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Marvel Rivals is a 6v6 hero shooter in development at NetEase, testing begins in May

 Marvel Rivals trailer still - Spider-Man shooting a web.
Marvel Rivals trailer still - Spider-Man shooting a web.

Marvel Rivals is a free-to-play PvP team-based third-person shooter revealed today by NetEase that pits teams of six heroes and villains from the Marvel universe against each other in battles across multiple worlds ranging from Asgard to 2099 Tokyo.

The whole thing is, of course, rooted in a Multiverse beef: A clash between Doctor Doom and his counterpart from the year 2099 has somehow caused a collision of universes in a "timestream entanglement," forcing heroes and villains into unexpected alliances and enmities as they seek to defeat both Dooms before either of them can take control of these newly-created worlds.

Sounds a bit like Secret Wars, maybe, except the battle lines aren't quite so clearly drawn: Good guys and bad guys are all just cats in a bag. It's not the deepest narrative setup ever but it's also not entirely out of line with typical comic book fare—I mean, Secret Wars happened entirely because The Beyonder wanted to watch some fights. At the very least, it's a better justification for the chaotic brouhaha than we ever got from Overwatch.

The initial roster of characters includes:

  • Black Panther

  • Doctor Strange

  • Groot

  • Hulk

  • Iron Man

  • Loki

  • Luna Snow

  • Magik

  • Magneto

  • Mantis

  • Namor

  • Peni Parker

  • Rocket Raccoon

  • Scarlet Witch

  • Spider-Man

  • Storm

  • Star-Lord

  • The Punisher

I have to admit, I struggle a bit to see how The Punisher fits into that lineup: He is, after all, just a guy with a gun. On the other hand, he's also the guy who singlehandedly killed the Marvel Universe. Maybe the smart play here would've been to let him handle the Doom situation while everyone else goes out for a nice lunch.

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Marvel Rivals promo art
Marvel Rivals promo art

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Marvel Rivals promo art
Marvel Rivals promo art

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Marvel Rivals promo art
Marvel Rivals promo art

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Marvel Rivals promo art
Marvel Rivals promo art

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Marvel Rivals promo art
Marvel Rivals promo art

One particularly interesting aspect of Marvel Rivals is "Team-Up Skills," which enables two characters to combine their abilities into unique powers and tactics: Rocket Raccoon can blast away at enemies while riding around on Groot's back, for instance, while Hulk can unleash his Gamma energy to supercharge Iron Man's armor. (I think it's fair to say that superpowers in Marvel Rivals don't hew too precisely to the previously established canon.) It's not clear at this point whether every character will be able to team up with everyone else, or if only certain heroes or villains will be able to get together

Destructible environments will also enable players to "alter [the] environments, reshape the terrain, and craft a strategic advantage on the battlefield," Netease said. "Take cover to dodge attacks or use makeshift weapons to strike down enemies. Players will find countless ways to utilize the environment to claim victory."

Marvel Rivals will follow a seasonal structure, with new heroes, maps, and other unlockable content added in post-launch updates. A full release date hasn't been announced but alpha testing is set to begin in May—to sign up for a shot at access, head over to marvelrivals.com.