Released in early 2020, Riot Games’ Valorant has quickly taken over the esports scene as one of, if not the best first-person shooter (FPS) games on the market. Made to compete with the crowd favorite, Counterstrike: Global Offensive (CSGO), Valorant has almost overtaken CSGO in both casual and competitive scenes with its unique, yet familiar gunplay, interesting characters (aka Agents) to play as, and the backing of the producers of the most successful esport the world has ever seen in Riot Games and their game League of Legends.
The Valorant Champions Tour LOCK//IN (VCT) is one of two major international Valorant Tournaments, but this year has been bigger than ever. Hosted in São Paulo, Brazil, 32 of the best Valorant teams arrived at the stadium in early February 2023 to duke it out and hopefully be crowned the best team in Valorant. Thousands of in-person fans and millions of online viewers have attended and tuned in to VCT LOCK//IN over the past month, all for one moment, the Finals on March 4th, 2023 – and the wait was well worth it.
At the beginning of the Finals, there were two major announcements about Valorant were introduced. First and most exciting was the newest Agent being added to the Valorant roster, Gecko. Unlike any of the other Agents who have superpowers or use technological enhancements to use their utility/abilities, Gecko has the help of his pets.
Hailing from Brazil himself, Gecko brings multiple new mechanics to the Valorant universe with his abilities. Most notable is his main ability/pet, Wingman (the Q ability), a hamster that can check areas, reveal enemies, and plant/defuse the spike that is useable 7 times within a round. No other Agent can plant/defuse with an ability, making Gecko very powerful from the get-go! His other pets are Dizzy (on E), a squid that shoots ink into the face of enemies it gets close to; Mosh Pit (on C) a frog that creates a large swampy area that kills any enemy that stays in it for more than 3 seconds; and finally, Gecko’s ultimate ability is Thrash (on X) a shark that swims at enemies and impairs movement, aim, and vision of any enemies hit.
To showcase Gecko, Riot invited two of the largest Valorant streamers in the world, Tarik from North America and FTS from Brazil, to play on the big stage in the best-of-one battle. Each streamer played Gecko surrounded by a team of 4 other pros by their sides. While FTS won, in a post-game interview after the match, both streamers said that Gecko will likely be very overpowered when he goes live on Valorant on March 7th, 2023.
The other pre-final announcement was that the next VCT tournament will be in the United States for the first time ever. In the biggest venue Valorant has ever been held in, the next VCT is headed to the place where stars are born, Los Angeles in the KIA Forum in August 2023. However, this VCT is much more elite and will only allow the 16 best teams in the world to come and compete, half the teams of this São Paulo VCT tournament.
Finally, after these exciting announcements, the Finals began. It was a duel between Europe’s Fnatic Esports and Latin America’s Loud Esports in a tense best of 5. As the tournament was in Brazil, the obvious fan-favorite team was Loud, and nearly every seat in the stadium was occupied by fans of Loud. Just as their team names state, the fans were deafeningly loud. On top of this, Loud is also the reigning world champion organization, winning VCT in August of 2022 however their roster of players is much different from when they won.
Despite the crowd behind them and their previous championship win, Loud lost the first two maps in quick succession, not taking more than 8 rounds off of Fnatic on either map; Fnatic was able to cruise to 13 round victories in each map. But Loud strikes back on the third and fourth maps handily. Moving into the fifth map, it looked like Loud would take the game easily 12 to the 7 score line of Fnatic… Loud was one round away from winning their second international championship in Valorant ever, the first team to ever reach that feat. Then Fnatic came back, winning 5 rounds in a row to bring the score back to even and bring the game into overtime. Finally, in overtime, Fnatic took the first two rounds in overtime and that was it, Fnatic hoisted the trophy in front of a crowd that did not want them to win.
This match is worth watching to video if you did not see it live. If you are interested in playing Valorant as well, it is a free game to download and play on a PC.