When Grand Theft Auto IV came out fans were pleasantly surprised that Rockstar Games had tucked a deep combat system into the fold. Niko could target enemies, counter punches, and make strong, medium or kick attacks. Input the right combo and players could disarm knives from opponents or unlock a special “fatality” move under the right circumstance.
Melee relied on skill, and the impact of each punch felt meaty and realistic.
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Then came Grand Theft Auto V. A return to Los Santos meant hitting the gym and learning new fighting moves just like CJ did, right? Not quite. If anything, GTA V’s melee was a lackluster mix of blocking and jabbing, and not much more.
Red Dead Redemption’s melee wasn’t as in-depth as fans were expecting, either. The crazy saloon fights and drunken boxing matches were no where to be found (although the ability to tackle someone to the ground and get a couple pot shots in was pretty cool.) For replicating such a scrappy era of American history, it’s too bad hand-to-hand combat felt tame and underwhelming.
It shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. For the most part, Rockstar’s library consists of gun-oriented games: Max Payne, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption. There are melee-centric titles such as Bully and the Warriors, though these were more brawl type beat ‘em ups than Rockstar’s flagship titles.
With Rockstar’s most ambitious, and possibly most mature title yet looming on the horizon, the studio needs to implement a rich melee combat system. Yes, the Wild West of our collective imagination was filled with honorable duels and gunslinging bandits, but they couldn’t have possibly resolved every fight with a gun, could they?
Rockstar has set a standard for realism in its games, and RDR2 will likely be brutal in its depiction of 19th century America. Fans are hoping Rockstar goes full Blood Meridian in it’s portrayal of outlaws, scalpers, prospectors and bounty hunters. Along with a refined combat and shooting system, we think an overhauled melee system would help RDR2 stand out among its videogame peers.