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Valorant beginner’s guide and tips

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Everything you need to know to get started in Riot’s tactical shooter

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Jett from Valorant Image: Riot Games

Valorant is Riot Games’ newest shooter. Unlike Call of Duty or Overwatch, Valorant is a tactical shooter, closer to Counter-Strike. This means that accuracy is key, teamwork is critical, and every bullet has the potential to be lethal. If you’ve never played a tactical shooter before, or just want some refreshers on what separates Valorant from the rest of the shooter genre, we’ve got a few tips to help you before you dive in.

Valorant basic match rules

Each match has two teams of five players. Before a match begins, every player selects a character (called an Agent) with a unique set of abilities. Each team can only have one of each Agent. Matches have rounds, and the first team to win 13 rounds wins the match.

One team starts as the Attackers and one team starts as the Defenders, and after 12 rounds, the two teams switch sides. The Attackers’ goal is to plant a bomb (called the Spike) on one of several bomb sites around the map. The Defenders’ job is to, well, defend, either by defusing the Spike after it’s planted, or preventing the Attackers from planting the Spike within the round’s time limit. Either team can also win a round by eliminating the other team, as there are no respawns during a round.

At the beginning of each round, every player in the match will get money (called Creds) that they can use during a Buy Phase to purchase weapons, armor, and abilities. The amount of Creds players get is determined by their performance in the previous round. Actions like planting the Spike, getting kills, and winning or losing a round will grant extra Creds.

Tip #1: Walk, don’t run

Every time you run in Valorant (which is the default movement speed), your footsteps make noise, and any enemy nearby can hear you. Running is so loud that there’s even a little circle that appears on your minimap to show you how far the sound of your footsteps is traveling. The solution to all that noise is to walk instead of run by holding Shift. Walking is slower, obviously, but it also makes you more accurate should you need to shoot quickly before you can stop — and it makes you impossible to hear, letting you and the rest of your team sneak up to enemy positions.

You should be walking almost everywhere you go in Valorant unless (A) you know there are no enemies near you, (B) the enemy already knows where you are, or (C) you have to get somewhere in a hurry. If you are confident that enemies aren’t around and you need to move quickly, switch to your knife, as it’s faster than running with a gun out.

A crosshair pointed directly at a player in Valorant as the player runs by Image: Riot Games via Polygon

Tip #2: Don’t run and shoot

With the tip about walking in mind, you should know that shooting accurately and running don’t mix in Valorant, so you should try to avoid it at all costs. If you’re running and you see an enemy you want to shoot, try to stop moving entirely before firing. It takes a while for your aim to settle, but as you get used to it, you’ll get a better idea of when your shot will be accurate and when it won’t be. The reticle growing and shrinking will even give you a hint of your accuracy.

It will take practice to get this skill down, but running and shooting at the same time, then wondering why their bullets didn’t hit, is probably the most frequent mistake that new Valorant players will make.

What about walking and shooting? When you’re walking — again, by holding the Shift key by default — your first few shots will remain accurate, just like if you were standing still. So if you’re walking and see an enemy, you can immediately start firing. But after the first few shots, your aim will start to veer off target more aggressively than if you were standing still.

Tip #3: Know when to save your Creds

When you’re new to Valorant, it can be tempting to buy weapons and abilities before every round, spending whatever Creds you have. But you shouldn’t do that. Instead, you should save your Creds for better buys and to sync with your team. For example: You probably can’t win a round if you’re the only one on your team who bought a gun and everyone else is stuck with the basic pistol. But if you save for a round or two and let your teammates get some Creds as well, then the five of you with guns and armor will have a better chance of winning that round — and carrying that gear forward.

Any time you survive a round, you’ll keep the weapons you ended the round with — so if someone drops a better weapon, grab it before the round ends. If you die, you’ll need to buy new weapons, regardless of whether your team wins or loses. Abilities will carry over from round to round if you don’t use them, and any armor that doesn’t get destroyed will also go with you to the next round (again, if you survive).

There are a few different types of rounds that you should think about when you first start playing Valorant. You can let your teammates know what you’re planning to do in each round over voice chat, or you can use one of the helpful buttons that Riot included on the buy menu that say things like “Save,” or you can let your teammates know that you have plenty of money.

Save Rounds

Everyone buys very little in hopes of saving for the next Buy round. This might mean you don’t buy anything at all, or that you only buy a pistol and one ability.

Full Buy Rounds

Everyone on the team buys weapons — usually either rifles or sniper rifles — as well as armor and whatever abilities they need.

Force Buy Rounds

You don’t have enough for a Full Buy Round, but you and your team buy anyway, getting the best weapons and armor you can. You might do this to catch the enemy off guard, or because you need a win here to start a comeback and can’t afford to wait for more money.

Partial Buy Rounds

This means that one or two people on the team might buy a weapon, but everyone makes sure they’ll have enough Creds for a Full Buy Round next time.

A Valorant player getting shot Image: Riot Games via Polygon

Tip #4: Buy armor

Guns are the most exciting thing to buy in Valorant, but guns are only good if you’re alive to use them. That’s where armor comes in. Buying armor doesn’t feel like the cool thing to do, but it’s almost always the right decision. Without armor, your 100 hit points won’t last long — one or two bullets could kill you.

Armor should always be part of your Full Buy Rounds, and you should prioritize it over the best weapons if you can’t afford both. There are two types of armor: one that costs 400 Creds and gives you 25 extra health, and one that costs 1,000 Creds and gives you 50 extra health. Both types of armor absorb 70% of damage taken.

Tip #5: Keep your reticle at head height

The less you have to move your mouse, the faster you can aim and shoot. When you’re walking, you should always try to keep your aim at the same height at which an enemy’s head would be. Most players — in all shooters, not just Valorant — have a tendency to keep their reticle pointed toward the ground. But if you run into someone while aiming down, you’ll have to shift your aim up. If your aim is already around their head, it’s a smaller movement to find the sweet spot, and therefore a lot faster.

A nice way to practice is to keep your gun at the head height of your allies before each round begins. This gives you a nice starting point to get used to.


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