Valorant, a competitive FPS that I've often criticized for being too conservative with character abilities, is cooking up something weird for its next agent. Iso, Valorant's eleventh post-launch agent, is a Chinese mercenary who "reconfigures ambient energy into bulletproof protection." Pretty useful skills for the aggressive pointman of the team, but pedestrian compared to his ultimate ability that is so strange it's unlike anything I've seen in an FPS before.
Called Kill Contract, Iso can literally kidnap the nearest enemy and transport both of them to an "interdimensional arena" where the two duke it out until someone dies. It's sorta like earning back a second life in Call of Duty: Warzone's Gulag, except if your normal round of Valorant could be suddenly interrupted by some guy who wants you to 1v1 him on Rust.
Iso's pocket dimension doesn't look like Rust, sadly; it actually looks like a Star Trek Holodeck that just sorta gave up on rendering textures. The arena seems to be a flat piece of ground no matter where on the map you trigger it. There are walls hiding both players when you first arrive, presumably so you can't just line up a headshot then shoot immediately, and they disappear once the fight starts. It sounds like a lot of steps for a single ability, but it all plays out over a few seconds, as you can see below.
Iso Ultimate: Kill Contract (X) | #VALORANT EQUIP an interdimensional arena. FIRE to hurl a column of energy through the battlefield, pulling you and the first enemy hit into the arena. You and your opponent duel to the death. pic.twitter.com/Sf7fzRUouyOctober 19, 2023
Here's Iso's full ability breakdown:
- Double Tap (E): Start a focus timer. Once completed, enter a flow state during which downed enemies you kill or damage generate an energy orb. Shooting this orb grants you a shield which absorbs one instance of damage from any source.
- Undercut (Q): Equip a molecular bolt. Fire to throw it forward, applying a brief FRAGILE to all players it touches. The bolt can pass through solid objects, including walls.
- Contingency (C): Equip to assemble prismatic energy. FIRE to push an indestructible wall of energy forward that blocks bullets.
- Kill Contract (X / ULT): Equip an interdimensional arena. FIRE to hurl a column of energy through the battlefield, pulling you and the first enemy hit into the arena. You and your opponent duel to the death.
Yeah yeah, moving wall of indestructibility, cool, I still have several questions about the pocket dimension. Did Riot designers intentionally make Kill Contract look a lot like Gojo's ultra-powerful Domain Expansion attack from the hit anime Jujutsu Kaisen, or is it a coincidence?
Does the client load the arena instantaneously upon use, or is it a graphical trick and there's actually an Iso arena sitting under the normal map the whole time?
Would that mean the graphical requirements of Valorant are ever so slightly higher when Iso's in the game? I bet super serious optimizer types could measure that.
And what does this whole episode look like for the rest of the players on the map? Can an enemy wait around where Iso disappeared from and easily kill him once he teleports back? Maybe there's an impenetrable dome of action that other players can spectate the fight from. And what's it like to be the chosen champion of your team? I don't think I could resist cracking up if a guy right next to me suddenly vanished, never to return.
My main curiosity is whether or not Iso's ultimate is actually a good deal for Iso. Most ultimates are designed to give the user a distinct advantage over the enemy, either by displacing, outmaneuvering, tricking, or outright killing them. Kill Contract, if I understand it correctly, only evens the playing field. Iso gets a small edge in that he can emerge from two walls and the enemy only gets one, but he can easily lose the 1v1 showdown. It'd be kinda embarrassing to let out your big ultimate voice line and get curbstomped by the guy you kidnapped.
Iso Ability: Double Tap (E) | #VALORANTSTART a focus timer. Once completed, enter a flow state during which downed enemies you kill or damage generate an energy orb. Shooting this orb grants you a shield which absorbs one instance of damage from any source. pic.twitter.com/uo1WF5jkX6October 19, 2023
I imagine it'll be best used when Iso is already on the backfoot. Pushing a bombsite in a 1v2 scenario ain't great odds, but Iso can forcibly isolate (oh, I get it) one enemy, get the kill, and swing the momentum in his favor. Not to mention that if he wins the 1v1, his Double Tap ability sends him into the next fight with a temporary shield. He might just be the dream pick for clutch kings.
I gotta hand it to Riot; that's a very cool idea. I haven't played Valorant regularly for a few years, but I do check in to see what the newest agent does, and usually they don't seem exciting. Almost every new agent is packing one or two abilities that are basically the same thing that everyone else has: a way to create a smoke ball, block vision in a line, or concuss/blind enemies. I respect that smokes and flashes are essential tools of the trade in a Counter-Strike-like, but if the meta demands that most agents have similar abilities, I'd almost rather they just buy grenades. That said, I'm pleasantly surprised that recent agents aren't just gussied-up grenade tossers. Gekko can deploy a gooey little creature that can literally plant the Spike in his stead, and Deadlock lays a trap that forces enemies to crouch.
Maybe I'll give Valorant a reinstall when Iso comes out later this month. I'll have some fun with domain expansion, get discouraged when it sinks in that the only way to excel in Valorant is to cast aside all other hobbies and loved ones, then go play an easier game instead.