PC Gamer

In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Tom and Wes argue about boss fights, which have been around nearly as long as video games themselves, and whether they re an outdated concept.

Face off

Wes Fenlon, Hardware editor Wes wants modern boss fights to be a bit more original.

Tom Marks, Assistant editor Tom thinks boss fights are still a nice change of pace.

Wes: YES. I ve played many great boss fights in my day, but far too many big games shoehorn in boss fights when they don t need them. Boss fights once made perfect video game sense in linear, side-scrolling levels. Get to the end of the stage, fight the big bad in charge, and move on to the next. And that s still fun! But as games have evolved with open worlds and non-linear levels and forms of gameplay more nuanced than shoot slash punch bad guy, boss fights don t fit as well. Bioshock and the more recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution are two modern examples of boss fights gone really wrong. Bioshock needed an emotional climax, not one that involved shooting a roided-up bad guy. And Human Revolution betrayed the core of its gameplay by making you shoot it out with its bosses, which is something the new Deus Ex is thankfully addressing. Boss fights can still be done well, of course, but they re most definitely antiquated.

Tom M.: NO. Boss fights aren t always fun, but used correctly they can be vital to the pacing of a game. Boss fights don t just represent the end of a level, they are a change of pace after a long stretch of similar gameplay. You ve been running around shooting and beating up bad guys for a while, but how are you going to deal with this new enemy? That s when the concept of a boss fight really shines; when it s not just a bigger harder enemy, but instead challenges you in some interesting and different way. I completely agree that AAA games have recently misused the boss fight trope, treating it more like an expected practice than a place to shake up the game s design, but that doesn t mean boss fights as a whole are an outdated concept.

Wes: Sure—I d look like a big dumb idiot if I said all boss fights today are lame and crappy. There are still good ones! But I think there are two big problems with how boss fights are implemented. In big-budget games, they re often used to facilitate some dramatic cutscene or story moment, which means taking control away from the player or forcing you to play in a specific way. That sucks. And in general, I think too many games use boss fights because they re expected. Boss fights are part of the language of video games, but they re a very old word. And I d like to see more games creating new words instead of falling back on the Middle English that is the boss fight.

Tom: I actually don t mind boss fights being more rigid or scripted than the rest of a game. Making open world experiences where the player has lots of choice is a very difficult thing to do, and too much freedom can sometimes make for a crummy story. Boss fights are the perfect moment for a developer to bring the story back under their control a little bit to let them reliably tell the story they want to. Of course, the boss fight shouldn t take certain options or playstyles away from the player that the rest of a game has made them accustomed to, like in Deus Ex for example. Those fights should be climactic and should represent a shift in the story. Even if they re expected, they can play a vital role in the rhythm of a game.

Wes: Ah, so idealistic! Time and again, boss fights in big-budget games do change up the play style you ve been taught just to show you something cool. Even the Batman games, which have fantastic combat, lose their lustre when they put you in an arena to slug it out with a boss. Think of the end of Asylum, when the Joker gets all beefy and slugs it out with Batman. It s a great game, but that s a cookie cutter boss fight that relies on antiquated video game language. How do we make a big, climactic battle? Hm, how about lots of punching? But the Joker would never do that! He d do something clever. A smart, modern take on the boss fight there wouldn t end with a punching match. I d like to see more games have confidence in what they do best. To use a pretty traditional 2D game as an example: I don t even remember the final boss of Rayman Origins, but I do remember the incredibly challenging and rewarding final platforming sequence leads up to it. Surviving that level is the true boss of the game.

Tom: Lots of games have also tried doing boss sequences or boss levels instead of a straight up fight, and I love that. I think it s great when games don t adhere to the formula, but that s not the solution for every game. Assassin s Creed doesn t really have many boss fights, instead a particularly special baddy will get a mission all to himself. That s cool and different and doesn t shoehorn a stupid arena fight into an assassination game, but I also don t remember a single one of those missions. You know what I do remember? Every single boss I fought in Dark Souls 2. I still agree that developers will put cookie cutter boss fights unnecessarily into games that don t need them, but it s by no means a concept that s lost it s value. It s just more valuable in certain types of games.

Wes: I may not remember the characters of many Assassin s Creed targets, but I do remember some of my more epic assassinations—and I loved that those characters could be killed silently and instantly, if you planned the perfect stealth kill. That s a smart modern twist on the classic boss fight, too me--it elevates what s best about Assassin s Creed, instead of suddenly changing how you play the game. And hell, I love Dark Souls bosses too—I don t hate the traditional boss fight, I just think many games today could do something more interesting with them. It seems like we re mostly on the same page. So...what games are really doing creative boss fights right these days?

Tom: The first example that jumps to my mind is Titan Souls, a game made up of nothing but boss fights. It takes the kill the big monster in an arena concept to its extreme and cuts the fat off everywhere else. If you need to be convinced that compelling and exciting boss fights are still possible in modern games, Titan Souls will do that and then some. Terraria is another good example; each boss is difficult and unique, but also represents a tier of progression. The game has an open world with no fake constraints, but you can mostly only reach bosses in a certain order, each one giving you the means to fight the next. These games embrace the boss fight as the effective tool it is; a change of pace, a milestone in your progression, and a generator of wow moments.

Wes: I ve played my fair share of Terraria, but I ll be checking up on Titan Souls. If killing each boss doesn t make me feel a deep and intense sorrow in true Shadow of the Colossus fashion, though, I m going to hold you responsible for my irrational expectations.

Tom: Titan Souls was the first game that made me physically jump out of my chair when I killed a boss, and I did so for every single one. Consider your expectations rationally high. 

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

Begone, elephant! Unless you picked that last option or whatever.

Psssst! You wanna hear some gossip? WELL! So, Eurogamer told me that some friends of theirs told THEM that a marketing research survey told them the friends not Eurogamer that they wanted to talk future Far Cry game settings. I *know*, right?

Apparently the talk came in the form of a survey which asked players to make their preferences regarding potential settings such as Alaska, zombies, dinosaurs and Vietnam known.

… [visit site to read more]

Announcement - Valve
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Product Release - Valve
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PC Gamer
Steam summer sale day one


Some claim that summer doesn t start until the 21st, but Valve says it s time for the Steam Summer Sale and we haven t heard anything from the solstice lobby so, happy first day of summer! As always, it s celebrated with a ridiculous store-wide Steam sale renowned for its low prices and intoxicating effect on the PC gaming community. Everything looks great when it s 80% off, but before you start filling up your library, here are our favorite picks of day one.

Reminder: if a game isn't a daily deal or a flash sale, it could pop up later in the sale for an even lower price. If you want to be safe, wait until June 30 to pick up a sale-long deal.

5 - Trine Complete
85% off: $3.74 / 2.69 - Steam store page
What Trine lacks in challenge it's not very difficult as platformers go it more than makes up for in magical fairy tale charm. The sequel, Trine 2, improves upon the formula just about every way, particularly through the addition of cooperative multiplayer action. And with the original game about to undergo a dramatic (and free!) overhaul thanks to the coming Trine Enchanted Edition, this bundle at this price is a must-have by any measure.

4 - Hotline Miami
85% off: $1.49 / 1.04 Steam store page | Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST
No game revels in ultraviolence like Hotline Miami, which turns pixelated murder sprees into an art form. It's brutal, stylish, and challenging in that perfect way: once you make a perfect run through a level without stopping, mowing down a dozen thugs with a knife and then a pipe and then a shotgun, you'll feel like the god of sleazy Miami murders. You'll want some practice now, since Hotline Miami 2 includes a level editor that will let you craft your own murder rooms. Get it fast the flash sale on Hotline Miami won't last long.

3 - Far Cry 3
75% off: $7.49 / 3.74 - Steam store page
Attacking outposts is our favorite part of Far Cry 3. The sandbox shooter s story is a strange and meandering mixture of Alice in Wonderland and the spring break trip you made in college, but dismantling the dozens of bases that populate Far Cry 3 s islands however you want is scrappy, open-ended FPS combat at its best. Now s a good time to jump in before Far Cry 4releases later this year.

2 - The Witcher 2
80% off: $3.99 / 2.99 - Steam store page
You ve got until early 2015 before The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt releases, and it s looking fantastic. That s plenty of time to catch up on one of our favorite modern RPG series not only is The Witcher 2 on sale, the first game is only $1.99 / 1.39. Bonus value: The Witcher 2's fantastic story splits into two completely separate arcs in its second act, so if you want to experience both paths, you've got two playthroughs ahead of you.

1 - XCOM: Complete
67% off: $16.49 / 8.24 - Steam store page
Our favorite strategy game of 2012, conveniently collected into bundle form with the equally-great Enemy Within expansion, has one of the best campaigns in gaming. Hand-building your alien defense force replicates the feeling of running imaginary missions with action figures in your living room. Except this time, G.I. Joe can die for reals. Thoughtful strategy, a tense metagame, and detailed maps that explode into pieces make XCOM the second-best digital board game available (Civilization V would be the first).

Other great deals today:
Rising Storm: Game of the Year Edition (50% off) $9.99 / 7.49
Tomb Raider (50% off) $9.99 / 7.49
Max Payne 3 (70% off) $5.99 / 4.49
Mirror s Edge (75% off) $4.99 / 2.49
The Witcher Enhanced Edition (80% off) $1.99 / 1.39
Papers, Please (50% off) $4.99 / 3.49
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (50% off) $4.99 / 3.74
PC Gamer
Far Cry 4


It took me a moment to register that this was real largely thanks to that audacious suit but Ubisoft have officially announced Far Cry 4. It's coming to PC, current and last-gen consoles, is due out November this year, and will take place in an entirely new setting in the Himalayas. Don't worry: I've checked, and they do have tigers there.

It seems the new common theme of Far Cry games is their antagonists. For the new one, you'll be facing off against a "a despotic self-appointed king" one who's clearly kidnapped the region's snappiest tailor. There's very little additional information, beyond Ubisoft's promise of an "exotic open world teeming with wildlife". Look for more news at Ubisoft's E3 conference next month.



Head over to the announcement post for the few scant details, as well as the crushingly inevitable reveal of pre-order bonuses.
PC Gamer
Dead Cry


I know a lot of people are sick of them, but I really love killing zombies. Shooting zombies offers this highly distilled sense of guilt-free violence that I can easily deal with. Another bonus: zombies arrive pre-killed. Putting them back down is really just a public service. I m sure one day I ll get tired of shooting/stabbing/blowing up the animated dead; on that day, I ll no longer be intrigued by Dead Cry, an upcoming total conversion mod for Far Cry 3.



Built using the Far Cry 3 engine and map editor, Dead Cry is a single-player campaign very much inspired by games like Left 4 Dead, according to the mod s moddb page.

Character and enemy animations will look very familiar to anyone who played Far Cry 3, but the environment, plot, and character models are all brand new. DEAD CRY will not merely be a bunch of maps or a mod alone, the mod page says, It's as close to a completely new game as you can get. The campaign will include an immersive soundtrack, cinematic cutscenes, custom sound effects and voice over work.

Dead Cry just entered open beta release a few days ago, so you can download and play it here. They re also inviting players to fill out a beta survey form to help them make changes; you can find that survey here.
Announcement - Valve
The Ubisoft Publisher Weekend continues today with great deals on Ubisoft titles! From now through Monday* pick up hundreds of titles up to 75% off!

Today's Daily Deal features Far Cry Franchise up to 75% off!

*All discounts end Monday, February 24th at 10AM Pacific Time.
PC Gamer
ZDAY


It's a shame to let a good engine go to waste, especially when it can expertly handle a huge, beautiful open world. DayZ is the most obvious example, but Ubisoft clearly understood this as well when it made Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, which used the Far Cry 3 engine to build an '80s-themed spoof that was just as fun as the original game. The Far Cry 3 Z-DAY mod sounds a little too familiar, but the gameplay footage and explanation from the developer might win you over.

To be fair, Z-DAY is not as much like DayZ as its title may imply, and modder GC Vos says the name will be changed to something more original. To start with, it's a fully fledged single player campaign, not a multiplayer survival mod and showcase for human depravity. It will consist of 12 missions "much inspired by games like Left 4 Dead, but with a Far Cry twist to them," GC Vos explains. It will also add a new soundtrack and voiceover work.

The video of the first seven minutes of gameplay is the most impressive, showing the player trying to stealthily make his way out of a zombie infested town. Far Cry 3 was really great at letting you explore huge environments, jumping in and out of vehicles, and letting you seamlessly shift in and out of stealthy and guns blazing strategies. These are all things that seem like they could be used really well in an open-world zombie game.

GC Vos promises that the game's ModDB page, where you can also find more videos, will be kept up to date with the latest progress. Z-DAY is set to release in open beta on March 1.

PC Gamer
farcry3


Expected sequels to popular games often begin their public lives as tiny echoes awash in the din of our media age. Far Cry 4 seems to be following this familiar pattern, with an Ubisoft Shanghai game designer listing and then removing a reference to the sequel from his LinkedIn resume, according to a report at Joystiq.

The designer, Xavier Plagnal, reportedly listed his work in recent months as a Content Director on "the next Far Cry" at Ubisoft Shanghai. That line on his resume now lacks any specific information regarding exactly which "content" he's directing, but Plagnal isn't the first person to let slip a connection to a new entry in the series. Ubisoft executive Tony Key made a direct reference to a sequel to the 2012 Far Cry 3 last July when he said the following: It s a great brand, and now it s got the recognition it deserves, so we re clearly going to make another one: more on that soon."

Additionally, composer Cliff Martinez revealed in October his involvement with a "video game called Far Cry 4." We liked Far Cry 3 for its sneaking, its hunting, and for its hugely detailed open world. And the DLC followup Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon had its own part to play for its use of '80s icon Michael Biehn and its tongue-in-cheek approach to action-movie heroics. In any case, absent an official studio announcement to the contrary, it's looking more and more likely that a new Far Cry is on its way.

 
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