'For Honor' Captures The Dazzling Drama of Movie Battle Scenes

Ubisoft's new multiplatform hack-and-slash showing promise.

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There's a classic movie set-piece that you've no doubt seen many times before, in Lord of the Rings, in Game of Thrones, in countless films dating back decades, in martial arts flicks such as Enter the Dragon, and in modern blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises. That scene is a sprawling battle involving hundreds of fighters, and in a pocket of space within the masses, two prized combatants will lock eyes for the first time.

It's when Batman finds Bane amid the sea of extras, and when a White Walker confronts Jon Snow at Hardhome. It's when Bruce Lee meets Mr. Han, and when the Nazgul towers over Theoden in front of Eowyn, who is about to have her moment of triumph.

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You've seen it many times before, but until now, never in a video game. For Honor, Ubisoft's new multiplayer hack-and-slash title, will give you that glorious occasion in real-time, and the person you're locking eyes with won't be one of the dozens of AI grunts, but another player connected online, likely feeling the same way as you.

If there's one reason to try this new game, currently in development at Ubisoft Montreal, it is to savour this moment of drama for yourself.

Does the combat live up to the excitement? Not always. Sometimes you're just banging swords in a button-mashing stalemate, while other times you'll be in a Tekken-esque death-loop as your opponent slashes you mercilessly. On other occasions, you'll be engaged in a gripping swordfight, as masses of fighters surround you.

Here's how to compete: Movement is left-stick, while the right-stick is used to determine your sword stance. In a manner not too dissimilar to Nidhogg, players have three fighting stances; sword-left, sword-right, and sword-up. If defending an attack, you'll need to match your opponent's stance, and if attacking, you'll need to do the opposite. It's a deadly game of rock-paper-scissors, then; something that's so easy to understand and perform that the strategy is really all about what's happening in your head and your foe's.

A fast, light slash is R1, with a slower haymaker assigned to R2. To mix things up just slightly, double-tapping Square/X will make your character use his or her fists to momentarily stun their opponent.

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In practice--at least at first--it's all about landing that first shot, of which the victor gains the momentum and can start slashing away as the loser scrambles to defend. To help just a little, players can roll away, but what's more common is that losing players will abscond at any chance they can get, with those in pursuit running at exactly the same speed. So sometimes you go from an epic, filmic encounter straight into a Benny Hill chase scene.

That's probably unfair; it doesn't happen too often, although when it does you'll notice.

In the demo shown to GameSpot, two teams of four competed in a standard-yet-well-arranged castle courtyard, with three small zones to capture. Two of those are captured as soon as players walk into them, and of course are disputed if two players from opposite teams are occupying it. If you die, you'll respawn in a matter of seconds, and can try to reclaim it.

The third zone, in the centre of the courtyard, is more interesting; Endless waves of AI drones representing both teams flood into battle and collide against each other. Left to their own devices, no AI team will have the edge, which is why players need to jump in and cut the numbers down.

This part of the game will be deeply satisfying, especially for those who like Dynasty Warriors or Streets of Rage. Players will balletically cut through waves of AI grunts and feel like a super-charged Jon Snow in the process. It's here, in this wonderful moment where everything becomes so easy if only for a brief second, that you'll lock eyes with someone amid the crowd.

For Honor is coming to Xbox One, PS4, and PC in 2016.

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