Platinum Games have certainly made a name for themselves, crafting some of the hottest Japanese creations in recent years. Their library includes Madworld, Infinite Space and Bayonetta. Now Platinum games adds another unique gaming experience to their library with Vanquish. Usually Japanese developers tend to avoid creating a shooter, as it’s something that the western crowd seems to benefit from more. However it is safe to say that Platinum Games has done an exceptional job with Vanquish. Though Vanquish is made clearly to be compatible with a western audience, you can so clearly tell where the game originates from. This is far from a bad thing in most cases.
Vanquish is a very stylish third-person sci-fi shooter which takes place on on a space station called Providence. The space station has been infiltrated by a Russian extremist group known as the Order of the Russian Star. The United States decides to respond by sending in a bad ass fleet, which includes DARPA researcher Sam Gideon who is our main character. Sam is kitted out with the ARS battle suit, and one of his missions is to test this suit out in real life circumstances. As the story proceeds you come to realize that Sam has other objectives, not that you’ll care too much.
One of the downsides to Vanquish is that the action itself greatly outweighs the actual storyline. The storyline can often seem somewhat yawn worthy, with sometimes cliche dialog. It’s not that the story is completely boring; it’s just that it is very difficult to care for it enough. Many of the cut scenes are dragged out, running a lot longer than necessary. The combat is so fast paced and exciting that it becomes annoying to be taken away from it for too long.
The actual gameplay in Vanquish is the strongest part of the game period, and that is something that a lot of games don’t get right. Where many shooters focus on story and sacrifice epic gameplay, Vanquish does the complete opposite. Vanquish is so frantic that you’ll often find that you’ll play the game a lot longer than you intended to. There is an apparent level of challenge in this game, but it is the type of challenge that urges you to try again, and again.
The weapon system is something that is done really well, allowing you to change and upgrade weapons without leaving the gaming experience. You have a total of three gun slots, with an additional slot designated to grenades. You can pick up new guns which you come across during gameplay, which will replace the gun you are currently wielding. Picking up the same gun you currently have wielded will either replenish your ammo, or if your ammo is already full it will upgrade the weapon. Another way of obtaining weapon upgrades is from enemies. Occasionally taking out an enemy will make them leave behind an upgrade pack, picking this up will automatically upgrade the weapon you are wielding at the time. Upgrades can consist of extra ammo, or damage. Allowing gamers to carry out these sequences on the fly was a great idea, because upgrading weapons in a menu would definitely slow the pace of Vanquish down too much.
Vanquish features some great mechanics to ensure that you kill in style. First of all the cover system is one of the best I have seen in a while. It is very responsive, it covers you very well and popping out of cover is super cool. When popping out of cover you have the option of activating AR mode, which slows down time and allows you to line up a few headshots whilst looking like a true bad ass in the process. AR mode can also be activated when doing evasive rolls, giving you great advantages when you are outnumbered. Secondly the boost mechanic might single handedly be the coolest thing in Vanquish period. Boosting allows Sam to slide around the environment at a rapid rate, whilst time also slows down presenting you with a number of advantages. Boosting can be used in a number of scenarios; For example it can be used to get from one area to the next quickly, as a tool for evasion, to get closer to an enemy, or simply just to show off. I personally prefer the latter.
Enemy A.I is pretty reasonable in Vanquish. They are smart enough to know how to take you out, and it forces you to play flawlessly. Boss battles can be surprisingly difficult, even from the very first one. Most bosses have a special move which can take you out in one hit, meaning you have to actually calculate every move you make.
Visually Vanquish isn’t the best looking shooter we’ve seen, but it sure is beautiful to look at. Both the environments and the characters are crafted in a vibrant but realistic way, making the art style of Vanquish very unique. The level designs are acceptable, but when you really take them in it’s easy to distinguish that the game was designed by Japanese developers. Whilst examining the level designs I was immediately reminded of a couple JRPG’s from the past.
Overall Vanquish is a very pleasant gaming experience that offers tons of thrills and challenges. The frantic gameplay and appealing visuals all work in the games favor. However don’t expect an epic story, as many of the story elements are pretty dull. The story mode is pretty short, spanning anywhere between five to six hours. Due to the time of release Vanquish has a lot of other games to stand up against, and in many cases it may fall short. But one thing is for sure, there is definitely fun to be had with this game and I look forward to a sequel in the future.