The next big release in the world of AAA gaming is Marvel’s Avengers, an action RPG from Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics that takes ideas from something like Ultimate Alliance, but buffs it up in blockbuster fashion. The beta started today, and after spending some time with it I’m having a good time! I love a good brawler, and that’s basically what Marvel’s Avengers is boiled down to the blood and guts. And speaking of basics, it’s probably a good idea to talk about how combat in this game works.

Marvel’s Avengers Combat Basics Guide

Square Enix’s new superhero joint comprises a lot of elements you’ll be familiar with if you’ve played a big action game any time in the last ten years or so, with a little bit of MMO affectations sprinkled on top. Each character has their own set of abilities, but are governed by the same control scheme. And those abilities all occupy the same language, and are activated the same way. The diversity here comes from the role each character plays, and certain design elements tied to specific characters. A good example of that is Hulk, who can cling to walls like a roided-up Prince of Persia.

While a lot of the action is structurally comparable to an Ultimate Alliance-like experience, combat is Marvel’s Avengers is much more chunky. These characters hit hard, and the gameplay is designed to make you feel that. To that end, you aren’t really doing a lot of complicated maneuvering or fancy footwork, unless you’re playing as Black Widow of course. Each character has their quirks, but those quirks all follow the same basic guidelines. We played on PS4, so we’ll use those buttons as our primary reference.

Related: How Raids Work In Marvel's Avengers

Offense

To attack bad guys, your primary tool is mashing the light (square) and heavy (triangle) attack buttons. Light attacks give you a bread and butter combo, while there can be a bit more nuance to heavy attacks. You can move from one to the other fairly smoothly, but there aren’t variations of presses that will give you different moves. However, in some cases you will need to swap back and forth, because tougher enemies can counter you if you mash the same button too much. In some cases you’ll get a chance to use a takedown movie, which is triangle and circle together, treating you to a fancier animation to finish an enemy off.

If you hold the heavy attack button, you’ll charge up a stronger, guard-breaking strike that has slight AoE properties. It won’t be your primary group tool, but if an enemy has a shield, or if there’s a breakable obstacle in your way, this is what you use. Holding light attack can have properties depending on the character, for instance Hulk will grab enemies and open up a few unique follow-ups.

Each character (yes, even Hulk) has a ranged attack, that can be activated by aiming with L2, and firing with R2. Again, the effect will vary pretty wildly based on the character. Hulk throws rocks, Iron Man has his chargeable blasts, Captain America throws his shield, so on and so forth. What’s interesting here is that you can’t really rely on ranged attacks; they’re slower to use or easily defended against, but there are situations designed to make them useful.

Finally, the super moves. In Marvel’s Avengers they’re called Heroics, and each character has three of them. There’s the Support Heroic (L1), the Assault Heroic (R1), and the Ultimate Heroic (both). The cooldowns and availability as relevant for these are given plenty of UI real estate, so you’ll know when you can use them. Many of these abilities have crowd-clearing properties, which is what you’d probably expect from the superhero crowd. Black Widow can turn invisible!

Defense

Defensive maneuvers in Marvel’s Avengers are, frankly, more thoughtful than I expected! There’s a little bit of familiarity if you’ve played AAA action adventure games, especially with the Evade skill (circle). Tapping Evade once will cause your character to lurch forward and duck a little bit, which is great for dodging weaker attacks (signified by blue warning visuals that change depending on enemy location) and setting up a punish. If you double-tap Evade you’ll do a dodge roll (or equivalent) that gets you out of the way of scarier (red) attacks, but doesn’t come with a response opportunity. Evade is your standard tool and will get you out of damage in most cases as long as you don’t mash at it or hit it too early. Windows can be tight, especially against more acrobatic opponents such as Taskmaster.

If you aren’t using the Aim button, R2 can provide defensive options that will vary from character to character. There can be splits between pressing it or holding it as well. Pressing R2 is more of a “counter” function, such as Black Widow being able to use her grappling hook to get in for a good headscissors takedown when an enemy is open for it. Holding R2 will give you things like Captain America holding his shield up to block, or Hulk going into Rage mode which makes him sturdier and heals him a bit.

Additional Abilities

If a character can fly, like Iron Man, that skill lives in a sort of grey area between offense and defense. It expands your movement options, but makes you vulnerable especially if you’re trying to take out airborne enemies with your ranged weapons. Flight it done simply by holding Jump (cross), which also controls ascending, while circle will get you back to the ground.

Marvel’s Avengers also has a target lock ability, which will stick the camera on your selected target. You generally move faster than the lock on can keep up, mostly because spatial awareness in this game is really important. It’s mostly useful in boss fights, or situations in which there’s a particular threat you need to single out. Otherwise in group fights, locking on feels a bit counterproductive.

That’s pretty much it for the basics! Combat in Marvel’s Avengers is relatively simple, but it still feels like there’s a lot you can do with the options on the table. The unified control scheme should keep the game accessible and encourage trying out the whole roster, while each character’s distinct properties will still let you find favorites. Also, whoever designed Hulk’s combat was clearly a Marvel vs Capcom fan, and we respect that gumption.

Are you ready for Marvel’s Avengers? Have you had any time with the beta yet, or are you still waiting to dive in and give it a whirl? Let us know what you’re thinking about the latest big budget superhero bonanza over at the Prima Games Facebook and Twitter channels!