Valorant builds on what has made Counter-Strike a destination for decades. It adds a hero-shooter undertone to a familiar arsenal of weapons. Valorant is a methodical and strategic business; a stealthy and cautious approach takes precedence over firearms. It is a cat and mouse game in which players are constantly trying to glean information for an advantage. When it comes to pulling the trigger, speed and contraction reflexes are always paramount, but everything that happens before the confrontation matters. A combination of vibrant and meaningful sideways abilities make the difference, but the main focus is on corners, communication, and neat positioning. Valorant’s hero roster follows the route of the “agents of many nations” that has managed to inject flavor into the cast of Overwatch characters. It falls flat here, however, with a variety of uninteresting drawings and repetitive banter. The cast is forgettable and bland, feeling more like off-brand action figures than cool characters. The last thing I want to hear before a game is Raze, ostensibly preparing to punch holes in people with a gun, chirping, “Are you sure I can’t listen to music? Or Phoenix zinging a” stay out. of fire “because you know he’s the character of fire. Personality on all levels feels forced and fragile. Fortunately, their hero kits and abilities are much more interesting, and those aspects set Valorant apart from his inspirations. Many of these talents involve giving or denying information. Cypher’s camera and trigger wires can detect threats long before they enter your lines of sight, Sova’s drone can pinpoint the movements of the camera. enemy while you safely hide away, and many other skills obscure the opponent’s vision to allow you to position yourself safely. Information and Communication , not spray and prayer, is how the games are won. Watching the corners closely and tiptoeing through the maps is a nice change of pace from many other shooters, but if you’re looking for frantic assaults and quick respawns, this isn’t the game for you. The star of Valorant is the guns. Regardless of your timing and skill use, it ultimately comes down to your weapons. Each contains a precise and punchy punch, and they’re a pleasure to use. You have to stop moving to gain accuracy (which makes you a target), but coming out of a 2v1 or 3v1 with smart reloading, use of cover, and judicious use of abilities gives you an incredible run. Valorant has two modes, Standard and Spike Rush. Standard games can take a while to play and involve an economic element from round to round, where saving your money to buy better weapons, armor, and skills can be a strategy. Mastering a weapon is a lot of fun, and finding your favorite positions to play on each map is satisfying. For example, knowing where to take your Marshal Sniper Rifle for a long-range confrontation is important. Spike Rush is essentially a fast-paced version of the default mode, with a drastically reduced number of turns, random weapons every turn, and everyone on the offensive team has a bomb to plant. Because Spike Rush is basically just a simplified version of Standard, it feels like Valorant only has one type of game at the end of the day. The base experience is solid, but not varied enough. Valorant doesn’t reinvent aspects of the main tactical shooters, but it differentiates itself significantly by giving players new ways to glean information, protect areas, and obscure enemy perception. While the characters in Valorant may be mundane and its modes limited, I had a lot of fun with its precision shots, careful planning, and smooth footsteps.