Valorant is Riot’s answer to Counter-Strike, a competitive FPS shooter that sees some of the largest eSport viewerships of any of the big hitters. With influence taken from hero shooters like Overwatch and Apex Legends fused with the tactical twitchy-aim gameplay of Counter-Strike, Valorant can be daunting for new players.
There are currently seventeen Agents in Valorant (those are the characters you can play), with the most recent addition, Kay/o — a killer robot who can silence enemy abilities. At the time of writing, there are six maps in the game, including Haven, Breeze, and Bind. This guide will cover everything you need to know about the different agents, maps, weapons, and how to play the game.
The Agents are the bread-and-butter of Valorant. Without them, the game is just another shooter. Throw in the complicated mix of abilities and the various strategies that go with them and you have a game that is quite complicated to get into. Not quite on the scale of League Of Legends’ massive roster of playable characters, but it’s still a lot to learn.
Each Agent has a mix of different abilities, including an expensive Ultimate ability. These abilities place the Agents in different categories: Controller, Sentinel, Duelist, and Initiator. Jett, for example, is a Duelist, as she specializes in taking down enemies and character movement rather than providing support or control with her abilities.
Here is a full list of the playable Agents in Valorant at the time of writing:
- Viper (also known as Sabine, check out our guide here)
How To Unlock Agents In Valorant
Beginners have access to a small roster of free agents, five in total: Brimstone, Jett, Phoenix, Sage, and Sova. The other agents are either unlocked by playing the game and earning XP or purchased outright with the in-game currency. You’ll unlock your first two agents at level five and at level ten.
Best Agents For Beginners
Out of the five available Agents at the start of the game, Sage and Sova probably take the crown as best Agents to start playing with.
Sova’s recon abilities make finding enemies (and learning angles, positions, and strategies) much easier for beginners. Her amazing Shock Bolt ability also lets you experiment with some pretty awesome plays, including bouncing arrows around corners.
With Sage, her Resurrection ability is one of the most powerful abilities in the game and ideal for players who want to play for their team. This is her Ultimate (which means you won’t have access to it every round) but her other control and support abilities, like Healing Orb and Slow Orb, still make her a viable pick.
Some tips for picking an Agent:
- Everyone has a different playstyle. You won’t know what you like until you’ve had a chance to play all the Agents.
- Utilize the abilities, but don’t forget about your aim. Abilities can be used to kill enemy Agents, but it’s really the guns doing most of the work.
- You won’t always have the creds to purchase weapons and abilities. But some abilities, like Sage’s Healing Orb, are free.
There are currently six maps in Valorant. This does put it a bit behind other competitive shooters, but it means that a beginner can pick up the game and learn the different maps fairly quickly.
All six maps in competitive rotation are:
- Haven (check out our guide to playing on Haven)
Each map is split up with conventional FPS lanes and different “bomb sites.” Some maps, like Bind, have different means of getting around the map (like Teleporters). Most of the maps are well-balanced — they were designed largely by ex-professional Counter-Strike players. But some maps, like Ascent, do have a worrying percentage slant in Defender victories. The developers are not averse to making changes to the maps, so it’s a good idea to stay on top of patches and meta-changes.
Out of all the Valorant maps, Bind is likely the one you’ve seen the most of as a casual spectator: it’s highly favored in competitive play. Breeze, the game’s newest map, did not feature during the recent tournament in Reyjakivik but is now available to play in public matches.
The typical competitive set-up is two teams of five, defenders and attackers. It’s the attacker’s task to plant the Spike at a bomb site, and it’s the defender’s job to stop them. You’ve likely seen the formula before, either in Call of Duty’s Search and Destroy, or the classic Counter-Strike format.
This mode is known as Plant/Defuse. There are 12 rounds on Attack or Defense, and then the teams swap to the other side. The first team to 13 rounds wins the game. If the game ends at a 12-12 stalemate, a tense Sudden Death round follows. You can either play in a competitive queue, where you earn rank points, or the unrated version of the mode, where there is nothing on the line other than your own dignity.
- Points are earned during the round — these can be used to purchase weapons and abilities.
- Points are retained between rounds, hence the innovation of the “Economy” round, where players save points to buy better weapons/abilities on the next round.
- The Spike has a timer. Defenders must defuse the Spike within the time limit or they will lose the round, even if all the attackers are dead.
There are a couple of different game modes in Valorant:
- Replication – Players all play as the same Agent, selected in the pre-game screen. It follows the same Plant/Defuse formula.
- Spike Rush – All players start the round with a random weapon (the same weapon) and there are orbs that spawn around the map. When picked up, these orbs offer either buffs or debuffs.
- Deathmatch – Deathmatch is a great place to start off as a new player. This 14-player free-for-all lets you get used to the weapons and various Agents before jumping into a match of Plant/Defuse.
There are quite a few different weapons in Valorant, and not all weapons were created equal. Split up into different categories — Sidearms, SMGs, Rifles, Shotguns, Machine Guns, and Sniper Rifles — understanding which is the best weapon in Valorant will give you a big advantage going into your first games.
All Agents receive a “classic” sidearm for free, along with a knife, regardless of whether or not they spend credits. These will stay with you round after round. To get your hands on some more powerful firepower, you’ll need to spend your creds.
Best Weapons In Valorant
- Operator – The AWP of Valorant, the Operator is a high-powered long-range sniper rifle that is capable of killing fully-armored enemies at any range. It’s ideal for peeking corners and holding down long sightlines. Any team will want to prioritize picking up an Operator as soon as possible. The weapon costs 5,000 creds to unlock.
- Phantom – This Assault Rifle is closely contested by the Vandal, the other popular assault rifle, in a rivalry that is a bit like the choice between the M4 and AK in Counter Strike. The Phantom has a fast fire rate, excellent accuracy with the first bullet, and is reasonably priced at 2,900 creds.
- Vandal – The main difference between the Phantom and Vandal is the damage output. Compared to the Phantom, the Vandal is great for one-tapping enemies with a headshot.
Middle-of-the-road weapons in Valorant
- Spectre – Probably the best SMG in the game for pure damage. The Spectre is a good medium option before picking up the more versatile Vandal or Phantom. Great for close-range engagements.
- Sherriff – This high-powered sidearm can one-shot enemies to the head (if hit from a certain range).
- Judge – Shotguns aren’t totally useless in Valorant, and out of all them, the Judge is the most reliable. Its ability to go full-auto means you can outgun most other weapons at close range. Lots of damage, but fairly situational.
Weapons Best Avoided In Valorant’s Current Meta
Though the gun balance in Valorant is quite good, and the meta frequently undergoes patch changes and tweaks, there are still a couple of weapons best avoided in the current meta.
- Guardian – The only semi-automatic rifle in the game, this weapon is not one you’ll see very often. It has the potential for massive damage output (with good overall damage and high bullet penetration) but its limited mag size makes it a difficult gun to master. Not recommended for new players. Or anyone, really.
- Shorty – This shotgun isn’t completely useless. It’s very cheap (only 300 creds) and can be very decisive during shared economy rounds. The Shorty only has two bullets in its mag, so dealing with more than one enemy is difficult.
How To Get Better At Valorant
Like any game of its type, getting better at Valorant isn’t an easy task. The game has already been out for a year, which means at the higher levels of gameplay you’re coming up against people who’ve put potentially thousands of hours into the game.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to improve your gameplay, though:
- Communication – Even playing with complete randoms (with microphones that sound like they’re in the Mariana Trench), communication is very important. Callouts are something you’ll slowly pick up while playing the game, like “A Showers” or “Top Sight.” These differ from map to map, but letting your teammates know where the enemies are is vital.
- Play Your Life – Though Valorant is a team game, you will want to focus on staying alive, primarily. Killing stuff and playing the objective comes after. Running around a corner and getting your head blown off every round isn’t going to get you, or your team, anywhere. Play slow. Stay alive.
- Aim – This one is pretty obvious. Hitting your shots is pretty important in a game like Valorant. Decent players will usually warm up with a few games of Deathmatch before playing an Unrated or Competitive match. Likewise, you can use various aim trainer games and tools (configured to your Valorant settings) to help you improve. You should also check out our guide on the best crosshair settings to use.
- Learn The Agents – Each Agent has a unique playstyle. As a total beginner, you’ll probably feel a bit lost, but there are plenty of resources online that talk you through the various Agent’s abilities. Whether you’re a supporting character, a slayer, or provide map control, there are plenty of different ways to play the game.
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