force-feeding me my own words, God of War: Ascension
pouring libation of bloods and Revengeance
about to sap me of any remaining sanity, this genre is enjoying something of a renaissance.
True, these games never wander far, but it’s been a while since so many high profile publishers ploughed resources into both the hack, and the slash.
To celebrate, we’ve sifted through an extensive back catalogue of combos, jugglers and finishers. And while our admiration for classics such as Diablo 2, Double Dragon
and Golden Axe
hasn’t diminished, our desire to actually spend time playing them has.
Elsewhere, actioners posing as Hack/Slash i.e. The Force Unleashed
and Warrior Within
were KOed from our Stash of Slash. So was the Ninja Gaiden franchise.
Just to clarify: Yes, NG is Hack/Slash at its purest.
It’s also PAINFULLY
Regardless, hammering out our Stack of Hack wasn’t easy, with quality titles falling to the chopping room floor.
Honourable mentions go to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
, for truly heroic scope and narrative, and the irresistible Castle Crashers
for coupling old school scuffles with a re-forged wit and peerless aesthetic.
Still, with no shortage of blood, sweat and blistered thumbs, we arrive at Click’s Top of the Chops...
Heavenly SwordNinja Theory
make the list. Not for their latest revamp, but their creative original.
Combat with the titular Heavenly Sword
is ambitious, challenging both player dexterity (via trio of stances, interchangeable on the fly) and player bravery (forcing control by NOT
inputting commands to defend). Skill AND
restraint open up a wealth of counter attacks, aerial jugglers and weapon-morphing combos and in turn fill the Superstyle
gauge – which would struggle to be more self-explanatory.
A launch title for the PS3
, HS unsheathed the voice and mo-cap talents of Andy Serkis
and Anna Torv
, tossed in some SIXAXIS
and flourished with a mature, sweeping fantasy. But at its core sits a gorgeous Hack/Slash which accommodates multiple fighting styles - Evasive, defensive, cautious or Knock-Swathes-of-Foes-Skward-like-a-Rampaging-Goddess!
It’s a style. I looked it up.
No More Heroes
What NMH lacks in combo strings it offsets with unique input and blissful lunacy!
Atmosphere drips off NMH, from Travis Touchdown’s
... name, to his obsession with professional wrestling (and boobs), to an intentionally lurid, gameplay-essential recharge mechanic.
Less style over substance.
More style becoming substance.
Someplace amid the dizzied foes, belly-to-belly suplexes, 1:1 beam katana input, geysers of blood and pennies and Tiger-Powered (?) slash-a-thons, NMH transforms into a real story, replete with twists, shocks and upsets.
But it’s aiming high when they block low, pairing heel-kicks with sliding tackles, dive rolling for a bout of brief invincibility and playing some outrageously lethal tennis with projectile mannequins that keeps everything flowing.No More Heroes
may not be a traditional Hack/Slash, but its combat depth more than carries a 10 hour campaign.
Plus, you know, ees got da Craziez!!!
In Earth Year 2013, Platinum Games OWN
this genre. Arguably, they own every genre they touch (when not inventing some of their own...) But beyond the success of Anarchy Reigns
and this month’s awesome-generator Revengeance
, it’s their initial Next-Gen witchcraft that leads the charge.Bayonetta
revolutionized Hack/Slash. I count 92 basic combo strings, when not triggering Wicked Weaves
, launching into Witch Time
, redirecting Angelic
weaponry or summoning Iron Maidens to significantly amplify the button depressions and/or mayhem. Then there’s the small matter of Bayonetta’s Climax Attack
Seriously, I’m leaving that one alone. It’s all yours... Perverts.Platinum’s Hideki Kamiya
obviously intended to progress the genre his Devil May Cry
defined, layering Bayonetta
with unexpected play such as manual targeting, stalled time, slot machines and inviting combat that encourages experimentation with every bout. Or boot. Or both.
While the two titles above her wield overwhelming narrative and visceral clout, Hack/Slash inexorably follows in the trail Bayonetta
God of War 2Kratos
Neither Man nor Demigod, but the primal embodiment of living rage. It is this raw, primeval drive that has transcended GOW from franchise to Force Of Nature.
And, those Blades of Chaos don’t hurt none, either!
Arguably the least combo-centric Hack/Slash on this list, Kratos
enjoys a wealth of miscellaneous violence including splash damage, counters, grappling, throws, crowd control and obscenely cruel finishers. As opposed to other titles, the draw here is seeking out those acts of wanton brutality that have defined the series. And honestly, Kratos
can be very, very mean when he wants to be...
’s swansong, GOW 2 rivals Heavenly Sword
for visuals, and every ounce of this graphical brawn is put to the pursuit of gore. Widely considered alongside Gaming’s defining titles, GOW2 is the series highpoint, marking the very last time Kratos
appeared even remotely sympathetic!
Those rare instances where he mourned his lost daughter or begged his wife’s forgiveness?
You felt them as surely as Theseus
felt the door bend around his skull for the tenth time!God of War 2
marks the closest a US Hack/Slash has ever come to matching the style, vigor and outright confidence of its Japanese competitors.
But in terms of raw oomph, it’s not even in the same pantheon as...
Devil May Cry 3DMC3 is mythic
, both for its difficulty and free form combat.
The fiendish former took years off my life.
The legendary latter made that all ok!
DMC3 offers 6 game-changing stances, 10 multi-faceted weapons and a grand total of 96 base combos which can be paused, cancelled, re-triggered, juggled, subbed and shattered with only a few face buttons and a knack for timing!
Starting at a disadvantage, DMC3 was tasked with redeeming the series’ good grace while reemphasising a focus on stylish gameplay, irreverent characters and wildly fantastical plotting.
DMC3 scored 3 for 3.
But long after the allure of bonkers pseudo-Christian demonology and bleach blonde punk-rockers wanes, the vaunted Bloody Palace continually challenges
the most dexterous digits
in human history
to conquer its 9999 levels.Alliteration Overload!!!
An awesome arcade mode which legitimately unchains Dante’s
martial artistry, it’s actually post-campaign when DMC3 truly shows its worth. The Bloody Palace
becomes a symphony of ballistic ballets, rising uppercuts, distracting doppelgangers, skewered spectres, face-melting guitar solos and pole dancing around a 7 foot longsword!
DMC3 is the very best of Hack/Slash because the greatest challenge isn’t fencing your twin in the bowels of Hell. It’s overcoming the limits of your own adroitness, rhythm and creativity.Devil May Cry 3
makes you a better you. (Better at slaying demons, anyway...)