NEWS

Best hand-to-hand combat in games

When video game protagonists don’t mind getting their hands dirty

By THE OMEN NEWSROOM TEAM | April 27, 2022

There’s no shortage of games that offer great melee combat, with fantastic weapons and powers, but very few action games or RPGs have mastered hand-to-hand combat. With the release of promising new beat ‘em up Sifu around the corner, here’s our homage to some of our favourite games where the protagonists don’t mind letting their fists do the talking.

Absolver

Developer Sloclap laid the combat foundation for Sifu with its 2017 release, Absolver. While Sifu will be a more focused affair with linear levels, Absolver is an open-world free-roam marital arts experience. It is also one of the rare games to seamlessly blend single-player, co-op and competitive multiplayer within its campaign. With an ever-evolving move set and equipment and weapons to collect, Absolver offers plenty for players to sink their teeth into.

Batman Arkham series

Batman Arkham Asylum introduced the ‘freeflow’ combat system, which allowed the Batman to quickly and smoothly transition from one enemy to the next, while dishing out copious amounts of damage effortlessly. And it looked downright cool! Subsequent games refined the combat system further, but the freelow is groundbreaking for the way it allows players to take out a large group of enemies through hand combat alone. And best of all, the combat controls are simple enough so anyone can come out looking like a complete bad ass. You are, after all, the Batman.

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition

One of the most underrated games of all time, Sleeping Dogs did a lot of things so well that we could write a whole book about it. But one of the oft-overlooked areas of the game is its hand-to-hand combat. Protagonist Wei Shen puts his police training to full use in the streets of Hong Kong as he pummels Triad thugs into submission with bone-crunching combat that also makes clever use of the environment. Even a decade after its release, combat in Sleeping Dogs still holds up.

Mad Max

Speaking of underrated games, Avalanche’s Mad Max game perhaps suffered from releasing close to the popular film reboot, but this is another example of fine hand-to-hand combat. With a mix of street brawling, maneouvres that would make WWE wrestlers proud, and some weapon combos thrown in, few games have done a better job at ‘selling’ the impact of hand-to-hand combat. With dramatic camera shifts, punchy impact and visual effects to accompany every hit, Mad Max’s hand combat was a joy to engage in.

Yakuza series

From one-two punches to elaborate dance moves and plenty in between, Yakuza games offer a dramatic and often hilarious progression in their hand combat mechanics. What starts out as a rather basic set of moves at the start of the game evolves through upgrades and style unlocks to make the player feel like a one-man army cleansing the streets of the criminal underworld.

Which of these games do you plan to fire up? Let us know in the comments below.

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