When Valorant (then called Project A) was announced last year, Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent said that “in Project A, shooting matters. You don’t kill with abilities. Abilities create tactical opportunities to take the right shot. Characters have abilities that augment their gunplay, instead of fighting directly with their abilities”.
While Valorant developers have since walked back these remarks, claiming they were taken out of context following developmental tweaks before release, the spirit of Laurent’s words is still largely true. Yes, several agents have abilities which can kill, but they are most often used to force the enemy into new positions to better allow you to shoot them. Every agent follows this basic blueprint, with the abilities taking a backseat to the gunplay, apart from Raze.
Raze is an Overwatch hero trapped in a Valorant agent’s body.
In Overwatch, while gunplay kills are common, the aim of the game is to take out your foes with unique, exciting abilities; especially for the DPS heroes. Raze, with her Cluster Grenade and Showstopper ultimate in particular, feels like she’d be right at home in Overwatch. She can devastate teams when used properly, and while the high level meta has worked her out, most casual players are easy prey. Valorant’s other agents are highly trained soldiers, but Raze is a wrecking ball. She’s a superhero, she’s different and eccentric, and the others cannot stop her.
In a clip posted on Reddit, which came just before Act II launched, Raze gets four kills in less than 10 seconds during a round with her Cluster Grenade – all without firing a single bullet. This is Overwatch Play Of The Game stuff, completely against the spirit of Valorant’s more tactical, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive inspiration.
Riot has tried to tie Raze down with nerf after nerf since launch, but she simply will not be contained. Even her character design, an explosion of bright and vibrant colours, is completely at odds with Valorant’s drab and washed out blocky colour scheme. Other characters have been designed to mesh in with Valorant’s beige and grey maps, but Raze doesn’t feel like she’s been designed with anything in mind except having fun.
This isn’t inherently a criticism of Raze, or Valorant, nor is it praise of her – although I do find her the most fascinating character in a game thoroughly devoid of lore. Raze’s existence is perhaps a glimpse into the more Overwatch-esque game Riot could have made, just as the entirely tactical abilities of Viper hints at a purer version of Project A. She feels out of step with everyone else. She’s jazz, she’s rock ’n’ roll, and it’s not right or wrong but fascinating to watch. They need to stick or twist.
Valorant quite deliberately operates in the middle of the hero shooter genre, borrowing from a lot of similar games to create a unique combination in the centre. Raze, so clearly belonging to the right of the Venn diagram, threatens that idea.
It will be interesting to see if further nerfs keep trying to hammer Raze down, or whether she’s in for a more complete redesign in the future. Valorant’s biggest strength has been its more balanced approach, but with a character as compelling as Raze, they may be more tempted to lean in than lean out.