Last night I finished Just Cause 2. My lasting memories of the game will be its incredibly beautiful world, the massive array of brilliant vehicles to drive/pilot and the amount of stuff you can mindlessly blow the shit out of. But there'll be a sadness there too. Despite these thrills the boss battles kicked me hard in the balls due to their unbelievably mundane, by-the-numbers exploits. So what is it with game’s frequently missing the target with boss fights recently?
Above: Uncharted 2's mean guy, Lazarevic before he goes all super man
Just Cause 2 has two standout boss moments. One of them involves fighting three different men, on three different rooftops high in the clouds and the other takes place as you leap between nuclear warheads shooting a dictator called Baby.
On paper they both sound ace but they’re not, dismissing them as rubbish is too kind. They’re an abomination. A huge throbbing cyst on an otherwise immaculate face. Shoot a bit, dive a bit and repeat to fade. This stuff has been happening for years but I’m at a loss to explain why developers plump for these methods.
It’s not Just Cause 2 either. Uncharted 2’s final fight against Lazarevic is a really jolting change of pace that ruins the finale somewhat. Batman’s thrill-less ruckus with Poison Ivy is another. Even Kratos vs. Zeus inside Gaia’s chest in GoWIII was a monotonous affair. After plugging so much time into these exceptional titles you expect more from these key moments.
It also grinds my gears that you can headshot, maim or explode everyone in Just Cause 2, yet a tiny man suddenly has a head seemingly made from diamonds wrapped in Kevlar.
Above: Just Cause 2's Baby. His bulbous head can sure take a lot of shots
For me, a boss battle is about the thrill of the chase and the story it takes you on before you get there. Take Manhunt for example. All the way through the game you’re tormented by Starkweather over your headset until you finally murder everyone in your way to offing him. You whack Pigsy with ease and then it’s just Cash against his weedy tormentor, which quickly ends with you ramming a chainsaw through his mid-riff. Awesome. This swift manner of killing him is incredibly satisfying. Or popping Zakhaev in the head with a single pistol shot at the end of Modern Warfare. This is how to dispatch of a super-baddie.
So come on developers, get your act together and really make your boss fights count. Don’t let these set-pieces be a thorn in your side when we know you’re capable of more.
Let's throw it out to the floor. What makes a great boss battle for you? Are you happy with the old-skool approaches that most devs use or are you looking for something completely original? Let us know in the comments below.