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Marvel Rivals

Marvel Rivals Preview: A capable hero shooter... beaten to the punch by Overwatch eight years ago

We've been hands-on with NetEase's hero shooter during our time in Los Angeles for Summer Game Fest and we're not exactly blown away.

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Man where to start with this one. I try to see the best in games, particularly when I have the luxury and opportunity to preview and go hands-on with a title before it ever makes its public and full launch. But there are warning sirens firing off in my head after having the chance to go hands-on with Marvel Rivals during Summer Game Fest.

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Marvel Rivals

Before I get to why this is the case, let me just lay out a few positive points and reasons why you should still be interested and excited for this hero shooter. The art direction is a highlight and it feels very authentic and aligned with the comic stylings that Marvel characters tend to trace their heritage back to. All of the characters feel very unique and slot well into the core philosophies of the damage, tank, and support roles that are presented. The destruction mechanic adds some extra welcome depth to how you tackle action. Plus, there is already a broad list of popular characters to pick from, maps to become familiar with, and game modes to play. But there's a good reason for this, and that's because NetEase has looked at Overwatch and pretty much copied it to a tee.

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I don't want to go as far as to say that it's plagiarised, but the fact that Iron Man essentially plays like Pharah, Star-Lord like Tracer, The Hulk/Bruce Banner like D.Va, Rocket Raccoon like Baptiste, Scarlet Witch like Moira, Punisher like Soldier 76, Magneto like Sigma, Doctor Strange like Reinhardt, and so forth, it's hard not to draw comparisons. The characters even chat and banter with one another at the start of every game as do Blizzard's.... The same can then be said for the game modes and how you can flick between Escort and Control-like modes, and the fact is that it's mainly the maps where the most creative differences can be seen. And even here there are familiarities...

Marvel RivalsMarvel Rivals
One is from Marvel Rivals, the other from Overwatch. Can you tell which is which?

I'm a fan of Overwatch and the chaos of Blizzard's shooter, so the pacing and the madness in Marvel Rivals does feel familiar to me. That being said, this is a very chaotic game and one that will no doubt be overwhelming to those who aren't versed and experienced with this kind of PvP hero shooter. This isn't a similar situation to how XDefiant has attempted to slow down arena shooters when compared to the pacing of Call of Duty, Marvel Rivals is just as mad and fast as Overwatch.

Due to the similarities, you're probably wondering why you'd move away from the years and years of progression you've accrued on a title like Overwatch and make the jump to Marvel Rivals. This is where the destructible environment comes back into the equation and also the Dynamic Hero Synergy system. Now, the former is quite a promising idea that allows you to put your mark on each map and even impact how objectives are played. Struggling to break through a chokepoint? Go around and break down a wall and attack from a new angle. It's a compelling idea that has yet to really be explored in the hero shooter space.

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As for the hero synergy system, this is more of a niche gimmick that feels underutilised at best. Certain characters, usually ones with lore reasons for their connections, can team up with one another to unlock new abilities and mechanics. Rocket can hop on Groot's shoulder and ride around with the Flora colossus, and Hulk can use gamma radiation to charge up Iron Man's armour, as just two examples. Frankly however, there are not enough synergy pairings in place right now to make this mechanic feel relevant or important, and if anything it probably just puts a constraint on team compositions and what characters work best together.

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Marvel RivalsMarvel Rivals

Aside from feeling a bit icy, as though the characters glide when they move, I think that Marvel Rivals performs fine from a gameplay perspective. It's the similarities and lack of creative risks and individuality that concerns me, as this game comes across as far too similar (while being inferior) to Overwatch, making me wonder why I'd ever drop Blizzard's game to move to this title. There is still no release window for this game, so a lot could change in the coming months, perhaps year, but as it stands, Marvel Rivals didn't leave much of an impression on me or make me excited for its eventual arrival.

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