Fictional spies come in all shapes and sizes, but a few staples are a must for any good secret operative.
You gotta have the cool codename. You have to nail the unique look, from the sleek in black ready for undercover espionage aesthetic to the classic confidence of a well-tailored suit. But if James Bond has taught us anything over the last half-century of his globetrotting antics, there's one important weapon all agents have to have holstered in their expansive arsenal -- a killer one-liner.
It's no different in the vibrant and deadly world of VALORANT, where each of the 10 global agents from the closed beta is full of smack talk, jokes and verbal jabs to their opponents and teammates alike. While some delighted and entertained our ESPN Esports staff with their barrage of quips (hello, Phoenix), others left us mystified or downright angered, wondering how many times we must endure the same catchphrase drilling itself into our minds forever to be forgotten.
With the official launch of the game only days away and a new 11th agent ready to take the stage with her own wisecracks, here are my top ten most memorable voice lines from the VALORANT closed beta. We're preemptively apologizing to all Brimstone fans, it's us, not you, we promise, big guy.
10. "Don't worry, guys, they say I'm a prodigy. Not my words, not my words, baby." -- Phoenix
Let's just get it out of the way that Phoenix is going to feature a lot in our top ten. How couldn't he? From the minute his first promotional images were released, he became the de-facto face of the game alongside South Korea's Jett, the two front and center in the official promotional art for the game's June 2 release.
What separates Phoenix from a lot of the other agents in the game is that his character and personality are on display in every aspect of his design. Be it his looks, mannerisms, voice lines or his (literal) flashy gameplay, Phoenix personifies the overconfident-bordering-on-arrogant superstar that is just as likely to buy you a drink at the bar as he is to chat up your significant other.
Didn't you hear? He's a prodigy. Not his words, people, not his words.
9. "Bodies decompose after 12 hours in acid ... there's no reason why I know that." -- Viper
We go from the guy who probably became an agent because he wanted to use dating apps worldwide to a lady who likes to talk a lot about poison, death and anger. While she's a self-proclaimed monster who is more toxic than the high schooler past his bedtime that yelled at you in the beta, there's a tragedy to her character. Viper wasn't born as this murderous operative but created by someone (or something) much more sinister. Also, she has a line in the game about how she can't wait to poison Phoenix and take all his oxygen away, so she's probably not the person who told him he was a prodigy.
8. "That monk thinks she's an angel ... let's clip her wings." -- Breach
In terms of character development, so far Breach isn't super high on anyone's lists. He's a Swedish cyborg that talks a lot about his robotic arms and brawling before yelling like a madman charging into battle. It's like, yeah, we get it, Breach, you're super strong and can make a magnitude 7.6 earthquake with your spiffy transforming arms, but what really makes the tattooed, bearded craft beer enthusiast really tick?
We know an original design of his had a sweet blonde ponytail and an even sweeter mask since it's featured in some of his spray art, so where did that all go? The mask and bleached hair have to be somewhere if the spray art is in this current version of the game. Bring out the mask and separate yourself from Brimstone, Breach! Right now the two characters both come off as adults going through their mid-life crisis where they go hang out at the college frat house every weekend even though the students politely ask them to stop coming.
Still, the one-liner to Sage is a strong one, and I'm sure many people agree after seeing the monk healer in literally every single game in the closed beta.
7. "Remember, stay out of the fire ... super high-level tactic. Remember it, yeah?" -- Phoenix
Oh, Phoenix, you slay me. The best thing about this line is that it's actually pretty applicable to many experiences down in the lower levels of ranked in the VALORANT closed beta. If you can go a game without a Phoenix flashbanging the entire team or one of the members dying to friendly fire, it's seen as a mini-miracle. Regardless of how conceited and narcissistic he is, I would still rather hang out with Phoenix every day of the week over Brimstone. Sorry, Brimstone, nothing personal, big guy.
6. "Hey Phoenix, if I die, Viking funeral, all the way." -- Jett
The only other agent equally as cocky and chock-full of witty remarks as the British playboy is the South Korean wind assassin herself. If you don't know what a Viking funeral is, it's when someone who passes away is set off into the ocean on a boat and memorialized by having it burned out at sea. In a single line, Jett has already asserted herself as far cooler and someone better to hang out with than Brimstone. Jett also gets to swear in one of her signature lines with "There you are, you little s---t," so that's also pretty nifty. While her voice lines can get a bit tiresome the 100th time you hear them, I feel like that almost suits Jett's character, a mischievous and energy-riddled bender of the air, always ready to fly into another gunfight with her signature five floating knives.
5. "You can take the girl out of Salvador, but you'll never take the girl out of Salvador. Wait..." -- Raze
I don't necessarily find this line that humorous or dripping with snark, so why is it so high up in this list? It's because I literally can't get it out of my head. Out of every single voice line in this game, this is the one that sticks. Maybe it's the fact that the line makes people wrongfully believe Raze is from El Salvador instead of her actual home of Salvador, Brazil. Maybe it's the fact that each time I'm waiting for a different punchline to a dad joke Brimstone should be telling me instead of an explosives expert from South America.
I think of all of the agents, Raze's lines are the ones that stick with you the most. Kudos to her voice actress Carolina Ravassa, who took the material given to her and ran with it. I'll honestly never be able to look at the Brazilian flag again or think of the world "Salvador" without reciting this Raze line in my head. It just won't go away.
4. "There can only be one Phoenix. I'm coming for you." -- Phoenix
This line beautifully illustrates why, in my opinion, Phoenix is the gold standard of characters so far in VALORANT. Where a lot of the agents can teeter on being one-dimensional -- OK, we got it, Sova, you like to hunt things -- Phoenix feels like a fully fleshed-out character without even any of his lore told to us just yet. While a majority of his best lines are verbal jabs or haughty boasts, this line, said when Phoenix is facing off with another Phoenix on the opposition, shows that the character can flip the script from playful to dangerous in a split second. The voice actor Afolabi Alli, one of the more relative unknowns in the cast, should be applauded for how well he turned Phoenix into such an iconic character before the game was even officially released.
3. "Between you and me, Sova, there's nowhere they can hide ... Heh-heh, how fun!" -- Cypher
When I first saw Cypher, I groaned a little bit. I'm not one generally for these ultra-mysterious characters that speak in riddles like they were written by an angsty teenager on Myspace back a decade ago. I went into the game thinking he'd be an annoyance at worst or white noise at best, but pound-for-pound, Cypher's voice lines are the current silver medalist behind Phoenix's gold.
It's not that Cypher doesn't sometimes slip into the angst, but the voice actor Nabil Elouahabi really does a great balancing act between Cypher being a Morrocan Jigsaw from Saw who finds delight in the deadly traps he sets up for his enemies and a slapstick comedian, cracking jokes about the absurdity of the situations the agents find themselves in on each map. This line, describing his excitement over the opposing side having nowhere to run, is just great voice acting, you can hear the pure delight of Cypher as he realizes that his boobytraps are about to catch a new band of victims.
2. "Breach, Breach, I took a servo from your arms for my tripwire. Don't be angry. Breach..." -- Cypher
The duality of Cypher on full display. One minute he's a goofball sidekick with Breach and the next he's hiding in a corner watching a Jett try to fly through a window only to get caught up by his tripwire and hang like a human-sized pinata.
1. The rest of Phoenix's lines
I listened to over an hour of all of the agents with their voice lines and as I began crafting my list, I found out that over half of them were going to be Phoenix quotes by the end of it. It's not to say that brilliant voice actors such as Steve Blum or Naomi Yang didn't do an amazing job portraying their characters of Brimstone and Sage, respectively, but where often I found wanting to fast forward a lot of lines that felt stale or sometimes generic, I never did that with Phoenix. Not all of his jokes land perfectly, but that's almost the point of Phoenix to an extent, he's this smug prodigy (not his words, by the way) that is too full himself and can go overboard on self-praise.
Still, at the end of it all, it's impossible to say Phoenix isn't cool. As I mentioned earlier, his design to his playstyle to the cherry on top, his voice acting, creates an agent that can be the face of a game that enchants millions of players around the world. Every franchise needs a face, and for VALORANT, the choice is clear -- it's Phoenix, baby.
To end things, here are some of the other great hits from Britain's top agent.
"This is crazy, it feels like we've been doing this forever. Anyone else feel like that? Just me? OK..."
"Who else is having a great time? Just me? Uahhhhh, I'm gutted."
"Yo Sova, that owl is pretty dope. It would look a lot better with some flame decals on it, right?"
"Their healer is nothing. I will burn them faster than they can mend."
"Yes, yes, it's me, autographs if we survive, yeah? There's still fighting."
"One more win and we're going out for drinks, lads."
"Easy mate, there can only be one hero."