From Ninja Gaiden to Devil May Cry, mashing buttons has been the simple and quick method for slicing and dicing in video games. It gets to the point, but there’s not much else. Until now.
Arriving this year, Ubisoft is making the fantasies of hardcore Renaissance faire enthusiasts reality by pitting ancient vikings, samurai, and knights against each other in 4v4 melee combat. But while its premise sounds like frat boys made it up after binge-watching Vikings, For Honor promises the most sophisticated sword combat mechanics ever in a video game by introducing fundamentals to Asian and European sword fighting.
It goes beyond a “block” or “attack” button: Like a lethal rock-paper-scissors, For Honor has players choose from three guarding positions and target the opposite area of their opponent. Several who have previewed the game have commented how it resembles EA’s awesome Fight Night, the pro boxing games that perfected the sweet science on a controller. It’s not outrageous a sword game took cues from it; in his textbook Tao of Jeet Kune Do, the legend Bruce Lee explained how sword fighting mirrors fisticuffs, and EA’s Fight Night nailed punching with buttons. But Fight Night had one key ingredient that could make For Honor worthy of its title.
Gamers who remember Fight Night remember the tension in every fight. It’s not the big punches you used to win, it was right jabs at right spots at the right time. Get cocky and underestimate the situation, you lose the edge and become open to a devastating KO. That’s not unlike real boxing, thus real fighting, and For Honor only kind of looks like it’s doing that.
For Honor — of which I’m basing from released gameplay footage I have watched ad nauseam — looks like it’s lacking that tension. That “will-you-won’t-you” Fight Night matches were laced with made the experience worthwhile. It’s been years since I played Fight Night (the last I played was Fight Night Round 3 for the Xbox 360) but I still “feel” the controls for dodging, for blocking, jabbing, countering, and pulling off that haymaker when the opportunity presented itself, and the sinking feeling of panic when I missed. God, I miss it.
For Honor, of course, has pointy metal and not fists wrapped in Everlast gloves. Tiny pricks and stabs aren’t expected to be fatal, but the long, draining moments from Fight Night appear condensed into a few strikes in For Honor. While Ubisoft’s game resembles the mechanics, it should aim to achieve that feeling: that exhaustion of trying with every inch of yourself to take down that other SOB and unable to find a clean opening. For Honor shouldn’t drag itself like some Fight Night matches did, but it shouldn’t be so quick to finish either.