Vanquish Review

A rain of bullets surround you as you lay your head held against a small wall that separate you between a horde of Russian robots. You throw a grenade, get up and jump over the ledge, shoot all the robots and jet slide on your knees to victory. Welcome to Shinji Mikami’s Vanquish.

This generation is littered with forgettable third person shooters, and it’s only a few of them that break the mould, Vanquish is one of them.

Platinum Games (Developers of the action game Bayonetta) have proven their worth with titles such as Madworld and the aforementioned Bayonetta. It’s not only this pedigree that adds to the game’s credentials. But the legendary developer Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil and God Hand. This made Vanquish a game that had a lot of talent behind it, but were these credentials enough for the Japanese developer to “crack” the western audience?

The gameplay of Vanquish is not your usual slow, heavy third person shooter. Instead it’s a fast paced, high octane bulletfest. Unique to Vanquish is the ARS suit, think of it like Halo’s spartan armour but white and with knee jetpacks. This suit is the key to all of Vanquish’s mechanics. The suit enables you to go into a bullet time mode, to blast any robots in your way to oblivion, but this can only be used sparingly, as on the HUD is the ARS Gauge, which limits your bullet time, and after you use the whole gauge the suit overheats, making you think tactically and sparingly using this feature which has been implemented for when you need to get out of a tight spot with an overwhelming amount of enemies. Not only does it make you feel awesome, but also gets the job done. This also activates as soon as your health reaches critical, which I found distracting as although it’s useful in some tight spots, it just breaks away from the “flow” of the game itself, but this only happens when it auto activates, when you normally activate it the game feels perfect.

Another feature of the suit is of course, the amazing knee jets. This enables you to zip around the battlefield, adding to the overall pacing of the game and making it stand out of the crowd overall. It’s an amazing breath of fresh air from most other generic shooters, which are typically slow. The usage of these jets is also dependant upon the ARS Gauge. The usage of the knee slides and slow motion is perfectly balanced with a single gauge.

Weapons in Vanquish are… Interesting. You get a load of variety from a run of the mill Assault Rifle to a Disc Launcher. Using the right weapons in Vanquish at the right time is an important factor. When fighting a giant robot octopus you don’t want to use a puny Assault Rifle, you need to bring out the big guns. In Vanquish’s case, this is a good thing.

A unique aspect to the weaponry in Vanquish is that you can incrementally upgrade your weapon in rank, giving it added ammo and power. These upgrades are sometimes hard to find, but when your weapons ammo is full, it automatically gives you an upgrade. The weapons also have a downgrade system, wherein if you die, the weapons power also decreases.

This is a fantastic aspect to Vanquish that sets it apart from games like Gears of War.

Overall, the gameplay in Vanquish is amazing. It’s unique and fresh, and a far cry from games like Gears of War. The only trap I see people falling in is that they will play it like a slow, clunky shooter like they are used to. To fully appreciate this game, in Yoda’s famous words. “you must unlearn what you have learnt” The sheer speed and responsiveness of the game is of AAA quality, you will find yourself using the cover system scarcely, and although it’s there you can play the game and have a completely different experience. One thing that adds to this immersive and speedy combat are the mind blowing graphics.

Vanquish is a pretty goddamn busy game, there are a multitude of enemies, screenfilling robots and it performs and looks solid as a rock. Vanquish’s graphics are a sight to behold. For a sci-fi shooter, it looks fantastic, with bright whites, red and even purple making the game eye poppingly amazing. A stark contrast to this would be the drab brown and grey of many other third person shooters. Vanquish’s direction has been cited as being drawn from Anime/Film Casshern. And it shows, with the powered suit’s colours and helmet.

Vanquish amazingly retains a pretty fair framerate of 30 FPS, which is obviously not as good as 60, but when you actually see the graphics and sheer business of Vanquish, you will come to understand. This is obviously a detrement to the game and I feel that it hampers from the experience, as such a twitchy game. Vanquish is one of those games that would greatly benefit from having a stable, 60 FPS performance.

Sound design in Vanquish seems to be a modern take on early, catchy videogame medleys. Although techno, it fits the game and its sheer hectic action perfectly.

Voice acting is not really an issue in Vanquish, but some characters tend to come off as having an overly raspy, gruff voice. But story should not be taken that seriously in Vanquish anyway.

Vanquish’s plotline and story are merely a vehicle for what is, amazing gameplay. The setting is on a colony in space, and Russians have blown up San Fransisco… Naturally. It isn’t on with the Americans.

You play as Sam Gideon, “pilot” per se of the ARS suit. You team up with a squadron of troops lead by Commander Burns and do various missions and find yourself in an amazing variety of set-pieces and situations. Some of the scenes in Vanquish were more amazing and epic than even the great Uncharted 2 : Among Thieves’s set-pieces.

Vanquish is split into different acts and stages, which is essentially a different way of saying 1-1, 1-2 et cetera. And each of these levels are approximately 20 mins long depending on how you play. This makes the game feel distinctly Arcade’y when it gives you the final score. When you see the leaderboards and the points your friends finished at… You want to go at it again and again.

Vanquish is not a long game, it took me about 8 hours on my first run through. Although some have criticized it for being short, I can say that this game has a lot of replay value, within each stage there are hundreds of ways to complete it, you can go into cover and play it safe. Go in all guns blazing, through different routes and using different guns. I feel that Vanquish’s length is not an issue as the content has a variety of replayability.

Overall, Vanquish is a solid game, living up to it’s pedigree with the highly respected Shinji Mikami at the helm. Breathing life back into the Third Person Shooter genre once again. It contains no multiplayer, but the game can’t really house it without it being like Dark Sector’s multiplayer where one person was overpowered and the rest were peons to pick him off. I feel that Platinum Games made a good call to not include multiplayer, as it would not really “work” without feeling generic.

Vanquish is a unique game, it’s the Japanese Gears of War with highly stylized action, melee attacks that are completely over the top, solid gameplay and good graphics, there is not many negative things to say about this game, other than the framerate and some bosses that one hit killed me, I did not find much wrong with this game. Vanquish is a solid lease of life back into a much saturated genre, a much needed breath of fresh air.

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