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I’m sorry in advance to all my future Marvel Rivals teammates

A lot of heroes fight in Marvel Rivals
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

I have one memory from my Overwatch days that still haunts me to this day. A friend who played the game religiously invited me to play with his competitive crew one day. I’d only played the game casually at that point, but I thought I could hold my own. I loaded into a round and picked Bastion, only to be totally crushed by the other team, who were clearly at a higher skill level than me. When the end score screen came up, one of my friend’s crew members passive aggressively scoffed at my low damage output. It was that moment where I realized I simply would never be able to hang with the top players.

That feeling came back to me during my very first round of Marvel Rivals at this year’s Summer Game Fest. NetEase’s impressive superhero shooter seems like a rich multiplayer game full of diverse strategies that’ll make it a blast to watch and play. But as someone who mostly jumps into games like Overwatch casually, I already feel like I’m out of my league. I’m sorry in advance to all my future teammates.

Marvel Rivals has a concise elevator pitch: it’s Overwatch with Marvel heroes. And I don’t mean that it’s Overwatch-inspired, but doing its own thing. Everything from its game modes to its UI and in-game announcer feels like its peeking over at Blizzard’s notes. I can understand why; Overwatch is an iron-tight concept that simply struggles with consistency. Marvel Rivals is in a much better position to deliver that thanks to NetEase’s expertise and tons of Marvel characters who are begging to be turned into superheroes.

Rocket rides on Groot's back in Marvel Rivals.

On its surface, that’s a winning combination. Every character I played during my few matches felt entirely distinct from one another. Magneto can use his powers to call up a shield, while Spider-Man can swing off of buildings and pummel enemies up close. Those playstyles are wildly different, but they all mesh in the hero shooter formula. There’s immediate fun in loading up a beloved character and seeing how NetEase was able to bring them to life.

I’d be lying if I said I grasped the complexities of gameplay in one sitting, though. In its early state, Marvel Rivals can feel incredibly overwhelming compared to its peers. The diversity of hero powers can make it difficult to jump into a game and understand what exactly is happening. That’s made a little tougher by the fact that heroes are constantly quipping during matches. The gameplay systems can feel confusing at first. Healing is so frequent, for instance, that sometimes I felt like I’d shoot enemies and they’d immediately regain all their health in a split second.

All of that made for a frustrating first two matches. That started with me selecting Hela, but having trouble understanding the best way to inflict damage with her. After going 0-7 on kills, I switched to Spider-Man. His playstyle felt clearer at a glance, as I could swing around and sneak attack enemies, but that came with a similar learning curve. The incredibly fast pace of gameplay, coupled with the fact that his punches don’t have real impact behind them, left me struggling to move or inflict damage.

Team up abilities in Marvel Rivals

I must stress again: I don’t think this is necessarily a problem with Marvel Rivals. Hero shooters are supposed to be mechanically complex, rewarding those who really stick with a character and learn their intricacies. For dedicated fans, it feels like Marvel Rivals will be a treasure trove of team strategy. I’m just already feeling a little left behind, as I can already sense that intimidating Overwatch skill ceiling creeping in.

That probably won’t stop me from playing it. After all, I’m just excited to see my personal favorite heroes come to the game (I’m dying to see NetEase’s spin on Daredevil one day). It likely just means that I’m already resigned to sticking to casual playlists rather than venturing into a ranked mode. I’m sure anyone whose unfortunate enough to end up on my team will be grateful I stay in my lane.

Marvel Rivals will get a closed beta this July for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC players.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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