“Kratos will sometimes climb inside his enemies to destroy them from within!”
repeating the process until either the monster dies or you turn off the Xbox in a red mist of anger and boredom.
Traditionally, the boss is the gauntlet you must run before you’re granted access to the next stage. This frequently involves frantic, repetitious button-mashing and endless frustration.
Many players simply give up on games that insist on including these impassable roadblocks. I know I’m not alone – a Google search for “videogame annoying bosses” will generate more than 4.5 million results.
The most notorious bosses often throw in a moment of crippling unfairness, just to ensure it’s on the right level of frustration. Some villains, such as the giant armadillo in Ninja Gaiden 2, self-destruct when you defeat it, killing you in the process! Even Bulletstorm (a game I love) is cursed with it: on one occasion a giant man-eating plant regenerates itself if you don’t kill it fast enough.
A great challenge in game development is to make difficulty levels challenging but not infuriating. So it’s telling that the Call of Duty and Halo series, two of the most lucrative franchises in game history, don’t use these end-of-level bosses as a crutch. Instead, they present incrementally difficult narratives.
If developers insist on including hulking, virtually indestructible adversaries, they should at least use some imagination in their (ahem) execution. Infamous 2 avoids repitition by giving the hero a variety of possible tactics and superpowers in which to fight monsters. In the likes of God of War III they break it down – Kratos often attacks his enemies limb-by-limb, so attacking one part of a beast requires different tactics from attacking another. Plus, for even more diversity, Kratos will sometimes climb inside his enemies to destroy them from within!
Some game traditions have yet to die – and we live in hope that one day, all videogame bosses will eventually fall to their collective knees.