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Deadly fists of deadly fury – melee imbalances in FPS

posted on October 31st, 2007 by golden jew

Because I desperately crave acceptance and attention from the “cool kids,” I’ve recently found myself playing immense amounts of Halo 3 with my roommate and various Xbox Live people.

A quick aside about my gaming habits (which you don’t care about but are vital to this post). I have never been a console FPS gamer. I’ve always been a PC gamer. UT2k and UT2003 were my bread and butter – annihilate people with a twitch of a mouse and a blast of the flak cannon. From there I moved on to Call of Duty, which was “slower” because of the WW2 genre, but still immensely fun.

Controllers for FPS have always been my kryptonite. As a result, I sort of fell off the FPS gaming bandwagon. I did recently get into Gears of War for a bit, but it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as Halo 3 has been.

Which brings me to my point. One common thread between both Gears and Halo 3 is the imbalance of melee weaponry compared to distance weaponry. A big part of my distaste for this stems from the fact that in Unreal (which I “grew up” on), there is no melee weaponry and the majority of battle is done at distance (or close range with the shot-gun behaving Flak Cannon). But you never have to worry about getting too close to someone because they might melee you. It’s all gunpower.

Gears was particularly bad with this. Initially, I was confused because in the future, all guns have chainsaws. After playing Gears, I realized the reasons all guns have chainsaws is because while chainsawing someone to death (a five second process), you are in fact invincible. The future may not bring us the cure to HIV, cancer, or gay people, but it does bring us magical chainsaws. This drove me nuts, because a successful chainsawing in Gears multiplayer gives you an automatic kill while your victim’s friends can do nothing to you (except perhaps time their own chainsawing once your magical chainsaw invulnerability wears off).

Halo isn’t quite as bad, but it comes close. Every weapon can melee with extreme prejudice, inflicting 90% or so damage head on and insta-kill from behind. There are also devastating melee weapons, the sword and grav hammer, which can insta-kill while your victim pumps round after round into your body. Add in latency which makes the timing of a successful melee somewhat erratic (it’s hard to tell who was supposed to kill who if two people melee at once, and you’re often left cursing loudly), and you’ve got a recipe for frustration. One of the positive aspects is that unlike Gears, you’re not invulnerable in Halo while you melee, but the damage imbalance makes melee one of the most important skills in PvP action.

Now that I’ve got the timing down, I hate it less than I used to, but there’s just something annoying about the fact a pistol whip will kill me while 10 rounds of an assault rifle doesn’t.


  1. Matt said on October 31, 2007:

    The fact that you can’t tell who melee hit who first until after the fact in Halo is such an annoying gameplay sacrifice. I know it’s because of the very nature of networking, but it’s such a huge disconnect between gameplay and player. I hear my gun hit the guy, and I see it. But guess what? He did it a split second before me, which I don’t see, and I get sent flying. It’s something that cannot and will not be fixed, but it’s really fucking irritating.

    I’ve played very few PC multiplayer games like UT, so I can’t really judge this correctly. But in Gears, can someone die if they get hit with a grenade while chainsawing someone? If you can’t, that would be pretty fucking stupid.

    And one thing that I’ve realized is that Halo 1 is so much better than all of the other Halos. The gunplay is far more exhilarating. It’s not a balance thing either, it’s just the sounds and animations that Bungie first used. If you know someone who has it, check it out. The Assault Rifle feels like a million dollars after using the pussy gun they used in Halo 3 (and took out completely for Halo 2).

  2. SAGExSDX said on October 31, 2007:

    in gears, if someone is chainsawing someone else – if i remember correctly – even a grenade does nothing to them. what you CAN do is walk up to the guy chainsawing and hold down the B button… it’ll keep revving and when they leave the animation it’s an auto kill.

    in terms of halo and its melee, i find that melee is a great addition to fps’s and any fps without a dedicated melee button feels very weird and almost outdated to me (and yes, i use to play plenty of pc fps’s).

    in general the people who are good in halo use the battle rifle which is a medium to long range weapon. definitely doesn’t give people a close enough distance to melee. so in that sense, it’s more about gunplay than running around and melee’ing.

    oh and also the melee vs melee thing in halo 3 is indeed broken. that’s on my list of complaints. it doesn’t matter if you hit first with the melee. even if they hit a split second after you, if you’re the player with the lesser health prior to the melee battle, then you will die. it’s not exactly lag/latency that causes it, however, it’s to compensate for any lag/latency. it’s stupid =P

    but like i said, long range battle rifle headshots == all you need.

  3. GoldenJew said on November 1, 2007:

    Sage, that’s really interesting what you say about the health disparity determining the victor. It makes me more angry!

    I actually do agree to a certain extent that melee is a nice addition, but I think my chief complaint is how insanely overpowered it is. It should do 25% or so– a way to finish a person in a tight fight. But it shouldn’t have insane stopping power as it does now in most games.

  4. christian said on November 1, 2007:

    I actually like the assault rifle better in halo 3?

    Anyway, I’ve run into this problem myself in the game, and sage is right about the health. There have been a few times where I’ve seen the melee animations and I can tell I lost, but more often than not I’m the loser without even knowing it.

    My friends swear that they’ve fallen victim to a scenario where they have full health, and are meleed for a one hit kill, from a gun, and not from behind. I think I’ve seen something similar to that happen to me only once, which is why I don’t believe them, but it could be true if you melee them in the head or something.

    The fighting game fan in me wonders if the different weapons have a frame advantage, and if not, they should, something to the effect that the smaller and less used weapons are a little quicker. Even if that weren’t implemented, the latency/lag issue that prevents you from seeing the attack bugs me because there’s no way to tell when they initiated their strike, which could help me figure out just how much faster some of these guys are compared to me. Next time I’m in a troubling match I’m going to watch the films and do some studying on the melee clashes.

    Also, here’s a key difference between halo and unreal – unreal got away with no melee because the vast majority of weapons can be used in some way to score a one hit kill, at least in UT2k4. Most of halo’s weapons are designed such that a full clip is necessary to dismantle someone with sheer firepower unless you’re deadly accurate. Melee is needed to polish someone off, otherwise the shield system would make for unfair fights. Imagine getting the drop on a sniper with just an assault rifle in your hands. You attack and he’s good enough to no scope you before you can kill him. Now his shields are recharged and he doesn’t have to relocate.

    With melee you’ve got the chance to drop him instantly. I has to be there to make the game fair, and still play like halo.

  5. Astrxs said on November 1, 2007:

    Hey – clean up the hate! A cure for gay people? Not funny, just homophobic. I like your blog – don’t make me unsubscribe. Be an example. Otherwise it will get like Xbox live in here.

  6. jay said on November 1, 2007:

    Thanks for the feedback. Off color humor is a difficult thing. Knowing Golden Jew in real life, I know when he is kidding. We like to exchange Holocaust jokes, drug abuse jokes, pedophilia jokes, and so on. As editor I have only ever cleaned up one joke, and that was a long time ago, not GJ’s and most importantly, not close to funny.

    I understand if you don’t find any off color humor funny, and I understand if you do find it funny but have a hard time accepting it from people you don’t know (I’m with you on that one, I know when I’m kidding but it’s impossible to know when other people are and to what degree).

    If it’s the former, I want you to keep reading but you must have noticed I’ve personally called for Ken Kutaragi to commit suicide, joked about drug habits I don’t have, called for the murder of the Queen of England, etc. My point is we joke about a wide variety of things and I hope you aren’t picking and choosing which things you find offensive and which you find funny. Maybe you haven’t seen all these, but I think I’ve also made racist jokes.

    If it’s the latter, all I can do is promise I’m a bleeding heart and I make sure none of my writers are actually posting racist or homophobic propaganda. Please reply to this long comment if you’d like, I’m very interested in reader’s perspectives.

    As for Xbox Live – Tasteless humor that is self aware (ala South Park) is very different from actual prejudice (generally spouted by 12 year olds on Live).

    Anyone remember that mildly popular gaming site that actually went into serious detail about how gay people are bad? Now that was comedy, though completely unintentional.

  7. don said on November 1, 2007:

    UT has a melee weapon: The impact hammer.

    I have run the flag thousands of times with only my bare ass and that thing twitched to 11, insta-killing my way to justice.

  8. jay said on November 1, 2007:

    I just realized the irony that by the explanation I just posted I may have lost conservative readers.

    God is great! Bomb Iran! The homeless are lazy!

  9. GoldenJew said on November 1, 2007:


    I appreciate your point of view. The comment was meant to be offhand and perhaps too subtle sarcasm towards a community (conservative bible nuts, who I will now alienate) who would be as ridiculous to consider sexual orientation something that needs to be “cured.” My writing style, as you undoubtedly know, is quite flip, and I do not foresee changing that. I will hope you will appreciate my right to free speech, just as I would respect (although greatly regret), your right to unsubscribe to a blog. Perhaps a middle ground is to avoid my articles in the future, I would hate for my style to deprive you of the writing of the other, more talented writers at VL.

  10. TrueTallus said on November 1, 2007:

    I know I’m shocked. All these, err.. 2 years… I thought I’d found a safe haven for those who loved hating gays and killing people. Pretty soon someone’s going to tell me Latin ISN’T the official language of South America, either!

  11. christian said on November 1, 2007:

    TrueTallus – those people are actually called latins. Now you know!

  12. jay said on November 1, 2007:

    Yes, because they speak Latin.

  13. SAGExSDX said on November 2, 2007:

    More on melee to get back on topic though this discussion is probably dead already =P

    In Halo 2 (and probably similar to same in Halo 3), there were different damage percentages for melees depending on situation. if you stood still and melee’d, it was 25%. If you ran at a person and melee’d , it was 50%. if you jumped and melee’d, it was 75%.

    Now, I don’t know the exact numbers for Halo 3 but I’m pretty sure a melee is nowhere near 90%.

    In regards to what your friend said about being melee’d from the front and insta-dying… I don’t know if it’s confirmed or not for Halo 3 (I saw a video but I don’t know if it was confirmed to be real), but in Halo 2 there were these button combos that would make it so you could do faster subsequent shots or melees. Maybe it was that. If you’re curious, go do a search on “Halo Battle Rifle Double Shot”

  14. GoldenJew said on November 2, 2007:

    Actually Sage, it seems that a front melee throws you into red. If I melee someone then fire at them with the assault rifle 3-4 times, they die.

  15. christian said on November 2, 2007:

    I think my friends just suck at close encounters.

    and how did I forget about the impact hammer? PRob. because I’m a UT loooooooser

  16. Orhan said on December 1, 2015:

    August 24, 2007 6:56 am by Lungzz I wouldnt go as far as sainyg Gears is the best game on XBOX, but it IS the best online game on XBOX no doubt. Halo 3 will smash this game only because its name is just that, Halo 3. Everyone knows if Halo was never made, and Halo 2 came out named Halo, it would not have a gigantic cult following. But Halo was an epic game for Microsoft and set the standards. The Halo 2 game out and was fun. THEN Gears first appearance murdered Halo/Halo 2’s combined, which all in all makes it better then the Halo series to me. Halo 3’s best bet is to steal as much smart ideas as it can from Gears and totally upgrade them. Besides, Halo is doomed no matter what, from what I understand Gears is a trilogy, and I know for 100% certainty that it will have a second game. The second game will obviously come out some time after Halo 3, and guess what, it will blow the pants off Halo 3. Because I bet Halo 3 will look beautiful, but be too quick and have the same ups and downs its predecessor had. Whereas GOW can only get better and in the end set its self up to be the amp’d Halo no matter what.

  17. Anonymous said on January 27, 2016:

    Call it even.

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