In her recent (and gorgeous) reveal trailer, Neon, the newest agent about to be introduced to Riot’s team-based tactical shooter, Valorant, breaks the cardinal rule of the sweaty, tryhard, head-clicking tac-shooter genre—she can actually move fluidly.
This isn’t a shot at Valorant’s movement, which I actually really like, but a way of clearly distinguishing her from the rest of the game’s cast. Valorant is a slow, exceptionally twitchy shooter directly descended from Counter-Strike, it modifies this formula by introducing a whole new layer of strategy via team composition, much like games such as Overwatch. However, unlike Overwatch, Valorant’s agents share a lot more in common with each other than not. Everyone has access to the same guns (except for Chamber, the last agent to be added to the game), everyone moves the same outside of their abilities, and every character has the same amount of health. Despite this, Riot has managed to make the game’s dozen-and-change agents feel different from one another.
Neon continues this tradition with unique movement, strange smokes and stuns, and an Emperor Palpatine-esque lightning-based damage super. Her signature ability appears to allow her to sprint, a first for Valorant. She puts down her weapon and charges forward, which can then be chained into a sliding move, during which she readies her weapon. This movement tech will likely make her an absolute monster with the game’s submachine guns and shotguns, allowing her to excel in close combat situations.
In addition to her movement, Neon appears to have a unique double smoke wall, which creates a thin tunnel of smoke that enemies will have to fight through. By creating an enclosed hallway, Neon will be able to easily force 1v1 situations and isolate opponents with sightline control. Rounding out her basic abilities is a stunning grenade, which bounces once—concussing enemies at the bounce and landing points. Finally, her ultimate ability appears to be a recoilless, sustained fire damage ability, which seems to absolutely shred enemies if her trailer is to be believed.
While no one knows how strong she’ll be until Riot releases a full ability breakdown and she gets into the hands of pros, a few things are certain from the short glimpse we see of her abilities in the agent reveal trailer. First, she’s a Duelist, one of Valorant’s dedicated killers. Duelists are expected to “entry frag,” which basically means that it’s their job to start fights and put their bodies on the line for their teammates. Famously, many Duelist mains are terrified of entry fragging and will hide behind their teammates—infuriating them to no end. Please do not do this.
Capitalism, but fun
This has all of the joys of Monopoly, but with Animal Crossing inspired board pieces, tiles, and the ability to buy decorations and hunt for bugs and fish too.
Secondly, her unique movement will be extremely divisive. Valorant is attempting to ride a fine line between sticking to the heart of tactical shooters, and allowing for more expressive play. Neon is already accused of being a “run and gun” character on Twitter and YouTube alike, and these accusations will likely continue upon her official release. However, I would argue that characters with unique mobility are not only fine, but actively beneficial for the game—especially given how fragile characters are in Valorant.
The real thing that’ll determine Neon’s run-and-gun capabilities is how significant the aiming penalty on her slide is, since the trailer only shows her using the Stinger, Valorant’s rapid-fire, inaccurate SMG to burn down opponents from close range. If she retains any semblance of accuracy while sliding, then she could have an obscene advantage in combat worth worrying about. Otherwise, it’s just a unique trick that will allow her to entry frag (or die trying) extremely quickly.
Regardless of how things end up working out with Neon, it’s good to see Valorant continuing to iterate and develop new characters in a relatively strict gameplay format. When I first played the beta two years ago, part of me was skeptical that the team over at Riot Games could consistently produce characters with interesting abilities using only a handful of basic tools like flashes, smokes, teleports, and stuns. Despite the simplicity of the format, over a dozen unique agents have, and continue, to come out of the game. I’m excited to see what they do next. Personally, I’m hoping for a new info gathering character, but that’s just me.