In Fallout 2, you start out with only a Spear, making Melee Weapons a highly valuable skill from the beginning.
In choosing a melee weapon, don't focus too heavily on which weapon has the highest damage. A fast weapon like a Combat Knife or Ripper can make more attacks in a given length of time than a heavy Sledgehammer, potentially generating more damage in a shorter amount of time. Refer to the DPS stat on the Fallout 3 weapons page. More attacks also means more chances to stagger an opponent so they can't attack back as quickly, reducing the damage you take. Shishkebab is generally considered the best melee weapon available as it has the highest base DPS, which is only improved further when combined with Pyromaniac. However, Jack can, depending on whether or not you have a high base critical chance and/or the Ninja/Better Criticals/Finesse perks deal an astounding amount of damage far superior to that of the Shishkebab in a damage-per-second sense. Jack is especially effective when performing a sneak attack critical hit, since these are known to instantly splatter most enemies.
The player can maximize this skill by collecting all Grognak the Barbarian books, provided that the player has the Comprehension perk.
When the player character has 50 Melee skill points, they have access to special melee moves which consume a certain amount of AP for a variety of effects in V.A.T.S.
- Most one-handed edged weapons (such as combat knives) have the Back Slash special attack.
- Most one-handed blunt weapons (such as the lead pipe) have the Lights Out special attack.
- Most two-handed melee weapons (such as the sledgehammer) have the Mauler special attack.
- Staff-like weapons (such as baseball bats) have the Grand Slam special attack.
- There are a variety of other attacks, some unique. Only thrown melee weapons and the Broad machete have no special attack.
V.A.T.S. vs. real-time
It is possible to execute all special melee moves outside of V.A.T.S., although the animation can look different in first-person view than in third-person view. It is not required to have 50 points of the skill to perform the moves. To perform any special move described above, initiate a power attack (hold attack button) while moving forward. However, executed outside of V.A.T.S. they don't have any special properties, but have a benefit of a standard power attack: doubling weapon base damage.
Unlike in Fallout 3, a potentially significant amount of damage can be taken in V.A.T.S., heightening the danger of meleeing in it, as one cannot dodge or block while in V.A.T.S. However, all melee weapons, except thrown, do twice as much base damage.