Boss battles usually blow. Your average one normally elicits all kind of disagreeable emotions. And by ‘disagreeable emotions’ we mean makes you drop loads of F-bombs, throw a pad through your plasma TV, followed by copious amounts of totally manly weeping in the foetal position. The Metal Gear Solid series is different, though.
Ever since 1998, Hideo Kojima and his talented team have been giving us awesome boss encounters without fail. Seriously, their batting average is ridiculous. Whether trying to best Snake Eater’s ancient sniper in an hour long battle of endurance or switching pad sockets to psyche out Psycho Mantis, Snake’s epic scraps have constantly punched through the fourth wall. Below, we’ll recap some of the best ones and look at what other games could learn from the Gear’s boss-battling master class.
Metal Gear Solid bosses (PSOne, 1998)
Why it's a brilliant boss battle: It's got the ultimate fourth wall-screwing moment.
Man, this guy. This is the guy, right here. A homicidal psychic with a big, fat boner for mind control, his showdown with Snake in the original MGS is arguably the most inventive boss encounter ever. He's like a one man band of psychic trickery... except with mind-scarring telepathy instead of drums and a monkey.
The pale psycho can read your memory card, giving sly shout outs to any Konami saves that might be on there. He can tell how often you've saved or been spotted. Hell, he can even physically move your pad with the power of his mind... or eh, the DualShock's rumble.
Above: Mantis was rocking the Helghast look long before those trend-stealers every tried to enslave humanity
Reading your every move before you make it, the only way you can smack the freak down is by plugging your pad into a different socket so he can't predict your actions. A brilliantly self-aware moment, blurring the lines between real life interactions and their on-screen consequences, it shows the kind of imagination all other game's boss fights should aim for. That and the evil gas mask look is sooooo back in this season.
Metal Gear Rex
Why it's a brilliant boss battle: Technical mastery. That, and he's shagging huge.
Scale. That's the key to this fight. Pre God of War and Shadow of the Colossus, most gamers simply hadn't seen anything close to the size of this towering mechanical monstrosity. Considering it was running on the then ageing PSOne, it's a miracle Kojima Productions managed to squeeze the bipedal bastard into the game. And it showed a level of technical ambition that all games should aspire too.
Above: Rex is the size of a dinosaur, but comes with an advanced ballistic system instead of a brain the size of an cocktail olive
Despite what Sir Gary Coleman and Hungarian fighting midgets might say, size definitely does matter. Acting as a prelude to all of Kratos'megaton showdowns with massive Greek beasties (especially the Minotaur Guardian and Colossus of Rhodes) and Devil May Cry's showpiece spectacles; the fight's legacy shouldn't be underestimated.
Message to all GamesRadar-loving Hungarian fighting midgets: please don't track us down and beat us to a bloody pulp.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty bosses (PStwo, 2001)
Why it's a brilliant boss battle: It's hugely cinematic.
Alright, so nowadays bullet time is about as hip as spending your Saturday night playing Scrabble and drinking ginger ale with your granny. But in 2001 when Matrix fever had yet to be completely inoculated, seeing Snake dodge gunfire in a torrential downpour, all in glorious slow-mo, was cool like having sex with the other side of the pillow... and by 'pillow', we mean Jessica Alba.
Above: Seriously luv, Gillette: it's the best a Russian insurgent can get
Aside from tipping its hat to cinema with the cutscene before the battle and just being downright f*cking awesome, the fight itself was also richly inventive and rewarding. Like most of the encounters in MGS1, Sons of Liberty's first fight could be tackled from different ways. You could throw ammo clips to distract the Russian vixen. Shoot out lights to blind her. And even aim for the rope holding down a giant tarpaulin to blow her cover.
Smart, sexy (well, aside from the armpits), the Olga tanker battle showed an awareness of other mediums that all modern, story-driven titles should strive for.