And we’ve reached the last article in my Cops & Zombies series! Can I just say this was a wonderful night, and I enjoyed breaking my previous record for Most Articles Written in a Single Sitting. For the record, thanks to this video playing in the background the whole time, it appears I averaged two articles an hour.
This is actually the eighth article in my seven-part series, because I’m awesome at counting like that. But I’d be remiss to end the series before talking about melee combat, one of the most exhilarating if also understated attacks in both games.
Like all horde games, it’s important that the player always be capable of dealing damage no matter the state of her guns and magazines. After all, ideally the game should be throwing more enemies than she can gun down with ease, and no player enjoys being completely unable to fight back against something. Therefore in both games, the basic shove attack is a slotless, knockback-dealing desperation attack that can be performed no matter what the player is currently holding in her hands.
The shove attack is an integral part of the Left 4 Dead 2 metagame. It can be used to get zombies out of your way during a rush, compensate while your gun reloads, and expert players can even swat incoming special infected out of the sky in the second-most-awesome denial the game allows. (The first is severing a Smoker tongue out of the air with a blade.) Players equipped with slower-swinging melee weapons like the Fire Axe should shove between attacks in order to compensate for cooldown, and shoving a gas can right after throwing it lets you propel it up to three times as far across the ground. I personally think that Valve’s decision to let the player shove without canceling reload was one of the greatest design choices in Left 4 Dead 2, because it lets the player melee without worry. There’s no downside to shoving as frequently as you can, and that’s great.
So right off the bat I was a little disappointed in Payday’s melee shove for canceling an active reload. This opportunity cost for your free time makes it significantly more of a situational attack to the point that I often just forgo it, even if a cop’s right in my face, in favor of switching weapons or waiting for my current gun to finish reloading. Luckily, combat in Payday is more mid-to-long range due to your opponents wielding firearms so a melee shove isn’t as mandatory as when fighting ravenous melee-only zombies. In addition, you couldn’t counter either of the incapacitating specials anyway, since the Taser’s eponymous attack has no projectile and the Cloaker has a ninja-like ability to counter a melee shove with an insta-down spinning kick. But the shove still can be useful for breaking things like windows without consuming ammo, plus it counts as a silent attack, allowing even players who forgot to equip suppressed weapons to destroy cameras during stealth portions of heists.
And ultimately, no matter how situational the devs make it, there’s still a visceral thrill in bludgeoning someone to death with the butt of your gun. It just appeals to a facet of the human brain that never evolved beyond the caveman days, a less civilized age where disputes and power were decided by those who carried the largest stick. It’s a very underhanded and unglamorous move, but that’s really a huge part of its appeal.