Riot Dev Raises the Curtain on Crosshair Placement in Valorant
This is just a rough estimate, but I’d say that roughly 90% of Valorant videos on YouTube that even mention “aim” also mention “crosshair placement.” Though I’m not exactly top tier at either “flick” shots or crosshair placement, I struggled in particular with the latter concept for a long time. Most guides leave it at “keep your crosshair at head height.” I often found head height to be hard to gauge, though. I still do, especially on the fly or at long range, but now I at least sometimes have a reference point. My crosshair placement is still far from perfect, but a Valorant Ascended recent video has made me feel like Neo seeing through the Matrix for the first time. It all just makes sense now. I hope to share this knowledge with anyone else who wasn’t in the loop.
The long and short of it is as follows: Every character in Valorant is exactly two (virtual) meters tall so that headshots are consistent among all characters. Valorant is built in Unreal Engine, and in a Riot Nu YouTube video, a tutorial of sorts for that game engine, we got a glimpse of how the grid system of the map geometry in Valorant works. Many pieces of that geometry happen to be exactly head height. So, for a shortcut to good crosshair placement in Valorant, align your crosshair below the top line of the nearest box or another piece of the level that fits this boxy sizing.
Valorant Ascended uses an example. Draw a horizontal line from the line between these stone blocks to Sova’s head, and bang. Easy headshot.
Starting at 3:34, Valorant Ascended does just that, using a red line to demonstrate my favorite example of this shortcut to good crosshair placement in Valorant – the bottom bullseyes outside of Garage on Haven. It’s perfect, and something which feels so obvious that I’m rather embarrassed I never noticed it before. And so many other angles feature little reference points like this, all to aid in achieving easier headshots.
The Importance of Crosshair Placement
So, why does this matter? Well, in tactical shooters like Counter-Strike and Valorant, it’s much, much harder to flick your crosshair to a target’s head than it is to pull the trigger once you see an enemy character walk into it. Crosshair placement is important for everyone. But particularly for those of us who have hands that have much more experience in other genres or on controllers, being able to pre-aim accurately can be a huge boon when it comes to putting kills up on the scoreboard.
As someone who was a relative noob to the tactical FPS genre when Valorant came onto the scene (before then, the closest I got to being “tactical” in a shooter was assassinating someone in Halo: Reach on the Xbox 360), this facet of scoring headshots eluded me for the longest time. I just assumed that good crosshair placement would come naturally with time. I would try to think actively about where the enemy’s head might be when they popped onto my screen, but this would usually be (at least) just a bit off. I would often whiff wildly when they appeared, or would scramble and miss a flick to try and make up for my bad horizontal placement, or would send a few bullets whizzing over their head due to bad vertical placement.
Having this reference within the map geometry itself is almost like a cheat code. If we have perfect vertical crosshair placement by using pieces of the map that measure head height, only tiny micro-adjustments of the mouse need to be made. Then we should be well on our way to popping heads like balloons and climbing the Valorant ranks.
Not a Catch-All Solution, but Pretty Close
Not every situation in Valorant will have a conveniently placed piece of cubic map geometry that can perfectly line up our crosshair with the opponent’s head. Sometimes, enemies might crouch or play weird off-angles as Sage wall boosts, or Jett might tell you to “Watch this!” and then pop over an actual wall with her throwing knives at the ready. In those cases, effective crosshair placement is a matter of experience (coupled with reading the opponents’ habits). And no matter which way we slice it, flick shots will always be important since it’s impossible to always pre-aim every possible place an enemy could be.
However, as covered in Valorant Ascended’s helpful video, most angles in the game will have at least one object in the map that works as a reference point for your crosshair placement. Look back at the example of Sova on Haven’s A Long at 3:23 in the video. The closest angle has the double-stacked stone boxes; the staircase has another stone box; the splitting off point of A Short and A Long has a wooden crate. Even most rectangular boxes or crates in the game are just a double stack of these cubes, with a helpful seam in between, so aiming vertically between them is no sweat.
Like that content creator, I can’t stop seeing boxes everywhere I go in Valorant now. Still, that’s a small price to pay for better crosshair placement.
Oz’s Curtain Pulled Back
Riot’s devs put in these helpers for our crosshair placement way back in the beta, and many of us didn’t even notice or did so only subconsciously. Of course, I’m sure this has been discussed before, but I want everyone who plays Valorant seriously to know about it. It has certainly given my crosshair placement a huge level up in just a few days.
Now, the only negative I can think of is that I feel a bit like Dorothy and her entourage finally arriving in the glistening city of Oz, only to discover that the wizard is a little man operating machines, levers, and Unreal Engine boxes. In other words, this is not great for immersion… but hey, we’re not talking about an RPG. Valorant is a tactical shooter, and we will take every advantage we can get, even if they remind us a little too much that everything we can see on the monitor is just bits and bytes.
Accessible and Intuitive
I think this peek behind the curtain of Valorant’s crosshair placement a great example of the title’s broad accessibility. This is something I commended Riot for in my first article for this site. Some, myself included most of the time, are generally against “dumbing things down” for new players. This is because the sweaty nerds in the crowd will always climb their way to the top, even if the game in question is extremely simple or ludicrously complex. Nothing against said nerds, of course. The drive to be the best is an admirable one.
Look at the transition from Street Fighter IV to V or from Guilty Gear Xrd to Strive or Super Smash Bros. Melee to Brawl. There’s a worrying trend among competitive game designers to make newer installments “easier.” This is usually done in ways that casual players will barely notice or not notice at all. The skill floor – the barrier to entry – is rarely impacted, and the games are usually still quite difficult to be the best at, but the skill ceiling often suffers. High-level gameplay can become less interesting and engaging. And that peak level of skill is why we watch high level… anything. By removing advanced techniques, developers often end up putting out inferior products.
But there’s no “dumbing down” to be found here. Instead, Valorant is simply providing an easier, more intuitive way to quickly judge head height at various distances and while holding most angles. This makes the game no less interesting to play or watch, and in fact, can help even casual spectators to understand the previously nebulous concept of crosshair placement. I’ve been drawing lines in Valorant from boxes to heads for a little bit now, and I feel like I have improved exponentially. The headshots are coming easier, and the reactions required to hit them are much less straining. This is an elegant way for the developers to make their game more accessible without removing advanced techniques, which would only serve to make the game less interesting as players and spectators.
I think this is an ingenious piece of game design. My thanks go out to Riot Nu for sharing this with us, to Valorant Ascended for making the information more digestible and focused on crosshair placement, and to Riot themselves for making Valorant both accessible and deep.