Note to Prototype‘s designers: turning a boss fight into an hour-long slog without checkpoints, with a monster that has an instant-kill attack and in a game where the controls can often guess entirely wrong what the player is trying to get them to do, is A BAD IDEA.
I am talking, of course, about the infamous fight with an enormous tentacle creature in Times Square, about two thirds of the way through the game. The fight itself isn’t particularly complicated – the player has to take out three smaller parts of the large tentacle before they can damage it; this can be accomplished with hit and run attacks. A LOT of hit and run attacks. What worked for me was going around a corner and consuming hunters until my health was maximised, then running out, using the most powerful attack I had on the closest part of the creature, watching it reduce its health a pitifully small amount, and then running back around the corner before its instant-kill fireball attack was activated. And doing it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over. You can’t do more at once, because if you try for TWO attacks there’s a fifty percent chance you’ll get knocked off your feet and killed in the blastwave.
It’ll take you four or five times hitting the main tentacle to kill it, and each of those times is prefaced by a twenty minute fight with the three smaller parts – run in, run out, heal, run in, run out, heal etc. It takes FOREVER. And there’s one checkpoint after the first time you damage the main tentacle, and then none. So, if the finicky targeting system gets you stuck against a wall when you’re just about to finish off the last tentacle component after an hour of playing, and you are killed, you have to DO THE WHOLE BLOODY THING OVER AGAIN.
Checkpoints are stupid, and should be replaced on modern consoles with at-will saves, but if you ARE going to rely on them, then bloody well make them more frequent than NONE IN THE COURSE OF AN HOUR OF PLAY. One every five minutes would be good.
Also, if you’re designing a boss battle, make it interesting. As soon as the player is doing the same thing, over and over and over again, end it. Don’t just give the monster ludicrous amounts of health and make it a time-consuming war of attrition. Where’s the fun in that? That fight would’ve worked fine if each of the parts needed one or two attacks, and the monster itself could be killed in at most three major attacks. Half an hour on one boss fight is fine. More than that, particularly when you don’t actually have any ideas to vary the challenge, and it’s just boring repetition – well, that’s bad game design.
Memo to potential purchasers: if you’re thinking about buying Prototype, have a real think about how much tolerance you have for the above sort of bullshit before laying down money for it. Paying $100 for that kind of frustration kind of burns.
UPDATE: Seriously, stop it. It doesn’t deserve this kind of commercial success.