes, VALORANT set Twitch records, but I don't think the majority of people watching today were tuning into streams because they wanted to judge how well VALORANT would perform as an esport. That will come later.
How long into the future remains in question -- we will certainly see tournaments (Twitch Rivals already did one, for example), but as far as an official VALORANT league presentation, we might be far off, and that's OK. Riot, which operates the most successful esport of all time, is at the helm; it's a developer that has the relationships, knowledge and experience to do this right. Riot is in a terrific position to make VALORANT the first globally successful FPS. Having played this game while thinking about it through an esports lens, it is one of those easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master type games, which are the best kind. It's smooth, it's visually appealing -- it checks all the right boxes. So, does having a blockbuster first day mean it will succeed as an esport? No. But does everything surrounding this release point to it being a successful esport? Yes.
What needs to change before this game goes to public beta?
Morrison: Audio cues feel a little overdone right now. I understand footsteps and ability sound triggers are important; I also feel as if I find myself relying on them too often because they're so directed and loud right now.
Wolf: Agree with Sean. Teammate footsteps are way too loud. I don't mind enemy footsteps being loud, but yeah, it needs some audio tweaks.
Kwilinski: I think the slow that's applied on being shot can be toned down a smidge. It's frustrating to get in a firefight that feels all-or-nothing so often because you're suddenly walking in sludge.
Ocal: I want a little but more speed, but that's just me. Audio is slightly funky at times, there are a couple of visual glitches when agents are jumping on platforms, but honestly, a LOT about this game is great. Relatively minor stuff to how enjoyable the game is.
Which agent do you hate to have on your team the most?
Morrison: As a bad Jett player, I can confirm playing with a bad Phoenix as a teammate is even worse.
Kwilinski: Omen. I just don't feel he offers as much as the rest of the cast.
Wolf: Omen. Trash, wanna-be Reaper. Get outta here!
Ocal: OMEN GRUMBLE GRUMBLE OMEN GRUMBLE. But really, any player THAT DOESN'T USE COMMS EVEN IF WE ARE ON A TEAM OF RANDOMS. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? USE YOUR CHAT, PEOPLE. DON'T BE RIDICULOUS.
Erzberger: Sage. A bad Sage player doesn't know how to use her wall to cut off entry points and only uses her heals on herself.
Rand: Sage. I am that Sage player. I'm so sorry.
Which agent do you hate to see on the enemy team the most?
Erzberger: It's also Sage. A good Sage knows how to make entering a site nearly impossible and seems to always have all of her teammates back to 100% health even after putting pressure on them for the entire round. Enemy Sages are always too good and selfless.
Morrison: Sage feels really oppressive right now, no matter the skill level of the person playing her. She can take away a good bit of the map and hold off pushes with few ways to punish her unless you're willing to bet on your skill in a disadvantageous gunfight.
Wolf: I HATE, like absolutely despise, Raze. Those grenades are super annoying and I hate how they multiply after the first explosion. Hate it, hate it, hate it.
Kwilinski: Cypher. He can nullify flanks easily. He can tag opponents. He can black advances. He can wall-hack (sort of). But really, it's the anti-flanking thing. Those traps are such a nuisance.
Rand: Also Sage, for all of the reasons above. By design, Sage is meant to be obnoxious, so if she's in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing, she will shut a team down.
Ocal: All of them, because I'm garbage at FPS games. But when I "git gud," I'm going to guess Cypher, because the cage is annoying and the traps stink.
Finish the sentence. The three-site map is ...
Morrison: ... a bit convoluted and rules out certain agents. Unless you're planting B (why?), the long lanes and open sites take characters like Breach out of the equation almost entirely. Obviously, this game isn't ability-heavy, but skills like Breach's or Omen's sometimes feel useless on three-site.
Wolf: ... pointless. B site is irrelevant and absolutely atrocious to try to push if you don't have a competent Operator sniper. It feels like a worse version of Mirage in Counter-Strike, but mid is now a bomb site. I'm confused.
Erzberger: ... awesome. It allows for more one-on-one skirmishes and creative pushes. I've had my most fun games on Haven.
Kwilinski: ... great. Some characters are stronger than others on it, but the variety you have in decision-making for site takes, flanking, feinting ... it's pretty fun.
Rand: ... a bit odd. Having three sites makes certain choices objectively terrible, which in turn makes it more skill dependent, I suppose. I'm honestly not certain how I feel about it since by design, three-site maps often allow for too much variety in sight lines at certain sites. You're not going to rush C without traveling through B, and it opens up more opportunities for opponents to take you out. That said, you're not going to rush C via the long side, like you can with the A site, so you might be better off planting at B. I haven't played it enough to analyze this properly, but these are my rambling initial thoughts.
Ocal: ... FUN. Lots of FUN. Took me a bit of getting used to, but change is good. Change is necessary. Change is inevitable. So, FUN.
You can only pick one: VALORANT, Warzone, Animal Crossing, Final Fantasy VII Remake or Persona 5 Royal. What's your choice?
Morrison: Animal Crossing. It's a lifestyle.
Wolf: VALORANT. I love Animal Crossing so far, but I love me some first-person shooters. And hey, at least VALORANT can run smoothly on my decked-out PC. Can't say the same for Warzone. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Erzberger: Persona 5 is my favorite game of all time, and I'm still going VALORANT. I had dreams about VALORANT following the bootcamp. I bought a new PC just to play VALORANT as seamlessly as possible. I'm never going to be amazing at it, but I do know that I'm going to sink my personal, work and social (and lack thereof) life into it.
Arda Ocal: Tetris.
But also, I've been playing Warzone nonstop, and I can see the end of the road in a month or so in terms of my enjoyment. VALORANT is still new, so there are definitely some rose-colored glasses involved here, but the ceiling for the game seems way higher. Animal Crossing seems like the Phish, the Grateful Dead of video games: It will always have a cult following.
So my answer is still Tetris.
Rand: Ugh, I have to choose between Warzone and the Final Fantasy VII Remake? How dare you.