After two exciting seasons of the VALORANT Champions Tour, Riot Games has pulled the trigger and will move the scene into the franchising era. While the VALORANT has evolved quite a bit since launching in 2020, Riot’s first-person shooter continues to draw comparisons with its main rival, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
From the beginning of VALORANT’s development, the game has been closely linked with CS:GO due to its categorization as a tactical shooter and having developers from the latter work on the title as game designers. With many CS:GO personalities who were able to play early versions of the game (when it was still known as “Project A”) sharing their excitement, it was clear that the two titles will be competing with each other for a long long time.
Outgunned but still ahead
Early on, one of the biggest gameplay comparisons made between the two shooters was the gunplay. This was one of the biggest hurdles VALORANT faced when it came to attempting to surpass CS:GO. Despite the occasional complaints, it’s hard to argue against the idea that the Counter-Strike franchise has the best gunplay available in the FPS genre.
With a tough hill to climb, VALORANT didn’t come out with the best initial showing. However, according to Benita "bENITA" Novshadian, a pro VALORANT player for Shopify Rebellion GC and a former CS:GO pro, the game’s gunplay showed a lot of potential. “It wasn't quite there yet, because for me the running and shooting was really bad at that time,” bENITA said, “coming from CS, where mechanical skills are so important, I thought [VALORANT] was just a little bit random.”
Fortunately, as time went on, Riot Games was able to improve VALORANT’s gunplay by taking some power away from a player’s ability to run and gun which had been one of the constant issues brought up by the community, however, it wasn’t enough and the game’s gunplay simply could not compare to CS:GO.
But Riot isn’t a rookie developer that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Sure, the gunplay may never reach CS:GO’s level of polish, but VALORANT has a huge advantage elsewhere thanks to the improvements made to other aspects of gameplay and various quality-of-life changes. These differences range from something as small as being able to directly buy a weapon for teammates to bigger improvements to communication with an in-game ping system.
For Stephanie "missharvey" Harvey, the Director of Development for Counter Logic Gaming and a former CS:GO pro for the organisation as well, one of the biggest things that set VALORANT apart was the importance of how you used your utility with each character. “In Counter-Strike, at a lower level, all that matters is really how you shoot, the way that you [use utility] doesn't influence the game until much later. But in a VALORANT game, at a low level, the abilities matter might even matter more than the shooting skills,” missharvey said, “it was really fun to get to learn all the new characters in the early days.”
While most VALORANT veterans are familiar with most of the game’s agents, the general sentiment remains: there's no point in beating the master in what they're good at when you can beat them in everything else. Or, as said by missharvey herself: “I don't think there's a better game than CS when it comes to gameplay and pureness of the gameplay in the shooting. So that's always going to be a win for CS but everything else can be a win for VALORANT if [Riot Games] works hard."
Riot's competitive edge
One area where Riot has a huge edge over Valve is in the handling of the game’s competitive scene. While Valve has typically been hands-off with CS:GO’s competitive circuit apart from the Majors, Riot is fully hands-on and is heavily involved with the scene’s development. One area where that’s the most evident is in each scene’s female-only circuit.
“Valve has never really done anything for women CS. It’s always been external tournament organizers,” missharvey said. “I think that Game Changers is amazing. It's making the community better and it's making their game more inclusive, I have very little negatives to say on Game Changers.”
For missharvey, the main concern going forward is how well Riot Games will be able to continue to support the female VALORANT scene to ensure its viability for years to come along with the rest of the scene. Part of that concern comes from the introduction of franchising so early into the game’s competitive lifespan which missharvey fears could lead to stagnation sooner rather than later. She believes that one way Riot can improve the situation is by providing more support for the amateur/tier 2 scene.
“They're focusing a lot on the pros, but I hope they are not forgetting that their core base is amateur players. So I'd love to see riot really dive down into the amateur space and the rookie space to build that and grow that because that's what's important,” missharvey said. “What makes it really cool to have an esports scene is when young stars get picked up [to play with] older players and that kind of stuff is really fun. But for that to happen you need to get a lot of players at the bottom getting fed in. Yes [VALORANT is] a new game, it's the best shooter for the new generation but you know Counter-Strike was there before, League of Legends was there before, there's a lot of games that were there before, and look where they're at like now. There's not really a lot of new players coming in so we need to make the space better while we still have money in it.”
Will the comparisons ever stop?
At this point, it’s clear that the comparisons between VALORANT and CS:GO remain a prevalent point of discussion as the two games are still closely tied together. But the real question is how long will these comparisons continue to be drawn? For bENITA, she believes that fans of either game will need to get used to it.
“[The comparisons] will kind of always be there, one reason is that most of the valorant Pros right now are from CS so that means the skill and the mind for it transferred pretty well,” she said. “You can't always compare it to CS but it's kind of always kind of gonna be there just because that's where we all came from.”
So as VALORANT makes the push to join CS:GO as a tier 1 esports and as we enter into the franchising era of the scene, the two games and their respective competitive scenes will look increasingly different. But considering the history of where VALORANT came from, these two games will always be linked together till the end of times.