WHY I HATE… THE BOSSES IN METAL GEAR SOLID V
It was a series known for its memorably inventive boss fights, but the latest instalment is where everything fell apart… Martin Kitts Publisher Konami / Developer Konami / format xbox one / 360 / release date Sept 2015
Done right, boss fights can be emphatic punctuation, dividing and delineating a game’s various chapters, and no game is better known for its bosses than the Metal
Gear series. The mad rollerskating bomber Fat Man, the ghostly encounter with your fallen foes conjured by The Sorrow, the poignant battle with your beloved mentor in a field of white flowers… MGS has had more than its fair share of classic bosses.
Done badly, boss fights can be ruinous difficulty spikes. There’s no more demoralising feeling in gaming than struggling for ages to wear down a boss, only to have him call on some magical healing power.
Unfortunately Metal Gear Solid V is riddled with this sort of thing, and it doesn’t help that most of the bosses are just different configurations of the same enemy, the Skulls Unit. They’re pretty scary the first time around, advancing slowly like relentless, bulletdodging zombies. Naturally, I ran away when I found I couldn’t hit them.
Soon enough they’re back, and there’s no avoiding the second encounter. At least you get a missile launcher this time, but still I must have died half a dozen times before I finally beat them. Wouldn’t want to meet those guys again…
So, on with the rest of the game, which is great until the Skulls show up yet again, this time with better armour. And again, and again. Five times in all, only one of which is really different enough to be considered a truly separate boss.
Even the two bosses that aren’t Skulls are substandard. There’s the Man on Fire, who roars a lot, sets everything alight and absorbs bullets. He’s horrible to fight, guarded by a weird floating child who you can’t hurt at all and is seemingly there only for aesthetic effect: look, a creepy floating child version of Psycho Mantis; but, damn, this means a really annoying boss fight.
I’m not quite sure how I got past that one. I think maybe I managed to get him wet and his fire went out long enough for a chopper to airlift me to safety. Either that or he spent too long chasing me around and his floating friend had to go. Not knowing for certain how you ‘won’ is not the mark of a great boss battle, and neither is a feeling of relief that it’s all over and you’ll never have to play it again. It wasn’t always this way. For example, take Metal Gear Solid 3’ s rightly famous showdown with sharpshooting centenarian The End, a highlight of the series. If you approach the fight head-on it’s a typically gruelling affair, as you’ll get shot if you stick your head up for more than a few seconds while looking for him. Even MGS V can do that.
But the real brilliance of this encounter, and the main reason it’s held in such high regard, is that it has hidden ways of allowing you to bypass the fight. If your sneaking skills are high you can creep up on him while he’s asleep. If frustration gets the better of you and you abandon your game for a while, you’ll find he has died of old age while waiting for you to pop your head back up. Alternatively, in an earlier scene you can catch a glimpse of the old chap relaxing unaware in a wheelchair. Whip out a sniper rifle and that’s it. The End.
MGS V rehashes this encounter to a certain extent in the fourth meeting with the Skulls, the cyborg bikini sniper squad version, but only the worst parts. It’s just a whole lot of crawling around in the mist, belly-wriggling slowly towards a marker on your HUD until you can land a single shot on one of them, at which point they all teleport to new locations and you start again.
Then there’s the giant robot Sahelanthropus. There’s nothing remotely clever about this final boss encounter, it’s just you and a limited amount of ammo versus a nearinvulnerable, rocket-spewing bullet sponge. Shoot him a bit, run away while he pummels the area with missiles, repeat until you’re reduced to pinging darts at his metal arse while scouring the barren environment for anything that might chip another precious pixel off his health bar.
It’s arduous. It’s no fun whatsoever. Having spent around 85 hours enjoying most of the rest of the game, I actually gave up at this point. Returning a couple of weeks later (sadly his batteries hadn’t run down while I was away) I eventually managed to take him out, but it’s not an experience I’d relish repeating. It’s not the way the Metal
Gear series deserves to go out.
“Having spent around 85 hours enjoying most of the rest of the game, I gave up at this point”
right Boo hiss, that bunch of absolute bar stewards!
ABOVE Skulls Unit vanishing snipers: not as good as The End.
Below Sahelanthropus: not as good as Metal Gears Rex or Ray.