Thursday, July 11, 2013

FPS Boss Blues

This post will definitely contain spoilers...just a heads up!


Just recently, I played through a relatively unheard-of video game called Halo 4. I hadn't previously been a huge fan of the series, but I have gradually begun to warm up to them. Entries in the Halo series are well-made and, although occasionally repetitive, they're pretty entertaining. That being said, I've only played through two of them in their entirety: Halo: Anniversary Edition and Halo 4.

Throughout Halo 4, you're constantly taunted by a character known as the Didact. For some reason, he's convinced that unless humans are eliminated from the universe, they will become a giant threat to reality or some shit, so naturally his best idea is to destroy them all. Master Chief doesn't approve of that plan, and sets out to stop him after waking up from a 4-year space marine nap. It's a pretty simple plot, but the Didact is actually rather pretty well-written for an FPS antagonist, and it makes you appreciate him as a villain. Maybe there's some history here that I'm unaware of; having not played Halo 2, 3, ODST or Reach, I feel like there was likely some backstory related to the Didact that I missed out on, but that's fine. The story arc of Halo 4 does a good job of setting him up on its own.

I blast my way through the game, fending off new enemies with new guns, all of which are pretty cool, and about 3/4 of the way through, I can feel the tension start to ramp up. The end of the game is very near, and I can't wait to serve the Didact his scaly ass on a silver platter! As I fight my way to the final battle, I make sure to load up on my favourite weapons, the newly-introduced Scattershot and enemy-vaporizing Incineration Cannon (I enjoy power weapons). The very final area of the game has a "boss arena" feel to the distance, I can see a circular platform surrounding a giant beam of light, into which Master Chief is supposed to deliver a football-sized nuclear warhead he's been carting around haphazardly on his belt. THIS IS IT!!!

"You want to kick my ass? Well, that's just too fucking bad!"

I wander over a hardlight bridge towards the central area, and am treated to a cutscene in which Master Chief is tossed around like a rag doll and, of course, loses grip of the nuke. The canister flops around on the ground for a while, and the Didact throws MC around some more. Cortana the artificial wench steps in and splits her personalities up, which work together to bind the Didact to the bridge. That's where...I come in? The view shifts back to Master Chief's visor, and I'm prompted to press the left stick forward to crawl back up onto the bridge (which MC was hanging from by one arm after being knocked off), followed by pressing the right trigger to automatically plant a grenade on the Didact. It blows up and he falls off the ledge to his apparent death.


Then I have to crawl towards the nuke by holding the left stick forward, and upon reaching it, I'm prompted to press RT again to just detonate the damn thing. That's the end of gameplay. Ending happens, credits roll, and then there's a small scene afterwards.

WHERE THE HELL IS MY GODDAMN BOSS BATTLE I'VE BEEN ANTICIPATING FOR THE ENTIRE GAME?! I've been taunted and pestered by this asshole for a good 2/3 of the campaign, the plot and setting at the end of the game practically has "BOSS FIGHT!!!!!!!" written all over it, and instead I just have to follow four commands to beat the game? That's bullshit. This has been occurring in a lot of popular FPS franchises as of's like developers are scared to try making a boss in case it's shitty, but for all the imagination and thought that goes into a game like Halo 4, you'd think they'd be able to piece together ONE fuckin' boss fight to conclude things! It wouldn't have angered me so much if it didn't FEEL like there was definitely going to be a controllable confrontation with the antagonist to test your mettle and make you EARN the ending of the game.

I'm reminded of when I was younger and I played games such as Doom, Doom 2, Heretic, Hexen, Quake, Quake 2...Wolfenstein, Blake Stone...Corridor 7, Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem 3D...GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, the Turok series...Painkiller! There were fuckin' bosses, and they were damn intimidating! I nearly soiled myself the first time I fought the Cyberdemon at the end of Doom's second episode in the Tower of Babel...and who doesn't remember knocking Trevelyan from the Cradle in GoldenEye? Why did notable encounters like these take a back seat in modern FPS games, only to be replaced with glorified button prompts that finish the game for you?? I don't know about you, but I find it terribly unsatisfying.

Press Z to OHKO the Cyberdemon. Oh wait, actually you have to use ALL OF THE SKILL YOU HAVE ATTAINED UP TO THIS POINT!

To me, bosses are an important part of action games, including first person shooters. They put you to the test, whether it be through dexterous skill such as the Makron in Quake 2, or by making you use your fuckin' brain a little bit like Shub-Niggurath in Quake 1 or the Skedar Leader in Perfect Dark. Overcoming these hardships is satisfying and conclusive, providing resolution to the gamer so they can sit back and be pleased with what they just accomplished. Even fighting a whack of the same enemies you've been encountering throughout the entire game just doesn't have the same effect as a strong, well-made boss battle.

Am I crazy? What are your thoughts on this? Sound off in the comments!

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