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Midnight Channel #2: Top 21 Hand-to-Hand combat games - Destructoid




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STOP EATING MY SESEAME CAKE

(note: English in not my first language, so expect some "poor literacy is kewl" in my blog)
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Sometimes, you donít need a weapon or magic to defeat your enemy. Sometimes, you can do in the most primitive way - with your bare hands. Thatís why I always loved beat em up games and martial arts films. You just canít go wrong with the good old H2H.



I donít have anything against guns or swords. In fact, Iím thinking of doing another Top 21 about them. But this Top 21 list is only about games with Hand-to-Hand combat. My choices are not what I consider to be the best of Hand-to-Hand combat games, but rather just my favorites, in no particular order. These are the games what make me say to myself OH SHIT and UGH every time I successfully take someone down.

Here are some rules of this Top 21:
- No magic, no swords, no guns (with some exceptions)
- One game per series
- There are almost no fighting games on this list, because thereís just too many of them and they usually involve some kind of magic power


I decided to start with some really basic stuff. How basic? Well, how about Nintendoís first 2d fighting game? Urban Champion is an extremely simple game, but there is a certain level of depth, that makes this game fun as well as challenging. Your goal is to knock your opponent into the sewer manhole. You have a stamina bar, block and two kinds of punches: light and heavy. The light punch doesnít push the other player too far and it is harder to block. The heavy punch works in the opposite way Ė powerful, but easy to block and very slow. So, you have the most basic system in a fighting game, and surprisingly, it is enough for a fun and intense match with your friend. For the most part itís all about luck and button mashing, and it is kinda slow and tediousÖ.and the fighting itself looks boringÖ.holy shit, this game sucks. Youíd be better off playing Rock Paper Scissors, son.




When it comes to obscure Xbox games, Breakdown has got to be the king of them all. And itís a real shame, because despite some boring ass level design and pacing issues, this game is pretty damn good. It is a very interesting hybrid of first person beat em up/shooter/platformer with a huge emphasis on the immersion factor. In a lot of ways, itís very similar to Mirrors Edge. And like Mirrorís edge, it is trying to do unnecessary things and slowly falling apart because of that. Thanks to the previously mentioned immersion factor, the fighting is on the whole new level of exciting. Also, you can do some goofy shit like drinking soda and puking in the toilet.



If this is not fun for you, then I donít know what is.


Oh, how I miss you, Rare. Battletoads, of course, needs no introduction. Hard as balls, but fun as hell, this game is not even a game, really. It is an event, a ginormous explosion that opened up the gates of hell back in the 1991.



This game was over the fucking line hard for me when I was a kid, but I kept playing and suffering. Why? Punching dudes never felt so good. The shit we were supposed to go through was nothing compared to that badass feeling when you send someone flying into space with your GIANT FUCKING RAM HORNS.


Escape from Butcher Bay broke the typical movie licensed game curse and became one of the best games of the past decade. It incorporated elements from fist-person shooters, adventure and stealth games. The overall package was sweet, but the one thing I still remember to this day is the gameís combat. It was fluid, elegant and utterly brutal. Like Breakdown (which came out in the same year), it is very easy to become immersed in the gameís world due to the first-person perspective. So you can almost feel every bone crushing punch Riddick can throw. Also, you can kick Xzibitís ass.


Released as late as 1995, Comix Zone was pretty much doomed to become one of those forgotten classics. Despite being too short and too hard for some people, Comix Zone is one of the most inventive and unique games of the entire fourth generation of consoles. Sega Genesis controller has always bugged the hell outta me. WHY ONLY 3 BUTTONS? With the arrival of Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, the games became more complicated, so it is really impressive how the developers of Comix Zone managed to create such an awesome fighting system with only 2 buttons (C was for items) on the Genesis game pad. Even with the 6-button controller, to fight enemies you use only 2 buttons: punch and jump. And yet by combining d-pad movements with button presses you can do all sorts of crazy moves.


I consider Condemned: Criminal Origins to be one of the last truly scary games of this generation. Sequel, on the other head, while still being good, became less scary and more action-y. But thanks to that shift, some parts of the original game were improved. The CSI-elements are now much more complicated and interesting and the combat is more rock-solid and brutal than ever. Now you can actually chain combos and perform various extremely violent QTE finishing moves. The combat in Condemned games is unlike anything youíll see on this list. Thereís no beautiful fighting choreography or anything like that, only raw brutality.




Iím choosing Neon over previous DD games for this list, CUZ FUCK YOU DOUBLE DRAGON NEON IS AWESOME! A love letter to both the 80s and old Beat Em Up games, Double Dragon Neon is totally tubular! Too short? WELL FUCK YOU ITíS A CLASSIC BEAT EM UP GAME! Too hard? WELL FUCK YOU ITíS A CLASSIC BEAT EM UP GAME! No grapple moves? WELL FUCK YOU CAN COUNTER! It is totally fine if you didnít like Double Dragon Neon (FUCK YOU ANYWAY), but if you had a blast playing NeonÖ




And yet another awesome movie licensed game. If you havenít seen The Warriors, shame on you. You should probably stop reading my stupid shit and go see it. When I first heard of The Warriors game, I thought weíre gonna get some legendary shit. Turns out I was wrong. Rockstar has managed to create not only one of the best brawlers of all time, but something more. The game actually enhances the film in a weird way. And you know what? I would go as far as to say that if you havenít played The Warriors, shame on you.




Back in the ps2 days, me and my friends were always playing this game or Timesplitters 2 every goddamn weekend. Iíve never been into wrestling or hip-hop, but somehow Def Jam Fight for NY, a combination of two things that I donít really like, became my favorite PS2 fighter. The story mode was surprisingly good, the fighting was fast and exciting, and the special movesÖjust OUCH. Also, you can kick Xzibitís ass, again.


Honestly, Iíve always thought that the combat for the most part looks kinda goofy in Final Fight. Just take a look at these jokesters.



On the other hand, is does feel so goddamn satisfying when you pile drive some poor fucker into the ground. I don't have anything else to say. Itís Final Fight. You know how good it is.


Back in 1994 when Streets of Rage 3 finally came out in the US/Europe, it looked like a hideous beast.



This unfortunate victim of butchering in the localization process was a mere shadow of the original game. But we wonít talk about that shit.



Bare Knuckle 3 in many ways is superior to the second one. The game adds running and vertical-dodge moves, team attacks from the first SOR are finally back, and more important to me, action now is more fast-paced. After having so much control over your character in the third game, SOR2 suddenly feels so stiff and slow. Many people disliked the soundtrack, but I thought it was pure genesis hardcore.


I have a really strange relationship with the Yakuza series. I played almost all the major installments (even Kenzan), but didnít finish even one. I like the overly complicated story in these games, I like the setting, characters, gameplay, but some design choices are too Japanese even for me.



The combat may feel a little stiff for some people, but absolutely brutal finishing moves save it from being somewhat dull. I choose Yakuza 4, because it provides a nice variety of combat styles (this time, there are four playable characters, instead of just one).


The original Dead to Rights is so cheesy, stupid, and yet incredibly fun. This game has everything: shit-ton of ridiculous mini-games (in one level you dance as a stripper),



cool gunplay, jaw-dropping disarm moves, even some pretty decent fighting. The sequel was forgettable at best, since it ditched all the cool little things that made the original so good and just became another mediocre max payne wanna be. In 2010 the franchise received a reboot in a form of Dead to Rights Retribution. While still not as good as the original game, it was a solid action title which combined hand-to-hand combat and cover-based shooting. And that worked. The finishing moves were bizarrely gruesome, so if youíre a fan of that sort of thing (like me), then give this game a try.


Nightshade for the NES was a very unusual kind of the game for its time. It looked dark and stylish and featured a unique mix of point-and-click adventure, action, and humor. Imagine Batman Arkham City, only on the NES.



Well, of course, it is not nearly as good, but you get the idea.


Probably my favorite part about Uncharted 3 was an improved hand-to-hand combat. Naughty Dog knew they did it right this time, so Uncharted 3 opens with Nate and Sully starting a brawl in an old-fashioned English pub. The fights feel less random, there is much more emphasis on countering your enemyís attacks, and now Drake can take on more than just one opponent.


I tried to avoid fighting games for the most part (since almost all of them have some kind of magical bullshit in it), but Virtua Fighter 5 is just so exceptionally brilliant, that Iím going to make an exception. There is no fancy bullshit here, just one of the most complex fighters ever made. Fighting games don't get more pure than Virtua Fighter 5.


Before the awesome Transformers Cybertron games, High Moon Studios made a pretty good shooter Darkwatch and a game based on the film version of The Bourne Identity. Bourneís Conspiracy is a great example of hand to hand combat done right. Absolutely beautiful fight choreography (not butchered by the terrible shaky cam, like in the movies), simple and intuitive controls, every punch feels impactful and dramatic. The rest of the game is pretty average, but the fights are JUST FUCKING UGH!


I donít know if Iíve mentioned this before, but Clover Studio/Platinum Games is my favorite developer of all time. If I get an opportunity to talk about any game theyíve created, Iím a happy guy. God hand, despite being a game that pretty much killed Clover Studio, is a perfect example of great 3d beat em up. Hilarious, hard and fun, God Hand is gonna dragon kick your ass into the milky way! The controls are kinda awkward at first, because itís essentially Resident evil 4 as a beat em up, but once you get used to them, youíre in for a treat.


And yet we have another movie licensed game that doesnít suck donkey balls. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE? Batman Returns for the SNES was the shit. Fluid controls, music right from the movie, incredible Bat Atmosphere (what is that even) combined into the game that I to this day call my favorite beat em up of all time.




Sleeping Dogs is the biggest surprise of 2012. A well-crafted GTA-esque game that does so many things right, but also knows when to stop. Of course, the highlight of Sleeping Dogs is its perfect hand to hand combat. The game heavily borrows from the combat system found in the Batman Arkham games, but changes a formula a little bit, so it actually feels like its own thing. Fighting is challenging, satisfying and fun to play. United Front Games has managed to create one of the deepest and exciting fighting systems that you can find in an open-word game.




Resident Evil 4 was the major influence for the current generation of games with this whole over-the-shoulder camera angle. Rocksteady Studios repeated the trick when they introduced their brand new hand to hand combat system in the award-winning Batman Arkham Asylum and later perfected it in the sequel.



Their so called ďFreeflowĒ combat system forever changed the way hand to hand fighting should be done in a videogame. Games like Captain America Super Soldier, The Amazing Spider-man and Sleeping Dogs were all influenced by it. Why? Because combat in Arkham Games was the most bomb ass shit since the birth of the universe. IT WAS A FUCKING BAT CHRISTMAS.



In other words, I quite like it.
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