Feature Article

Valorant On Controller Could Feel As Good As Mouse And Keyboard

GameSpot may receive revenue from affiliate and advertising partnerships for sharing this content and from purchases through links.

Riot says it wants the console version of Valorant to provide just as strong a competitive experience as PC, so it adjusted controls to make controllers feel as flexible and precise.

Riot Games faced a big challenge when it started thinking about bringing its hit tactical shooter, Valorant, to console. The essential part was maintaining the same feel that Valorant has on PC so that, regardless of the machine you're playing on, you're getting what Riot considers to be the definitive Valorant experience. Because of the major differences between PC and console inputs--specifically the fact that playing a shooter with a mouse and playing a shooter with a controller require completely separate skill sets--that meant Riot had to adapt the console experience to make the two feel as similar as possible.

Ahead of the announcement of a Valorant console edition at Summer Game Fest 2024, Riot invited journalists and influencers to its studio in Los Angeles to play the new version, both to show the game off to the community and to gather feedback from Valorant die-hards to make sure it felt right. We played around three hours of Valorant during the event, and though I'm by no means a Valorant regular, my impression was that Riot's work to find ways to make Valorant's controls feel as tight and precise as they do on PC were pretty successful.

That was the essential element, as production director Arnar Gylfason explained in an interview with GameSpot, and there was a time when Riot wasn't sure if it could get it right.

"There were so many ways, where if it wouldn't have worked out, we would have had to say that we can't make this game for console if we can solve this problem," Gylfason said.

Console gameplay is just as quick and lethal as on PC.
Console gameplay is just as quick and lethal as on PC.

The stakes were so high both because of what Valorant is and because of the community that plays it. Valorant is the kind of game people take seriously--unlike more arcade-ish shooters like Fortnite or Call of Duty, the Valorant experience is a lot less casual. As a tactical shooter, the emphasis is on smart plays and anticipation, because in any engagement, one or two shots is almost always enough to take you out. Most matches are about attacking or defending territory, so losing a teammate to a bad play or a slow reaction can be devastating for your side's chances of winning. Valorant is a high-skill game whose focus is on being highly competitive, and that means that the controls for the game have to be reliable, regardless of whether you're aiming with a mouse or an analog stick.

In addition to quick and deadly gunplay, Valorant mixes in hero shooter elements, with a huge cast of characters who all have their own special abilities. So in addition to anticipating player locations, locking down angles, and coordinating with your squad, you will also have opponents' abilities to contend with and counter.

As Gylfason explained, the issue is that on console, it can be difficult to do everything Valorant requires of you with the traditional way that shooters handle their controls.

"The biggest [challenge] is, how do you solve for this problem in Valorant that you have to be able to be really fast at looking around and assessing a scenario--swinging like a 50/50 angle, where you have to check left and check right really quickly, or shoot an ability that landed right behind you, and then turn around and kill the agent that shot it," Gylfason said. "But then you also have to be able to hit a pixel headshot really far away on a moving target."

Focus mode gives you a different sensitivity to give you more precise aiming.
Focus mode gives you a different sensitivity to give you more precise aiming.

When playing Valorant with a mouse, you can do those things--big movements of the mouse make for big movements of your character, but you can still get the precision of aiming that's essential to kill an opponent before they can take you down. On controllers, those vast differences can be tougher, and in many shooters, the experience can often include situations in which a player turning quickly will swing past their target and then have to dial back to readjust. In Valorant, that would make the experience extremely frustrating.

Riot's answer to that problem was to create an additional aiming mode called Focus mode, a sort of half-step between firing from the hip and aiming down sights. When you pull the left trigger on Valorant's default settings, you slip into Focus mode, which tightens your view a little on your gun and switches you into a more precise aiming sensitivity. The idea here is that you can set one sensitivity for looking around, one sensitivity for Focus, and one sensitivity for ADS, allowing you to get the precision you need.

In practice, the Focus mode system works well to balance your ability to take in the environment quickly with the need to hit a clutch headshot at a moment's notice. It tightens your view without completely sacrificing your situational awareness like you might if you were aiming down sights, and Riot allows you to adjust the sensitivities for the different aim modes so you can get exactly the right feeling and precision out of each one. And while my experience with Valorant on PC is, as mentioned, somewhat limited, I didn't get the sense on console that I was playing some weaker approximation of what the game is like on PC, or that I was battling the controls or constantly fighting to compensate for overshooting my aim when trying to quickly address a threat somewhere else.

Gylfason also said that another part of the battle was that Riot couldn't just port Valorant to console as it is on PC and be done with it. The differences in the controls make small but subtle changes to the whole experience in ways you might not expect, so Riot had to tune various small things to make sure that console and PC felt the same, even if things were a little different behind the scenes.

Much of the console version has a different user interface to make it easier to use with a controller.
Much of the console version has a different user interface to make it easier to use with a controller.

"One specific thing, for example, is when you think about the action of incoming abilities that you have to go deal with, say, a Reyna Leer [ability], or a Sova dart, or Gekko ability or whatever else. What it really does is, it's forcing the player to make a choice of, 'Do I deal with the ability by disbanding it, do I hide, or do I tank the ability and try to take the engagement?'" Gylfason said. "The tuning for that is, how hard is it to kill that ability or disband that ability? What it's really demanding of you is making a choice of, what are you dealing with at the moment. And dealing with that threat, to mitigate something, it takes a certain amount of time for you to, like, look away from the angle, deal with the ability, and then look back into the angle."

"And it's that disruption that needs to be the same, but that doesn't mean that the tunings need to be the same on PC and console," he continued. "So like, does it take the same amount of bullets to shoot a Reyna Leer on console and PC? No, but it takes roughly the same amount of distraction time to deal with it and turn it back. And so it's tunings like that that are important to us. It would have been really simple to just have ported over one to one, but then it wouldn't have really served the purpose that we needed to serve."

Making sure the controls feel good isn't the only element of console play Riot is focusing on. Performance is also an important part of the situation, and to keep console players from feeling like they're getting an inferior competitive experience as compared to players on powerful PCs, Riot is targeting a stable 120 FPS across all consoles. There's no cross-play between PC and other platforms, Gylfason said. Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 players will find themselves in the same lobbies, but they'll never go up against PC players. Likewise, Riot is using its anti-cheat software to keep mouse and keyboard players out of console lobbies, so when you start a Valorant game with a controller in your hand, you'll know you're on an even playing field with everyone else in the match.

Your stats are also separated by platform, Gylfason said, so if you're pulling great kill/death ratios when you play on PS5, you won't have to worry about those numbers getting tanked if you decide you want to give mouse and keyboard on PC a shot.

Valorant on console carries over your progress and purchases from PC, but it does not pit console players against PC players through cross-play.
Valorant on console carries over your progress and purchases from PC, but it does not pit console players against PC players through cross-play.

Console players should also have the same experience as PC players when it comes to connection speed and server access.

"Once you log into Valorant, you're in Valorant--you're playing on the same infrastructure, the same net code, the same servers as PC players are playing on," Gylfason said. "You're not passing through layers of anything else, you are mainlined into the Riot infrastructure. And so our hope is also that being able to build on that experience and investment we've made over the past few years for PC, we're delivering that directly to the console players from day one."

While there's no cross-play between PC and console, there is cross-progression. As on PC, the console version of Valorant is free-to-play, and your account is shared across any platforms you might use. That means any skins or cosmetic items you purchase or unlock on PC will come with you to console, and vice versa.

"It was important for us that we honored the player investment in the game," Gylfason said. "No matter what platform they're playing on, whether that investment is time spent or money invested, that needs to be honored and respected, no matter where you're coming from."

Riot is running a limited beta test for Valorant on console starting on June 14 in the US, Canada, Europe, the UK, and Japan, with the possibility of the beta rolling out globally after that. You can sign up or learn more on Riot's website at beta.playvalorant.com.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com


Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a former senior writer at GameSpot and worked as a journalist for newspapers and websites for more than a decade, covering video games, technology, and entertainment for nearly that long. A freelancer before he joined the GameSpot team as an editor out of Los Angeles, his work appeared at Playboy, IGN, Kotaku, Complex, Polygon, TheWrap, Digital Trends, The Escapist, GameFront, and The Huffington Post. Outside the realm of games, he's the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. If he's not writing about video games, he's probably doing a deep dive into game lore.



Back To Top