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Valorant: Release date, closed beta, gameplay, and everything we know

Reach Immortal rank with these Valorant guides

(Image credit: Riot)

Valorant characters: All the hero abilities
Valorant ranks: How you'll be progressing
Valorant system requirements: Can you run it?

Valorant is taking on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. First announced as "Project A" during Riot's 10-year anniversary stream, the 5v5 FPS blends the character abilities of Overwatch with five-on-five gunplay that rewards quick reflexes and precision, and Riot says it's put a huge amount of work into ensuring lag and wonky hit detection don't get in the way.

Those bold technical promises are the primary way Riot intends to differentiate Valorant from its direct competition, which includes Overwatch, CS:GO, and Rainbow Six Siege. Even if it does have the best netcode, though, that won't mean anything if Valorant's mix of quick time-to-kill combat and character abilities doesn't feel distinct enough.

To help get you up to speed, we've absorbed every bit of information (including experiences from our own hands-on demo) and whipped up this overview of all things Valorant, from its expected release date to the guns you'll using. As more details emerge, you can return to this page to stay up to date on all the latest intel. Here's everything we know so far about Valorant, Riot Games' new FPS.

How to get into the Valorant closed beta

The closed Valorant beta has started in the US, Canada, Europe, Russia, and Turkey. Unlike most betas that email accepted participants at random, you'll have to get a random beta key by watching qualified Twitch streamers. Here's how to sign up:

When is Valorant's release date? 

Riot hasn't officially confirmed a release date for Valorant, but it's planning to release it in the summer of 2020. The exact release date will depend on feedback received during Valorant's beta. 

What's the latest news on Valorant? 

Watch a full match of Valorant right now

Morgan got a chance to play Valorant for a few days and came away excited at how its hero abilities differentiate it from Counter-Strike. The video above is a full match captured during that play period. 

Watch Valorant's trailer here 

So, what is Valorant? 

Valorant is a tactical 5v5 character-based shooter set in a near-future version of Earth. There'll be around 10 characters at launch with more coming. All the characters have a set of four unique abilities, two of which you have to buy with money earned between rounds, at the same time you buy weapons and armor.

Once you've chosen your character, you're locked into them for the entirety of a match, which consists of up to 24 rounds with sudden death in the event of a tie. Currently there is only one main mode: Bomb defusal. Just like in Counter-Strike, one team must plant a bomb at a bomb site while the other team defends.

Though the abilties seem inspired by Overwatch, Valorant has some key distinctions that make it a lot more like Counter-Strike. For one, each character's "ultimate" ability has an extremely long cooldown that can last multiple rounds, so you won't be constantly firing wall-piercing arrows, laying tripmines, or triggering poison-cloud ambushes.

Characters also aren't bound to using one type of gun. At the beginning of each round, you can purchase a variety of different weapons in addition to some secondary abilities that have a limited number of charges. But Valorant's combat emphasizes skilled gunplay more than high-powered abilities.

Speaking of gunplay, Valorant's guns will be just about as deadly as CS:GO and Siege's. Headshots will almost always be a one-hit kill, while most rifles will kill characters with three to four shots to the torso. Expect firefights in Valorant to be fast.

Who are Valorant's characters? 

Though the roster will likely expand in the future, Riot said it's aiming to have at least 10 characters ready for Valorant's launch. Though we haven't seen or played all ten, here's a quick overview of the nine we do know about.

  • Sova - Fires magic arrows that penetrate walls and can travel clear across the map and deal big damage.
  • Phoenix - Can curve flashbangs around corners.
  • Cypher - A defensive powerhouse who can lay tripmines and stick a camera to a wall to watch for flanking attacks.
  • Jett - Can leap into the air and throw knives for quick, surprise kills.
  • Viper - Can unleash poison clouds that blind enemies or zone them into a deadly ambush.
  • Brimstone - Calls in orbital bombardments that either help friends or obliterate enemies.
  • Sage - Valorant's resident medic can heal or revive allies.
  • Omen - A shifty rogue who can get behind enemy lines or temporarily blind them.
  • Breach - A seismic force that disorients enemies and ignores the boundaries of walls.
  • Raze - An explosive expert that can roots out enemies with cluster grenades.

Don't buy a closed beta account, or be banned by Riot

Eager players wanting to get into Valorant's closed beta have gone so far as to purchase accounts with access for $150. Riot has warned that these accounts will be sought after and banned as soon as possible, so think twice before wasting that cash.

Watch a few agents in action

Phoenix
Get a load of this guy. Phoenix's kit is all about aggressive site pushing. He can curve flash grenades around corners, deny areas with firebombs, and cut off sightlines with a tall wall of fire.

Sage
Sage is a full-on support role. She's also the game's only healer, being able to heal herself or a teammate back up to 100 health. She can also erupt an ice wall that blocks both sight and movement and creates a slowing ice field to disrupt flanking routes. Her most impactful ability is her ultimate, which lets her fully revive a teammate.

Jett
Jett is a mobility master. Her wind-powered movement abilities allow her to boost up to high ground positions and dash laterally to make a quick dive into cover. She can also toss three smoke grenades that she can steer mid-air.

Sova
Sova is a recon specialist. His signature ability is the Recon Dart, an arrow that can spot enemies within its line-of-sight. Along with his remote-piloted owl drone, he's great for gathering information early in the round and acting on it.

Viper
Viper carries similar smoke and wall capabilities as other agents, but with the added bonus of a decay effect that continuously damages those walking through her noxious area denial. To balance this out, she can also use her abilites as along as she has fuel, which recharges over time.

What about Valorant guns?

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Like Counter-Strike, weapons in Valorant are purchased at the beginning of each round, meaning no character is stuck using one type of weapon. After messing with Valorant's arsenal for a few hours, it's clear that most of its weapons have a direct Counter-Strike analog. If you're familiar with AWPs and AKs, you should be right at home.

  • Sidearms - Classic (base pistol), Shorty (sawed-off shotgun), Frenzy (auto pistol), Ghost (silenced pistol), Sheriff (revolver)
  • SMGs - Stinger (high fire-rate), MP4 (silenced SMG)
  • Shotguns - Bucky (pump action), Judge (automatic)
  • Rifles - Bulldog (burst), Guardian (DMR), Phantom (silenced carbine), Vandal (AK-47)
  • Sniper Rifles - Marshal (Scout), Operator (AWP)
  • Heavies - Ares (LMG), Odin (HMG)
  • Melee - Tactical knife

How will Valorant's microtransactions work? 

Riot hasn't gone into detail about how Valorant's free-to-play progression and microtransactions will work, but it has given us some basic information. Each character will be unlockable through regular play, which suggests that players won't immediately have access to the full roster (similar to a lot of free-to-play shooters like Apex Legends).

Microtransactions will be available, but players don't have to worry about them being used to gain any kind of competitive edge. Though the full scope of purchasable items isn't confirmed, players can expect to customize their character through player cards, sprays (logos or symbols that can be sprayed onto the environment), and a 'gunbuddy' which is a cute little cosmetic that hangs from your gun.

(Image credit: Riot Games)

What's the big deal with Valorant's anti-cheat system and servers? 

Riot has indicated that it's investing a lot of time and energy into solving some of the biggest problems facing multiplayer shooters: Cheating and lag. On the cheating front, Riot has developed a new kernel-level anticheat system that it says should make most common forms of hacking impossible, making Valorant extra secure against aimhacks. What's interesting, though, is that the development team also designed every feature with possible exploits in mind.

One example given in our hands-on preview is that the crosshair doesn't change colors when it passes over an enemy, because dishonest players could easily write a script that checks those pixels and automatically fires a shot when they change colors.

Riot is also using server technology developed for League of Legends with the aim of providing a consistently lag-free experience. Dedicated servers for each region will run with a 128 tickrate, which should result in more responsive ballistics and character movement. For reference, CS:GO's matchmaking uses 64 tick servers, while Apex Legends appears to be as low as 20.

Valorant will also use Riot Direct, a global networking infrastructure that Riot built for League of Legends to guarantee players always get the fastest and most stable connection to multiplayer servers. If you've never heard of Riot Direct this video explains how it works, but the gist is that even with the fastest internet and servers, lag can still occur thanks to how internet service providers route traffic through their hub.

Back in 2014, Riot started partnering with different ISPs around the world to physically add routers into their datacenters that would ensure League of Legends players had a more consistent, lower ping across the US and Europe. Valorant will use that same infrastructure and with Riot Direct, Riot predicts that 70 percent of players will access regional Valorant servers with a ping lower than 35 ms. 

Valorant system requirements

Minimum (30fps)

  • OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit)
  • RAM: 4GB
  • CPU: Intel i3-370M
  • GPU: Intel HD 3000 (1GB VRAM)

Recommended (60fps)

  • OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit)
  • RAM: 4GB
  • CPU: Intel i3-370M
  • GPU: Intel HD 3000 (1GB VRAM)

High-end (144+fps)

  • OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit)
  • RAM: 4GB
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4460 3.2Ghz
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti (1GB VRAM)

These specs are pretty darn low for most PC gamers out there. Even if you haven't upgraded your rig in years, Valorant will probably run like a dream. Valorant's painterly art style and flat lighting make a lot more sense when you consider its wide compatibility.

Steven enjoys nothing more than a long grind, which is precisely why his specialty is on investigative feature reporting on China's PC games scene, weird stories that upset his parents, and MMOs. He's Canadian but can't ice skate. Embarrassing.