When it comes to combat in video games, many go the way of blood and guts for the sake of blood and guts, with boring and unimaginative gameplay mechanics. There’s only so many ways to slice a ninja to pieces or shoot a bad dude that’s out to get you. That’s why when a game does something interesting with those mechanics—something truly entertaining or intriguing—it’s worth celebrating.
More often than not, games that actually do something a little neat with their fighting borrow those moves and shots from film. There’s something decidedly cinematic about the following six video games.
Let me be clear: Wet is not a good game. It has its fair share of problems, many of which are tied to the game’s writing, but the actual combat system is perhaps one of my absolute favorites. It’s not that it tries to do anything particularly revolutionary so much as it combines several different bits together in a stylish way.
The big gimmick in Wet is that main character Rubi, who is an assassin/bounty hunter/ninja of sorts, enters a The Matrix-style slow motion when jumping around and shooting and so on. The reason this works so well—better even than Max Payne, which did this style of combat in video games first—is that Ruby also has a sword that she can throw in the mix. So she can dash around, fire at enemies, and then slice anyone that gets too close.
MadWorld, Platinum Games’ Nintendo Wii release, exists in a whole different category from the rest. The intentionally limited color palette lends the whole thing a Sin City vibe that’s hard to escape. The combat sequences and more take that inspiration and run with it to build over-the-top moves like cracking an enemy in half while blood spurts out.
Like the name implies, there’s a madness to it all—a brutal, no-mercy sort of madness. Frank Miller’s work in comics is the closest comparison, but beyond that the gore-soaked horror film or bloody noir and pulp of serial detective novels is the next best thing.
4. ‘BIOSHOCK 2’
There’s something about running around the fallen city of Rapture as the iconic Big Daddy that’s appealing. It helps that the game encourages players to rush the genetically modified denizens that remain in the city with a giant drill—you know, the little things.
There’s a lot to be said about the BioShock franchise in general as to its use of lighting and so on for effect. But the sequel does the first one a solid by making combat much more fluid while also introducing a ton of new elements. Suddenly there’s weapons and plasmids at once, the drill, and so on. It makes for an extremely satisfying—albeit dark and bloody—time.
3. ‘JUST CAUSE 3’
A majority of those included here don’t fall into the traditional shooter category—you know, the genre filled with Halo, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and so on. It’s a sort of twitch-based violence, filled with bullets, explosions and sudden death. It’s the difference between an Arnold Schwarzenegger film and the calculated combat of something like the hammer scene in Oldboy.
And Just Cause 3 is definitely more of a Schwarzenegger with all the explosions and vehicle shenanigans. It’s emblematic of that kind of film more than just about any of the previously mentioned games. No game does “helicopter explosions into more helicopter explosions” quite like Just Cause 3. It is the absolute best kind of goofy, over-the-top nonsense violence.
2. ‘BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM’
When talking cinematic combat, there’s no way to avoid including at least one of the several recent Batman titles. Rocksteady, the developer, has put a lot of work into the system where Batman beats the snot out of the bad guys—and it shows.
There’s a rhythmic aspect of tumbling about punching and kicking thugs in a combo that only stops when every enemy’s hit the floor. It’s like a deadly dance with the player as Batman in the thick of it. True, there’s no real bloodshed in the game despite the powerful moves on display, but it makes for a truly gorgeous sequence regardless. Who says games need to be bloody to be good?
1. ‘THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT’
Geralt of Rivia, the eponymous witcher of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, is kind of like a fantasy Batman, which is why it makes sense that the games shares a lot in common with Arkham Asylum when it comes to the clinical combat. Batman’s a clumsy boxer of sorts compared to Geralt’s surgeon-like dispatchment of monsters, however.
To be fair, it’s not just the combat that makes The Witcher 3 feel gloriously cinematic. It’s the attention to detail in the environment, the feeling that there’s really a war going on, and that something dangerous could be lurking around any corner. All of this plays out in the background while Geralt weaves a web of sword slashes, magic signs, crossbow bolts, and bombs. It’s like watchin a more monstrous version of Game of Thrones centered on a single badass character.
Rollin Bishop covers video games, technology, pop culture, and the ways the three intersect. He is bad at briefly describing himself. Should you wish to hear his rambling about Disney Channel Original Movies and more, he can be found at @rollinbishop on Twitter.
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