June 13, 2021

What game has the best melee combat?

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When done poorly, swinging your arms in a videogame feels like nothing at all. Fists phase through opponents, swords smack like dull sticks, and it’s all a little too much like making a health points withdrawl at the NPC ATM.

Thankfully there are lots of games which do it wonderfully – so, which game does it best?

“Melee” covers a pretty broad range of ways of hitting things. I’m thinking about the gleeful high kicks of Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, and the just as gleeful low kicks of FEAR. I’m thinking about spinning lightsabers in Jedi Knight 2, and the mannered fencing combos of Blade Symphony or more recently Hellish Quart.

Personally, I favour melee combat that’s less about finesse and more about scrappy panic. It’s extremely old now, but Sumotori Dreams captured that with clumsy shoving and slapstick AI animation. NEO Scavenger, meanwhile, is all terror, a turn-based RPG with static sprite graphics in which every fight is a desperate scrabble for survival.

That’s not to say I can’t enjoy style over substance, too. Condemned: Criminal Origins has extremely good bludgeoning. Zeno Clash has fists thudding into faces with a deeply uncomfortable flesh noise. Yakuza is all cheese, but who doesn’t like beaning punks with bicycles. These are games where the treatment of their melee combat is expressive, communicating the tone and type of world you’re inhabiting much more than your typical gun.

So tell me in the comments below, as effusively as you can, what game does this best?

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