Cyberpunk 2077 sure is a game that came out in 2020 and made an impact. What kind of an impact is still under deliberation, but we’ll be hearing about this game well into 2021 and beyond.
I’ve been playing it myself despite my misgivings, and it’s more or less what I expected. But there was one aspect that surprised me. Not long after you start the game you find a questline based on melee combat, and it’s actually kinda dope?
Melee combat almost never works in a meaningful or substantive way in first-person. There have been plenty of attempts, from the Elder Scrolls to Breakdown, to varying degrees of success and focus.
Sure enough, melee combat is only one small aspect of the greater Cyberpunk 2077 experience. But in my mind, it’s one of the most well thought-out and even functional pieces of this game.
Cyberpunk 2077 Melee Combat is Surprisingly Great
The actual controls are pretty simple. The fire button is a punch (or equivalent if you’re using a weapon like a knife or baseball bat), and the ADS button is a guard. Mashing the fire button can give you a three-hit combo, and without pumping points into that skill tree you probably won’t be relying on your fists throughout the game.
But the aforementioned questline, Beat on the Brat, allows the system’s nuances to shine by giving players a chance to focus on fisticuffs. When you do that, you really get to play with the more advanced mechanics. If you double-tap the “B” button, you get a dodge move.
It’s more of a quickstep, but multidirectional and reliant on your stamina meter. Blocking at the right time grants you an automatic counterattack, which guarantees you an opening. Finally, there’s a strong attack from holding the fire button, which gives you guard breaking properties.
You can hold that until you want to let go, which gives you a further degree of control over your offense.
Overall this still isn’t complicated stuff, and it’s still easy to just feel like you’re flailing around. I’m not here tryna stand Cyberpunk up to Devil May Cry or something.
But considering how much of Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t work, or is more boilerplate or undercooked, fistfights are strikingly engaging, responsive, and thoughtful. And it’s easy to figure that out when you run into the first fight in Beat on the Brat.
The fight takes place on a rooftop in Kabuki, where the underground tournament Coach Fred signs you up for has a… ring, of sorts. What Coach Fred doesn’t tell you, is that your first opponent is actually two opponents. Kinda. Your opponent has two bodies, but is technically one person.
Formerly twins, this character used tech to share their consciousness between two physical forms. So when it comes to a one on one fight, well, somebody sanctioned it.
So you’re immediately thrust into an enclosed fistfight against two bodies that waste no time throwing hands at you.
If you want to stand a chance here you have no choice but to engage with the finer fight mechanics, making sure to stay on your toes with the dodge, set up counter attacks, and make sure you’re paying attention to animations so you don’t get your own guard blocked. It’s intense, but it * works *.
I used this quest as a learning opportunity towards the start of the game, and was able to clear it at a much lower level than intended thanks to how solid this system is.
Outside of Beat on the Brat, I honestly didn’t put too much use into melee combat. Running and gunning is the way to go in most of Cyberpunk 2077, especially due to its current instability and flimsy stealth mechanics. But that only makes this tiny slice of the game stand out more, as something you don’t see executed as well as it is here in similar games.
First-person fistfighting is often more of a formality in FPS games rather than a viable combat option, but in Cyberpunk 2077 I could see myself giving that build a shot, especially once more kinks are smoothed out. Until then, running around Night City to find the various sketchy-ass fight club rings will probably stay with me as one of the more memorable parts of the experience.