Is there a place in contemporary gaming for boss fights?
There is one strip of grass in a lawn that I recently laid that is refusing to take, despite the incessant attention I am affording it. During a prolonged watering session over the weekend, my neighbour came out of his garage wielding two bottles of ice-cold lager. The hose was summarily dropped and a conversation started.
“So basically, you play games, watch films and listen to music all day?” I’ve heard the question so many times, I no longer try to counter it with, “Actually, we do all of our research outside of office hours” because generally the reply that follows is, “Research? Playing games and watching films is research?”
It’s pointless attempting to describe why putting the monumental effort required to produce a monthly magazine and maintain a substantially large digital presence means we don’t have time during the day to play games or watch movies.
However, with the beer swiftly dispatched and the hose nozzle once again concentrated on the resistant patch of straw-coloured turf, it dawned on me that finding the opportunity between work and family commitments to play a game in its entirety these days is a tricky proposition.
Which is why I have only just got around to playing the Titanfall 2 single-player this month. And it was worth the wait. What initially became a sporadic session at an ungodly hour soon became an obsession to complete it. Although relatively short in length, grabbing an hour here and 20 minutes there prolonged the campaign for almost a week.
With well conceived levels, an excellent choice in diverse weaponry and some of the best kill animations I have seen (the way a sniper round displaces the helmet from the enemy’s head in a spray of crimson is perversely satisfying), I rated it as one of the finest FPS campaigns I have played in 2016.
But there was an element in it that bugged me. Thinking more deeply on the subject, it has actually been bothering me for some time: boss fights. Perhaps it’s just my age and the decades that I’ve committed to gaming have worn the enduring concept thin, but boss fights just annoy me and it’s to my chagrin that developers still feel the need to include them on their pre-production checklists.
For me, there is nothing more distracting than becoming so immersed in a game’s mature and compelling narrative, so invested in your character’s predicament and struggle, only to be pulled out of that state of transcendental concentration for a puerile and boring boss fight where you continually dance around the opposition until you find a weakness; usually highlighted in neon yellow.
After the significant effort that has been applied to craft an incredible, believable universe, studios are still reliant on a 40-year-old concept to test the skill of a gamer. It’s predictable, lazy and unimaginative and for this gamer – a real disconnect that completely removes me from the gameplay experience.
There are probably some game genres where a boss fight is still acceptable, almost expected, but when the campaign part of a title is driven by engrossing storytelling, it’s disappointing that writers are still dependent on boss battles – that get progressively harder the further into a game you go – to thread the tale together.