Push to switch between battle modes when controlling Cloud. Operator mode offers a good balance between offense and defense, while punisher mode gives Cloud an offensive advantage at the cost of agility. In punisher mode, his standard attack changes to Strong Attack.
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Operator Mode is one of Cloud's two combat stances in Final Fantasy VII Remake, along with Punisher Mode. Operator Mode balances Cloud's attack and defense, and allows him to be much more mobile, making him better at chasing after foes. Operator Mode is Cloud's default stance.
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Operator Mode is Cloud's default battle stance, which he should use to close the gap with enemies, as he does not run in Punisher Mode. Dodge-rolling is always considered to be in Operator Mode, and the player can cancel Punisher Mode by rolling. Typically, Cloud attacks slower and deals less damage when in Operator Mode, though with the Nail Bat equipped, Cloud's attacks are faster under Operator Mode, but deal less damage. Holding the attack button has Cloud perform a different combo that works as an area attack.
When in Operator Mode, uses guard, which mitigates damage taken from enemy attacks and fills Cloud's ATB bar for every attack he defends against. Some attacks cannot be defended against and only break Cloud's defensive stance. In Punisher Mode, assumes a counterattack pose. The player can switch between Operator and Punisher Mode while pressing to switch between defending and countering on-the-fly.
Against the majority of enemies, Cloud should use Operator Mode to close the gap to an enemy, and switch to Punisher Mode while within range to deal the most damage. However, against more mobile enemies, Cloud should remain in Operator Mode the entire time, only switching stances when an enemy is pressured to stagger them, and then remain in Punisher Mode while the enemy is staggered. Operator Mode can also be best if Cloud is used more for a spellcasting role, as mobility is more important than his physical damage.
Switching between stances uses up some animation time, and can put a pause on Cloud's momentum. This can be resolved when Cloud has Disorder, as he can use it to quickly switch from Operator Mode to Punisher Mode, allowing him to run up to an enemy and then use Disorder to first deal damage before unloading on them under Punisher Mode. Likewise, Disorder can be used to switch back to Operator Mode as a finishing blow to one enemy, to switch to another straight after.