I would like to share some things I have learned about the melee system in Sandstorm. First off, melee is not particularly viable most of the time, and should only be done as a last resort or when showing off
but I think it's worth knowing some useful tips.
Every weapon in the game can melee.
You do this using the quick-melee button, which is MMB by default. This includes all primary and secondary weapons, rocket launchers (including under-barrel launchers), grenades, even the binoculars. When holding a gun you will attack with it, with other equipment your character will punch with their left hand. These attacks seem to have the same damage and attack speed, but the weapon attacks have a longer reach than the punch - about 0.8m vs 0.4m. This is not affected by barrel length.
Knife attacks have a slightly longer reach than punches, but less than weapon bashes (about 0.5m). The knife deals damage in an arc from left to right (the damage itself seems to be the same as any other melee). This makes it easier to land a hit with because it will connect as long as your target is in this arc, instead of one point like the quick-melee (technically all melee attacks do this, but the effect is much more minimal than with the knife). You can even hit multiple targets in one swing. You can still punch while using the knife, allowing you to perform a one-two move - there is no delay between swinging the knife and punching, allowing two quick hits. You'll need to wait for the punch animation to finish before you can swing again though.
Damage is unpredictable.
Melee can kill in 1-4 hits depending on where you hit. Body hits tend to be 1-2 if you can hit directly to the upper chest. Often the enemy's arms will block the hits, meaning they do less damage. I suspect the bots aim direct for the chest and don't hit the arms, hence they usually kill you in one hit. I find the punch lands slightly up and to the left of where you aim, so trying to hit the chest usually hits the shoulder instead. If you aim down/right a bit (maybe around the opposite elbow) that tends to hit the body instead.
Unlike in Insurgency 2014, there doesn't seem to be any bonus damage when attacking from behind. Headshots are always lethal though so you should try to attack at head height if possible.
Character hitboxes can prevent you from getting close enough to land melee attacks in some cases. I find the worst is trying to hit diagonally from behind (back-left or back-right corners), often the hits won't connect at all. When attacking from the front, the arms/shoulders will often absorb knife hits too. You may have trouble hitting an opponent who is crouching/prone unless you crouch too because they will be technically out of reach.
The Melee Charge.
This move is very useful in a 1v1 situation. You may have noticed the bots in Frenzy mode do this to you as well.
To do a charge you have to be sprinting with enough speed, then press the quick-melee button. This will lunge your character forwards. If you hit an enemy they will be stunned for a short time (1.5-2s?) and be unable to shoot or melee you. You can see this because their gun will be pushed down as if they had walked too close to a wall. You will need a short time to recover from the charge too, but this is always shorter than it takes them, leaving you a good second or so to attack. My most successful tactic is a charge to the front, followed by a melee hit direct to the face for an instant takedown
The charge itself deals a minimal amount of damage - it took 20+ hits for a kill in my testing.
Some Other Stuff
- You can't melee while prone, on a bipod, or with C4/IED detonators for some reason.
- With long guns your character will "poke" with the barrel unless you are very close to an enemy, in which case the animation changes to a gun-butt attack. There doesn't seem to be any difference apart from how it looks - same damage, range and recovery time.
- Most weapons follow the "finger on trigger" principle - as with many other actions in-game, as long as your character's finger is on the trigger you can still fire your weapon. This includes during melee attacks, although your shots will be hard to predict due to the barrel moving. The only exceptions I found were rocket launchers and the Galil variants - for some reason, you cannot shoot while performing a melee attack with the Galil. The melee animation will also block you from cycling bolt/pump-action weapons.
- You can melee mid-reload - it will stop the reload similar to if you started sprinting. Remember to resume afterwards!
- Quick-melee has a very short but noticeable delay before it connects. There is about 1 second before you can melee again after a quick-melee strike as well. The animation is quite good at showing this, basically as soon as your gun returns to firing position and stops moving, you are ready to hit again. The knife has a similar delay between attacks.
- The Combat Knife and Kukri behave identically. I think the Frenzy bots use a different version that has less delay between hits.
- The charge attack can be used to break down doors without losing speed.
This turned out kinda long. I hope it is somewhat useful/interesting - tl;dr next time you get whacked after a failed knife attempt, remember what Thanos said - "You should have gone for the head..."