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Saturday, February 20, 2010

I feel a bit bamboozeled

One of my favorite part about action/adventure video games are the boss fights.

The bosses you fight often have the coolest enemy design in a game in greatly set-up scenario. You get to feel the rush of having defeated a worthy opponent after an epic duel and they can always be seen as test that once you get past them the game regards you as worthy of seeing the next part of the game.

Of course, this only applies to a good action/adventure game.

In bad games the boss fights will either be too easy or cheap, poorly set up and lazy. In short, like the rest of the game they will bad.

But that's what you'd expect, right? A good game has good boss battles and a bad game has bad boss battles. What's really annoying is when a great game has a disappointing boss battle.

That's the case with the final boss of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Oh, for those that care, there will be spoilers for that game in this post.

Now, Arkham Asylum is a freaking brilliant game that captures the very essence of being Batman. The fighting system is intuitive and easy to learn, the stealth gameplay is exciting and rewarding as all hell, the atmosphere is immersive and the pacing is wonderful. It's possibly the best superhero game ever (until the announced sequel comes out). But the final boss battle is largely a disappointment.

The set-up for this fight is awesome though. You have foiled every part of the Joker's masterplan and defeated all the supervillains he's let out of prison and have entered his last hiding place. As expected you fight and defeat his last wave of henchmen after which a cut-scene starts that ends with Joker injecting himself with what is basically a super-steroid.

A following cut-scene reveals that the steroid has transformed the Joker into a sort of mix between himself, the incredible Hulk and a punk-rocker, at least that's what it looked like to me. In this cut-scene Joker has dragged a battle-weary Batman to a make-shift arena on the top of Arkham Asylum and he's called in news copters so that the people of Gotham can watch him defeat and kill Batman once and for all.

So the stage is set. You're ready to go up against this monstrosity in a one on one fight untill only one of you is left standing. The battle begins and... he swipes at you a few times before jumping up on the arena wall and sends his henchmen after you. Huh.

That's basically it. You have to dodge the Joker's attacks a few times, then he gets out of the fight and sends a wave of henchmen after you. Then you do a special trick to get the Joker into a vulnerable position and hurt him. This process is repeated three times with the only difference being an increasing amount of henchmen in each wave. Oh, and Joker sometimes throws dangerous gag objects into the arena.

Yeah... that's what I call disappointing.

First of all, it doesn't really work from a narrative perspective. The Joker has set all this stuff up so that the world can see Batman get killed. No way would he leave that to a bunch of no-names thugs. He'd want the glory of putting Batman down for good to be his own. Also, at this point in the game you must've beaten up close to one hundred of these guys so badly that their bones should be broken and have other rather serious injuries.

Where the hell is Joker getting these guys from?

Gameplay wise I've already trounced the thugs over and over. It was always and in this scenario it's no less intense than before. But beating these guys up again doesn't have the same type of satisfaction as defeating a monster Joker would've had.

With an awesome set-up like that the you have to deliver on the goods. The goods in this case should've been an equally awesome boss fight. It wasn't. It was a disappointing gauntlet of nameless thugs. Lame.

With that said, the final cut-scene that shows just how Batman defeats the Joker is nothing short of badass. And again, the overall game is brilliant. So naturally I expected it to have an equally brilliant final boss fight.

Hopefully this blemish will be corrected in the sequel.

Until next time, peace out.

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