CS:GO players have better mechanics, but Overwatch players excel in game sense, says T1 VALORANT

But who is really better?

T1’s xeta, band, and Sayaplayer at VCT Pacific 2023

Upon its release in 2020, VALORANT immediately slotted in as a top game in the FPS genre. Considered a bit of a hybrid between Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch, Riot Games’ first FPS immediately drew in players from both games.

Now, three years into the game’s life cycle, VALORANT‘s professional player base still overwhelmingly consists of esports players with prior history competing in either CS:GO or Overwatch.

But even though VALORANT has carried over certain elements and concepts from both of these titles, the two games it takes inspiration from are markedly different. While one focuses on tactics and mechanical skill, the other rewards players who thrive in a fast-paced environment with many different utility options. The differences in the instincts of players from CS:GO and Overwatch are stark, and as the pro players on Korea’s T1 can attest to, each game offers a unique outlook as former esports stars make the jump to Riot’s FPS title.

Photo via Riot Games/VCT Pacific

“I think the players who come from CS have better fundamentals when playing the game,” Ha “Sayaplayer” Jung-woo said via translation at a post-match press conference after T1’s VCT Pacific lower-bracket final loss.

Sayaplayer, known more often by the shortened form of his tag, just “Saya,” has competed in professional esports since 2016, the same year Overwatch was released. He played for Korean team Meta Athena before joining the Overwatch League in 2018, where he spent just over two years with the Florida Mayhem.

Even though Saya was revered as one of the best Widowmaker players in the world during his time in the Overwatch League, he still expressed an overall sentiment that mechanical skill from CS:GO seems to transfer better into VALORANT. Mechanical or fundamental skills refer to a player’s ability to move their character around and hit targets accurately with their weapons.

“For Overwatch players, I think they are better at grasping the tempo and various skills in the game,” Saya said.

The design of various agents’ utility in VALORANT is as unique as some of the mind-blowing abilities in Overwatch, but the abilities in Riot’s FPS are more standardized, still allowing for an emphasis on gun usage, weapon economy, and—of course—individual aim. But with colors from smokes, flashes, and robot friends cluttering your monitor as you look for gun fights in VALORANT, it only seems natural that experienced Overwatch players would thrive in this chaos.

Saya’s journey into VALORANT has been somewhat chaotic as well. He began playing in North America for T1’s original roster in 2020, when he changed his gamer tag temporarily. Then he joined The Guard, only to transfer back to T1’s newly Korean roster for the 2023 VCT season. Through his VALORANT career so far, he has mostly been surrounded by CS:GO players. Yet T1’s rebuilt team for 2023 has more former Overwatch players on the starting roster than players from any other game.

Esports veteran Byeon “Munchkin” Sang-beom has played for two teams in his Overwatch League career, the Seoul Dynasty and Boston Uprising. Like Saya, Munchkin was mostly a hitscan player, meaning he played heroes that required excellent aim and other mechanics to be successful.

“I agree about the fundamental skills for CS:GO players,” Munchkin said at the press conference. “I think when Overwatch players become VALORANT players, they are better at understanding how to counter the other players’ utility.”

Counter-play strategies have always been a core part of both Overwatch and Overwatch 2. Though changing your agent mid-match isn’t possible in VALORANT, using utility to negate enemy abilities certainly is. This part of the game, Munchkin said, seems to click better for former Overwatch players.

In general, the VCT Pacific League has more former Overwatch players than any other league, while the EMEA League is largely made up of players with roots in CS:GO. This has resulted in more Pacific players being known for their utility usage, while EMEA players are known for their mechanics. For example, VCT Pacific’s 2023 regular season MVP Kim “MaKo” Myeong-gwan has a positive KDA across every agent he has played this year: Viper, Omen, and Brimstone—all controller agents that require utility usage to play effectively. In contrast, Fnatic’s Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev had the highest successful clutch percentage in Masters Tokyo while only playing duelists, indicating that even by himself with little utility to work with, his mechanics alone allow him to survive.

While both Sayaplayer and Munchkin retired from professional Overwatch in 2020 to switch to VALORANT, their teammate Lee “Carpe” Jae-hyeok made the transition to the game less than a year ago.

Photo via Riot Games/VCT Pacific

“Based on what game they have played before, I think it changes how players understand VALORANT,” Carpe said. “But since we are all VALORANT players, I think it is most important for us to focus on how we understand VALORANT, not our former games. I don’t think those games make a big difference. Instead, it differs based on where players come from, or what region they play in.”

While Saya and Munchkin seem to have noticed a difference between former players of both games, Carpe insisted that when it comes down to it, a player’s understanding of VALORANT is all that actually matters. As the VCT leagues have all seen more and more young players without previous esports experience at a high level, like much of Korea’s top team DRX, it seems true this past experience may not actually make much of a difference in reality.

Either way, VALORANT’s success has sparked interest from not only people who enjoy the FPS genre, but also those who want to try out a game like this for the first time. Regardless of previous experience, there can be a place for anyone on the VCT stage, though how you play could still reflect some of your past.

About the author

Nadine Manske

Nadine is currently a student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She covers VALORANT and Overwatch with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region and marginalized genders in esports. Before joining Dot Esports as a freelance writer, she interned at Gen.G Esports and the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her favorite Pokémon is Quagsire.

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