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Opinion: What is it with lame boss battles recently?

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


SPOILERS AHOY!


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.


A plea...

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.

40 comments

  • Ganonpork - June 7, 2010 9:50 p.m.

    XD the bosses i hate are the ones of the Ninja gaiden sigma and or black variety. XD now those were cheap. it took me a million hours to kill the fire dragon, definietley the hardest boss in the universe.
  • linkganon - May 1, 2010 5:32 a.m.

    kojima almost always delivers when it counts the most which is the gameplay, and not so much in the story, but who really cares. it's not the storyline that matters most, it's the actual gameplay that matters. even a game with the worst voice actors (tobey maguire and kristen dunst) and dialogue that sounds like it was ripped from a low budget commercial can be epic if it delivers in the actual gameplay. as long as the game itself is good, i'm buying it. his one strength is actually the boss battles. like you said in the other topic, other programmers of games should learn from him, aka the master of boss battles, the guru of bosses, the boss of the bosses, the king of boss fighters. ok i'm good. make them in a way that they are not predictable and one huge mistake can cost you a huge chunk of your health bar or whatever keeps track of whether you are close to dying or can take a few more bullets. in the last sentence, i remembered some games (modern warfare 2) don't use health bars, but instead use blood stains on screen to determine if you are going to be killed if a single bullet hits you. go ahead, give the opponent some kind of advantage like a hell of a lot more health than me, but don't give them ways to regain health, it's irritating having them on the brink of death and somehow their health is back at 100%.
  • Twizinator - April 29, 2010 11:12 p.m.

    Shadow of the Colossus is/was an epic game, and imho it aced boss fights. because everything that you fought was a boss. and they were all frickin amazing. i still wait for an amazing sequel to that game.
  • byakyugan - April 24, 2010 4:41 a.m.

    My favorite boss battle that was actually challenging was in Kingdom Hearts 2. Fighting sephiroth was ridiculously hard when I first fought him. I was level 99 and it took me about 10 tries to kill him on the normal difficulty.
  • Clovin64 - April 23, 2010 8:19 p.m.

    You know another boss battle I hate? Barthandelus from FF13. You have to fight the bugger three times in the game and each time takes friggin AGES. Damn him and his giant rectangle head. Definetly my least faveourite Pope in a game ever.
  • Clovin64 - April 23, 2010 8:14 p.m.

    Boss battles jusy plain piss me off nowadays. Fighting Radec at the end of Killzone 2 was horrible, I ended up cowering in a corner with a sniper rifle for most part of the fight. Bayonetta's last couple of fights was fun, especially steering that bullet into the creepy old dudes face. As for Heavenly Swords finale? Just no. Despite this I just read the review for Bioshock 2, and those Big Sisters sound awesome.
  • oryandymackie - April 23, 2010 7:47 p.m.

    BIOSHOCK.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - April 23, 2010 3:52 p.m.

    Most devs seem to think that the last boss in their games have to x10 health but just fight like a normal(ish) goon. A great yet expected example of a great last boss fight is metal gear solid 4's, the fight introduces new controls just for this fight and the controls don't feel tacked on either. What I'm saying is that boss fights particularly final boss fights should have unique elements and not either just a regular enemy with buffed health or QTEs.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - April 23, 2010 2:13 p.m.

    Looking for good examples of boss battles? Legend of Freakin' Zelda. And given the epicness of Uncharted 2 previously, I would think that Lazarevich would have been a bit more epic, but turns out the escape was a lot more fun. Especially the bit with you sliding down and shooting the monster while trying to save Chloe and Elena. That was fun. :D
  • IronGuy410 - April 23, 2010 1:58 p.m.

    for me a good boss battle has to be either emotional (MGS4: GotP), epic (GoW series) or just downright fun (DMC series).
  • philipshaw - April 23, 2010 1:03 p.m.

    Have to agree with the Uncharted 2 example but GOW3 final boos was great imo. But I do agree that we need more imagination in bosses, developers should look to Shadow of the Colossus to see how to do amazing boss fights
  • GamesRadar_NathanIrvine - April 23, 2010 8:25 a.m.

    I'm loving these examples. Good to know that it's not just my mad brain that makes me feel sad when I approach a boss battle.
  • ihopethisisnotantistasblood - April 23, 2010 3:13 a.m.

    the joker in arkham asylum was really dissappointing, i died a little yesterday when i beat the game
  • DontEatRawHagis - April 23, 2010 1:23 a.m.

    Tough one, I would say any FPS, just because if they can't make the boss extremely powerful, say in a helicopter or tank, then he is just another dude walking on the street that has a squishy fragile brain. Lamest boss fight for me would have to be The Human Reaper from Mass Effect 2, it was cool to look at but in the end it turned into Final Fantasy, kill the Tomes around the boss.
  • Abe504 - April 22, 2010 9:35 p.m.

    mw2 boss fight was good, the first time i did that, in mw1. it was the same scenario except with a throwing knife. it was such a lazy attempt.
  • WrathLord03 - April 22, 2010 9:02 p.m.

    I'm not gonna make this a spolier as everyone's heard this already and it doesn't really change the story. In GTAIV, a great example of a boss would be the interrogator of Roman in that warehouse. I didn't want to save Roman, but the way the goons were placed and the sheer amount of them was enough to make the battle seem epic. Then, just like Modern Warfare, killing his capturer with that final headshot was really satisfying. In fact, if there had been a bit more of a build-up, knocking Zzasz out in BAA when he had Dr. Young would have been just as satisfying. Also, Lazarevic has the upper hand for the entirety of Uncharted 2's story, and so at the end it would have been great if it actually felt like we were gaining the upper hand, without being too easy.
  • secretsearcher - April 22, 2010 8:57 p.m.

    I like bosses that are difficult, but not ridiculous. Also, the motivation for beating the boss is key too. A boss battle against a mobster would be a lot more fun if he killed your sister right before your eyes than if he just fell from the sky (this happens often) and you fight him. After all, boss battles should be some of the most memorable parts of a game, not some of the worst. And I am also sick of the "weak point". It's a cheap way to make a boss beatable. Make us think on our feet. Make us use what we've learned. Make it frickin UNIQUE!
  • Montag - April 22, 2010 8:53 p.m.

    Never liked boss battles at all, always seemed to be an intrusion in the fiction created. I like the original call of duty, it always felt to me that the epic battles were boss battles in disguise. The mission where you defended the bridge was in many ways a BB, shoot this bit repeatedly, shoot another bit repeat ad nauseum, but it never felt like a chore, it was genuinely exciting abd beating felt like you had survivived a battle, not managed to survive a boss. I judge it by how I feel at the end. If I am glad to get to the end then it is shite, if I am sad to get to the end then it is epic
  • skynetiscoming - April 22, 2010 7:30 p.m.

    No one seems to have mentioned the great moss battles in Metal Gear. Although some of them do give the enemy an insane amount of health, they usually very inventive, such as the battle with the End or Laughing Octopus or the Sorrow. Assasins Creed 2 had some awful boss fights.
  • LordGremlin - April 22, 2010 7:27 p.m.

    So many games were completely ruined by final boss battle... A good boss fight should be challenging, so you have to use your different in-game skills, but not cheap. And it should look convincing. If you can't do that, just don't make any final boss battle, let it be just a video. A CGI. How can't people understand, that a battle during which human being soaking hundreds of bullets looks absolutely retarded! If you need a human to have a large health bar, dress him in armor suit or something, because headshot should always be an instakill.

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