What Makes A Good Knife Kill In First-Person Shooters

What Makes A Good Knife Kill In First-Person Shooters
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What’s the big deal about Counter-Strike? Wasn’t it just a Half-Life mod? Well that Half-Life mod was so popular that Valve developed it into a standalone, multiplayer first-person shooter. People lost hours of their lives playing version 1.6 of the game.

And then when Valve released Counter-Strike: Source, an update to 1.6 that ran on their new Source engine, people lost hours of their lives playing that too.

Now, almost a decade after Source‘s release, that upgrade proved popular enough to bear what appears to be its carbon copy in Global Offensive.

So why were all those first-person shooter experiences so popular? It’s simple: because they were simple. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive — and Source and 1.6 for that matter — is a simple first-person shooter. There are no perks. No levels. No unlocks. Your weaponry and gear are based on money you spend at the beginning of each round. Money that you accumulate with kills.

This design makes CS: GO unlike its first-person shooter competitors. The Call of Dutys and Battlefields that even the most infrequent of gamers recognise are vastly different from a game like GO. GO puts its players on a fairly equally footing. Your wins are determined by your skills as a shooter, and your ability to identify what weapon you shoot with best. Not everyone is as handy with the infamous AWP, an one-hit kill sniper known all too well in the Counter-Strike community. Heck, I can sometimes score more kills with a Desert Eagle pistol than I can with my usual preferred M4 rifle. But I’m just weird like that.

Knifing in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

It all comes down to how you play. And as you practise — burning through the classic mode of Counter Terrorist versus Terrorist in a plant-the-bomb, defuse-the-bomb, rescue-the-hostages scenario as well as the newer modes — you get progressively better. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is definitely a competitive first-person shooter. It’s a competitive FPS that makes you feel proud of your kill/death ratio, knowing that it all had to do with raw skill. Even little details — like being able to run faster with a knife equipped rather than your bulkier rifle — solidify this claim. There’s an emphasis on realism — like the new addition of your scope turning hazy while walking — but the emphasis on giving every player an equal footing is what really makes the game what it is.

That realism continues in one important, controversial way. The knife kill.

The Controversy of the Knife Kill

Unlike Call of Duty and Battlefield, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (and its predecessors) require you to physically equip your knife in order to use it. That one second required to switch over to equip the knife — either scrolling through on your mouse or hitting the hotkey — makes a significant difference as opposed to the automatically triggered knives in CoD. It makes the knife kill that much harder than the other first-person shooters of our world.

Kill streak rampage with the ballistic knife in Black Ops

Another key difference is how many FPS games will send your body lurching toward the enemy with the click of a joystick. It’s basically an aim assist. Especially with the addition of the commando perk in MW2, players would become annoyingly deadly with a knife attack. GO, on the other hand, requires you to run or sneak up to your enemy.

Requiring the knife killer to actually approach an enemy at normal speed is yet another example of GO‘s attempt to make the shooter experience less cheesy. You’ll have to use a bit of tact, sneakiness, and finesse to catch someone off guard. It doesn’t feel like CoD where you shoot someone to smithereens and yet the panic knifer still gets the upperhand. Before you know it, they’ve launched into your body with superhuman strength and speed, leaving you virtually flat on your back and cursing in real life. I’ve seen players wipe an entire team out in Black Ops using the ballistic knife, either skewering enemies from a distance or slashing them in closer range. GO‘s knife kills are more celebrated events, whereas in Call of Duty it might just be today’s opted slaughtering method.

Then there are other issues. Should the knife kill be a one-hit kill from the back, two stabs required of the front? For lurching knife kills: what range should a game allow you to be in relation to your enemy to pull the knifing off? Knifing is an intricate art in first-person shooters, the nature of which is quibbled over by many FPS fans. Modern Warfare 2 introduced even more complications with the addition of attached and ranged knives. Now you’ll have to contend with knife experts who have a new set of knifey options with varying damage statistics, behaviours, etc. Granted, at least players have to manually equip the knives in that new stock brought on by MW2 as opposed to the standard, automatically-equipped knife you start off with in recent CoD games. Though while tactical knives had to be equipped, throwing knives could be aimed. So there’s that.

Throwing knife montage in Modern Warfare 2

Counter-Strike has always employed a more tactful, measured approach to knife kills. You can pull off a one-hit kill from the back, and certain sweet spots will do enormous damage, but you can’t always dominate a player just because you have a knife in hand and have managed to get within slicing range. Your enemy may just surprise you. A de-emphasis on the one-hit kill makes knifing in GO a much more complex procedure. You’ll really have to plan it out appropriately to pull it off.

And since we’re on the topic of melee kills: what happened to knocking people out with the butt of your gun? Halo encourages a gun-butt tactic to finish off a kill. The game will even allow you to one-hit melee-kill fodder enemies. I can appreciate that methodology.

The knife kill in first-person shooters is a point to pick with many gamers. It can be infuriating to dominate the shooting field just to be left sprawled on the ground from a lucky knife hit. People argue that there is no strategy, no skill involved in the lurch-knife (known as the panic knife) move. If you’re one such player, you’d be doing yourself a favour to check out GO‘s knifing method. For once, you can actually appreciate being killed by a knife, knowing that you have to give your murderer props for managing to land the hit just right.

Top image: Aaron Amat/Shutterstock


  • CoD style knife kills are definitely the wrong way to go, as are 1HKO’s from the back (as in Halo – but fine with balance and context like with TF2). I know some people will say that if you let someone get that close to you you kind of deserve it, but in games it’s a lot easier to sneak up on people (especially in death match style games where someone may spawn right around the corner you just came from).

    Personally I like when grenades and knife kills are seperate buttons, but knife kills should be canned animations (like in BF3, only slower). In other words, if you’re going to go in for a knife kill, you can execute it easily, but you’re left vulnerable for a few seconds while you do so. In a game where you have a bajillion guns and you’re going to use your knife it’s just to show off so I don’t see any practical tactical reasons to do so (unless, as stated before, there is a context to it).

    I don’t believe CoD or CS have any context for the knife.

    • What do you mean there’s no context for a knife? What if you’re stuck with no ammo in a room and some guy comes charging in? What do you do? What happens when you’re behind some guys and you don’t want to run in guns blazing? Also, the CoD knife might be a bit too easy to use but in CS the knife actually requires some degree of skill.

      • I mean that the knife is there as a “lulz look I got a knife kill” mechanic. It’s not like TF2 for example where melee weapons are a part of the game. It’s not viable to use the knife. If you run out of ammo in CS then you’ve done something SERIOUSLY wrong. The knife is just there and for no real reason.

        • So you’re saying in CS, probably the earliest proponent of using sound to determine where people where, having a completely silent kill option isn’t valuable?

          • I guess that’s why they included a whole 2 guns with silencer options. Nah I think if the knife was taken out the game wouldn’t lose anything.

  • Battlefield 3 still has the best knife kills ever IMO…. the animations make the kills so much more satisfying… on another note, send some psych help my way 🙂

  • @A Random
    CS has never been a deathmatch game. Whilst the mod exists (purely as a third party mod) it is used more as a place where players practice their aim; score in deathmatch is highly irrelevant.

    Whilst you may believe that CS does not have an context for the knife, it is an important aspect all players must possess particularly in the competitive setting, where players knife to choose their starting sides. Being able to exploit range with a quick slash, taking advantage of 2v1 situations or even being able to fake out the opponent are all crucial aspects that makes the knife very relevant in the game.

  • Could not agree more. I have found myself playing more and more CS:GO and CoD has just fallen into the background. I do agree that BF3 has some great kills as well because they are not always the easiest but not too hard that it makes them useless!

  • I loved speed knifing in MW2, but I didn’t exclusively play it. You can also get around most of the threat of knives in MW2 by playing Hardcore.
    CS knifing, I’ve never been consistently successful…

  • Does anyone else think it’s weird that all these other shooters DO have things like knife lurching and auto stab hot keys and levelling up?

  • Best knife was Battlefield 1942. Headshot 1 kill anywhere else hilarity ensued. Or DayZ hatchet, best utility thing ever.

  • At first Halo’s emphasis on melee attacks used to drive me spare – you can unload an entire clip into someone and yet they just walk up and BAM – straight in the kisser! But when I realised that you needed a combination of the Melee and shooting to take out people it started to click, and pissed me off a lot less!

    Also the way you can OHK grunts is frankly a great way to let off steam!

    To me Battlefield’s system of knifing from behind (similar to the Spy in TF2) is where it’s at, although I do remember in Bad Company you didn’t need to be so specific you could come from any direction with your knife – I’m glad they cleaned that up.

  • To be honest, I really like the one-button melee(and grenade) that COD brought to shooters(forgive me if another game did it first). I do think CS and Battlefield have it right requiring two hits from the front/sides and one hit from the back. To me that’s the most desirable set up.

    However there is a certain magic feeling you get by equipping a knife in CS. While the one button setup is much less clunky IMO, when two players have knives out, you know there is going to be an exciting knife duel. When COD or BF3 players have knife fights they still have guns drawn, and you never know for sure what the other players intentions are, if they are going to try to knife you or just use their guns.

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