January 14, 2013 by khrisgolder
In no particular order, we will be taking a look at the often misunderstood, hugely entertaining sub-genre of melee-action games. This is NOT a ranking in awesomeness:
Another THQ title, like Space Marine, that didn’t resonate with the public (though it did gather a loyal following for many who played). Fortunately, Darksiders got a sequel. This 2010 game is also another genre mash-up. It could even be called an intellectual property mash-up. There is a melee system emulating God of War, the exploration and puzzle-solving of Zelda, and a Portal gun — er, I mean “Voidwalker.” Who can complain when results are this good? One might assume that playing as War, the most badass horseman of the apocalypse, would mean taking control of an unstoppable weapon. In Darksiders, War has his power stripped, and that’s where the scrapping begins.
In the medieval poem of the same name, Dante Alighieri saunters through hell with the help of ancient Roman poet Virgil. In the game, Dante returns from fighting in the crusades, having been unfaithful to his wife and killing a whole lot of innocent people. He destroys Death himself, steals his scythe, and really is just an all-around unpleasant dude. Dante has to travel through Hell, face his demons, and make some pretty epic decisions.
It is a reminder of how God of War’s story arch blends with Greek mythology. There’s no ancient text describing Kratos ripping the head off Helios or beating Hercules’ head into a bloody pulp, but still. Where God of War may have borrowed from the poem, the gameplay of Dante’s Inferno is pure God of War. Dante uses his scythe to slice through armies of abominable foes, much like Kratos, and the nine levels of hell very neatly function as the nine levels of the game. A sequel was hinted at, but this will likely be the only direct entry featuring the antihero, Dante.
Hansel & Gretel would be shaking in their little hunter boots if they ever crossed paths with Bayonetta. In Bayonetta, take control of an 8 foot tall witch with a British accent who wields four guns and is dressed entirely in her own magical hair. If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will. This 2010 effort by acclaimed Japanese studio Platinum Team was directed by Devil May Cry’s own Hideki Kajima. It definitely shows. Bayonetta takes the DmC formula and cranks it up to eleven. Instead of one pistol, Bayonetta carries four firearms: dual wielding a pair of guns while she kicks bullets with her handgun stilettos. She utilizes “Torture Attacks” where she summons everything from chainsaws to iron maidens. She can also activate “Witch Time” with a well-timed dodge, or transform into a bunch of animals including a panther and a crow. Her most powerful attacks involve various transformations of her hair into fists, boots, and creatures. While the story may be somewhat strange and alienating, it is good to see such a fresh and unique take on the genre. All wrapped nicely in a new IP, no less. Platinum Games’ new game coming out this year will be Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which looks to be another excellent melee-action game. Meanwhile, a sequel to Bayonetta should be in the works.
Instead of sticking to the Castlevania conventions that have defined the franchise since the PS1 version Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Lords of Shadow went for straight up action. In a way, it is calling back to the gameplay of the original Castlevania for NES, only this time featuring modernized mechanics and visuals. Lords of Shadow plays a lot like modern action games with a huge number of combos, massive area attacks, and an interesting magic system with the protagonists “Combat Cross.” Topping it all off, Patrick Stewart makes an appearance as the narrator. Who could ask for more? Mirror of Fate, a proper console follow-up, is underway to satisfy all your vampire and werewolf slaying needs.
In 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum took the gaming world by surprise. With relatively unknown Rocksteady at the helm, the game oozed with a polished attention to detail and genuine Batman authenticity that even diehard fans could appreciate. The gameplay was a breath of fresh air, segmented into innovative stealth movements and a smoother combat system. The combat system is rather simple on the surface, but the more you play, the more you realize Batman’s abilities. Divvy attacks by maneuvering through enemies, using Batman’s cape to faze opponents, and throwing long distance bat-gadgets.
Despite all odds, the 2011 sequel Batman: Arkaham City improved on almost everything. There was even an additional playable character, Catwoman, with her own combat style. There was also the option to mark the positions of the ridiculously high number of Riddler trophies strewn about the city. This really is one of this generation’s most highly regarded franchises, and the next Batman game is right around the corner.