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Get your knives out: A list of the best pointy objects in the business

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Enough to make even Gabe Newell blush

Knives in games are weird. They're either way too weak and flimsy to be any fun (the weapon of last resort you mess around with for a few moments to delay dying or before you restart from your last, hopefully ammo-rich, save), or, by design choice or fluke, they are ridiculously overpowered and silly. I still giggle whenever I come across some hype-video of a CoD player running around with a combat knife, humbling scores of modern Spec Ops soldiers all decked out in the latest in high-powered assault weaponry.

Outside of trolling and goofing around, knives in games often just don't feel very good. They're not satisfying to use, or to fight against. That's why we have to celebrate the outliers. Those rare beautiful games that make it a joy, not a chore, to dive in up-close-and-personal to try to stick a piece of metal into another human being.

Resident Evil 4

Until the fourth installment of the series, the knives in Resident Evil almost set the standard for terrible videogame knives. They were not a tactical option, they were a punishment. A sentence you were forced to carry out until you were able to scrounge up a few precious shotgun shells, ideally learning to be a little more judicious with them in the future. In RE4 though, the knife became your best friend.

No longer hidden away in a cumbersome item menu, Leon could draw his blade with the push of a button, allowing for near-instant access to a blade when you needed it the most. In the faster-paced, more action-heavy climate of RE4, the knife provided you with vital close-in protection for those times when some shambling zombie or horrid flesh-monster got a little too close. While it still did fairly low damage, a good slash could send a monster reeling, giving you the time you needed to regroup, or set up an awesome Wrestlemania-style suplex.

Leon's knife gets a lot of screen time. It shows up in cinematics where he uses it to save his life, quick-time events where he climbs on some humongous boss or another to slash its weakpoint, and of course, the clash of knives is the focus of his vaguely intimate confrontation with Krauser. Krauser's instrument might be bigger, but Leon can handle his better. Innuendo? Only barely.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

The knife in Turok has all the hallmarks of a shitty videogame knife. It has a typically unsatisfying swipey animation that never feels like it's connecting with an enemy and does piss-poor damage, the kind of utterly inferior weapon you'd never want to use if you had even a single bullet or arrow left. However, for all of its flaws, the Turok knife is saved from the trash pile of ignominy by one amazing gimmick, that by the nature of its novelty also incredibly dates the game -- slow-motion.

By collecting spirit talismans (hidden away in inscrutable caches as was the grand tradition of late-'90s FPS games), Turok could slow the world to a psychedelic crawl. Reality would warp and bend, replacing the ever-present gray fog of the world with pulsating Hotline Miami-esque neon while the sundry velociraptors and poachers of Turok's ire would move like they were submerged in rapidly settling cement mix. That was when it was time for your blade, when each inhumanly fast swipe would draw a crimson dash of blood that would hang suspended in the air, layering on top of each other over and over again as helpless enemies fell one by one.

It doesn't sound like much, but that cheap slow-motion effect was the height of technological gimmickry the N64 was capable of, and about the goriest thing you could find on that platform until Doom 64 eventually chainsawed its way onto the scene. I'd use a cheat code to lock myself in slow-motion permanently and hypnotically, methodically, work my way through entire stages slicing up each goon or monster a dozen times or more. Staring at the screen dull-eyed and mechanical, gone blood-simple in my single-minded dedication to the knife.

Hey, don't judge. It was about the only way to actually enjoy that game.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Naked Snake's knife is notable for reasons almost entirely divorced from any kind of play mechanic or practical use. Yes, using the knife to kebab tree frogs, or to unzip a KGB officer's neck after an impromptu field interrogation was immensely satisfying (at least to my ghoulish tastes), but it wasn't a game changer. The same sorts of techniques had been in the series before, in the form of punches, silenced tranq darts, and the classic neck snap. What the knife offered in MGS3 wasn't about new mechanics, but about setting a tone, about establishing who Naked Snake (the man who would become Big Boss) was and where he came from.

There is an overwhelming amount of attention paid to Snake's knives in MGS3. The careful slow draw and of his leather-braided fighting knife as he remembers the basics of close-quarters combat. Whittling down the handle on his 1911 mere seconds after acquiring it to better accommodate his knife/gun akimbo fighting style. The long-winded radio conversations about the merit (or lack thereof) of survival knives stuffed with gear in hollow handles. Hell, the CQC knife is in the frame every time you aim your pistol in first-person mode.

Say I'm reading too much into it (this wouldn't be the first time when it comes to the MGS series), but I don't think that was a mistake or a coincidence. You're supposed to have that image of the knife floating around in your head while you play. The knife is the raw edge of the game, the old fashioned kind of murder that grounds the action in spite of all the bumblebee-men and ghost-astronauts you fight. The thing that really reminds you of the moral grime and dirty dealings of the espionage world during the height of the cold war. The subtle reminder that while Naked Snake might be the hero of this game, you know he has a darker, more ruthless turn waiting in store.

To me, MGS3 isn't “the prequel” or “the one set in the '70s.” No, it will always stand out in my mind as “the knife one.” I think that's telling.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

When it comes to open-world games about stabbing people, we enjoy an embarrassment of riches. While the Assassin's Creed series might be built on the blood-soaked foundation of the sheer joy of leaping from the shadows to stick a blade in someone's back, I think top honors in the field of shivving must go to Mordor instead.

While Colonial Redcoats might be a (slightly) more satisfying object to work murder on than orcs, the way Talion goes about his grim business edges out the Ezios and Connors of the world. I'd take Talion's ragged, broken hilt of a sword-turned-makeshift-orc-sticker over the facile slickness of AC's spring-loaded wrist-blade any day of the week. The near-endless variety of ways he can use it to end an orc's life is simply breathtaking in scope and imagination.

You don't just “stab” an orc in Mordor. No, Talion will arch an orc over his knee like a lover, only to drive that broken blade into its guts. He'll hover the knife in the air for three-fifths of a second too long above a prone orc scrambling in the dirt before finally plunging it into his back. He'll drop from a height to sticking the blade into a woefully exposed throat before pulling it sideways free with both hands, awkwardly straddling the line between just slitting a throat and full-on decapitation. Grisly, horrible (and thrilling) stuff.

This is all without mentioning the “brutalize” variant of his stealth kill that is specifically designed to butcher an orc so horrifically that any other monster witnessing it would rather drop their weapons and run than face the same fate.

When the fucking uruk-hai are startled by your savagery, you might have gone too far.

Team Fortress 2

How could you have a list about awesome videogame knives without honoring the Spy's iconic butterfly knife? You can't and you don't. So that's what we're doing now.

The Spy's knife gets EVERYTHING right. Slick, practical, powerful in the ways it should be, limited when it's out of its element, just perfect. From the super satisfying click-clack of opening the knife when you select it (I would absentmindedly fiddle with the quick-swap button every few seconds whenever I was out of the action just to hear it) to the quick downward jab of a backstab – it just feels great.

Of course, the big difference between the Spy's knife and the other fine-edged weapons on this list is that you get to use it on other people as opposed to A.I.-driven cannon fodder. As a Spy you get to stalk, hunt, and prey upon other actual players, using your skills and wits to maneuver into just the right place at just the right time to put the knife in. It's a dynamic that has brought out the best of the worst in Spy players. As TF2 has aged, the old tricks just don't cut it anymore. You can't spam out cries for a Medic while disguised as a Pyro and assume you've duped everyone anymore. An entire substrata of players have worked out every possible sneaky angle and head-game you could care to think of to keep the Spy relevant and dangerous as the meta-game has churned on.

I've never experienced anything more gratifying in an online game than pulling off a hard-earned backstab. Finding a way to sneak past an enemy team specifically watching and checking for Spies, worming your way past all the random explosions and possible mishaps, stabbing someone just as they look away, confident in their security. Nothing tickles the black recesses of my heart more than watching the enemy roster empty out of Medic, Heavy, and Sniper players as they switch to more aggressively anti-Spy classes like the Pyro, Scout, and Soldier in an attempt to extract revenge.

And of course, I've never experienced anything as white-hot frustrating as having a good Heavy minigun-rampage cut short by a shiv to the spine courtesy of some clever Spy. Cheeky bastard.

Honorable Mentions

Far Cry 4 – The chain knife takedown, where you stab one dude in the back, then pull his own knife out of the scabbard to throw at his slack-jawed buddy, is too damn cool to go unmentioned.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Jensen's arm blade things remind me a lot of RoboCop's data-spike. Only with a lot less data and a lot more spike.

Super Street Fighter IV - Cody has some nerve bringing a knife to a street brawl. I like it.

Soldier of Fortune 2 – SoF2's knife would leave these horrific gashes on an enemy model and it didn't stop there. Dice a corpse long enough and you could dismember some poor sod until all that remained was a pool of blood in a hallway. Ewwww.

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Nic Rowen
Nic RowenAssociate Editor   gamer profile

(formerly known as Wrenchfarm) has been an active member of the Dtoid community since After toiling away in the Cblog mines and Recap Team workhouse for more + disclosures


 


 



Filed under... #Destructoid Originals #features #Things gamers do #Top Stories

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