Metacritical

Because games are about more than headshots

This is the worst thing that ever happened (This Week): Prototype

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Ok and Welcome to this, the first installment of yet another recurring feature! In this case we have ‘This is the worst thing that ever happened (This Week)’ (working title :P) my weekly installment (Tuesday I hope, Wednesday when I’m not so lucky) in which I complain and analyse the worst thing I’ve experience in a video game in the past week. Pretty self explanatory. It can be from a single or multiplayer game, as both generally occur due to a fail in design choices.  (Unless of course it’s just some wanker ganking me, in which case I guess the design choice that failed was the human sense of humour :P)

The less generic of the games two box arts. (How do you pluralize that?)

The less generic of the game's two box arts. (How do you pluralize that?)

For the first installment of this feature I’m going to showcase a boss from the power fantasy that is Activision’s Prototype. Just as a note this will contain minor spoilers and also methods to complete the boss, however the first should be of no consequence in Prototype as the story is bollocks and the latter should be of no issue because the strategy for defeating the boss requires no finesse or thinking and rather alot of persistence and patience. So if either of those do offend you and my cynicism hasn’t made you feel inadequate about that worry yet, cease reading now!

proto-init

Ok, from this fuzzy, Youtube ripped image courtesy of upochner123, which shows the boss’s general outline. There’s the top section of the worm, which is the actual boss. Beneath the tumorous top, there are three vertical sections, the outside two being the yellow tentacles and the middle being a weird spine of sort. In the upper right hadn’t corner you can see the main bosses health, and the three mini areas health bars all arranged beneath.  Pretty standard and I have nothing against multi-stage/focus encounters. In fact, I find being able to take down various elements of a boss in a non linear fashion is fantastic, as it forces me to prioritise the importance of the bosses various modules, as well creating boss with multiple stages of strategy to learn.

So let me go over the basic attacks this boss has. If you get close to the boss, the tentacles on either side will attack you. In no particular pattern. The game proffers no indication of whether the tentacle will do a horizontal sweep or a vertical strike, a problem which is indicative of the entire boss. Will it be throwing out a hail of superspeed stones or be pounding you with homing green energy balls of pain? The boss  offers very little signalling, which is a mistake as all of the bosses attacks are pretty much a guaranteed hit upon you if you don’t pre-emptivly dodge. Which you can’t do for a lack of signalling. See where I’m coming from?

Run from the insta nuke of DEATH!

Run from the insta nuke of DEATH!

However, the most heinous lack of signalling with this boss is it’s massive AOE, which has the slight effect of killing you instantly. This attack radiates out from the boss in all directions, making dodging quite difficult. However it is completely unsignalled, which violates one of design’s most basic laws: don’t punish the player for something they weren’t taught. The boss has an excessively large amount of health and respawning defences meaning that the fight can take up to a half hour to take down.  This can lead to an extremely large penalty for being hit by the bosses insta-kill attack, up to 15 minutes worth of gameplay.  This might be acceptable if the attack was well sign posted and introduced to the player before hand in a safer environment, such as cutscene.  However as it is the game makes one of the worst decisions imaginable, to gratuitously punish the player as a learning method.

See those green lights? They're gonna hit you. Get over it.

See those green lights? They're gonna hit you. Get over it.

Furthermore, the boss has pacing problems. If you read any document on flow in any form of design, it will clearly tell you that the pace should be varied as to maintain player interest while preventing them from burning out from constant action. However, this fight just throws that out the window. It never lets up. It’s always high intensity sprinting around the boss, being the only way to avoid the bosses myriad of unpredictable moves.

The pacing problems would take the backseat however, was the boss fight no excruciatingly long.  The game took me 10 hours to get through (doing most of the side missions) and half an hour was spent on this boss, a full 20th of my playtime. For not only, do you see, does the boss have an immense stockpile of health. No, not just that. It has respawning health and defences, which occurs roughly three times through the fight. While boss fights may operate on the rule of threes, it was like a dagger though my heart every time these respawned, adding another few minutes to the encounter every time.  This length, combined with the high pace necessitated by the nature of the bosses attacks creates an incredibly draining fight which made me breathe a sigh of relief that I could save and quit the game after the fight finished, rather than encouraging me to push on with the story.

Nope, this isn't where she dies. Because she doesn't!

Nope, this isn't where she dies. Because she doesn't!

My final complain with this fight is one you’ve probably picked up on by this point: it’s skilless. This fight is a horrible mockery of a boss fight, which should be the final step in player skill consolidation. It forces the player to fight a grueling endurance battle, slowly whittling down the bosses health before healing in total safety repeating ad nauseum. The horrible length and pacing of this fight is only exacerbated by the frustrating lack of player ability to adapt to the fight by outskilling the boss, instead of merely outlasting her.

Cons:

  • Skilless fight
  • Goes for far too long
  • Punishes the player gratuitously
  • Pacing issues

Surprisingly tedious fight in a game which is otherwise to be recommended for it’s simple pleasures.

Prototype, your late to the young girl in latex party. Old Snake got there first :P

Prototype, your late to the young girl in latex party. Old Snake got there first 😛

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Written by Aonshix

June 19, 2009 at 9:57 pm

One Response

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  1. Perfect!

    flash

    July 7, 2009 at 3:07 am


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