Batman: Arkham City was not the perfect game that so many review outlets seem to have lauded it as. Yes, it looked great and has probably the most solid combat mechanics of any modern game, but behind the well-designed levels and layers of gadgets lies the completely underwhelming boss battles.
Potential spoilers lie ahead – be warned
As well all know, boss battles are a bastion of the gaming world, a place where you exhibit skills you have learnt through the game via a ruthless practical exam. I imagine GSCEs would be a bit more entertaining if they were like this. The problem with them is that they all follow the same formula – use skill you learnt for this level, stun boss, attack boss, repeat. This isn’t to say that all games have awful boss design – take all the bosses in Shadow of the Colossus and The End in MGS3 as quick examples of fantastic and well-thought out battles – but these are the exception rather than the rule. Sometimes, there isn’t even a skill to utilise and it’s just basic pattern memorisation and striking. Both of these are lazy game design and something that both Batman games have been guilty of, the final bosses of each game being prime examples.
There was one shining light though. For one boss, Rocksteady managed to get their act together and actually be intelligent about things. The thing is with most boss battles, you’d think that the enemy would realise that they have a blinding weakness, even after they’ve been hit once, that they’d try to prevent it from being exploited. This is especially true in the world of Batman where they have to attempt to out-think the world’s greatest detective and instead decide, like knitters, that repetitive patterns are the best way to get their point across. In Mr. Freeze, though, they have made a near-perfect boss encounter.
You enter the arena. Mr. Freeze wants to kill you, as is his wont. Only problem is his freeze gun which when he sees you he’ll immediately attack you with and knock you back. No chance to get close from the front. Ok, let’s try a sneak attack from the grates – it worked. Wow, this is going to be easy. Hang on, what’s that he’s doing? He’s freezing all the grates so you can’t use them again? Well played, Freeze. Well played – I’ll have find another way knock your icy block off…
Yes, in this battle, you have to change your tactics every time you hit Freeze as he will adapt to the type of attack you throw at him and avoid it if you try it again. I actually can’t think of another game that has implemented something like this whereby you *have* to do something different the next time you want to get a hit on the boss. What confounds me is how this battle is so intelligently thought out while the rest are just more average rinse and repeat affairs.
Anyway, enough ranting. Mr. Freeze was my favourite boss battle in a long, long time and is a credit to Arkham City. What are your favourite boss battles?