Published on November 22nd, 2010 | by Swaine Dillinger1
Vanquish – Review
Summary: The core elements of Vanquish are deep and satisfying
As bullets penetrate the air, ricocheting off one another, gathering in piles around your feet, you cower behind a small piece of cover and can’t help but feel you’ve been here before…
Cover shooters are familiar territory, and Platinum Games’ Vanquish introduces an injection of Red Bull into its veins and greases up the floors for its hero to knee slide along them. Meet Sam Gideon, a fearless grunt dressed to the nines in an Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS) suit. He joins Lt. Robert ‘heartless’ Burns and his team on a mission to recapture a Providence Space Colony after it’s seized by Russian military faction ‘The Order of the Russian Star’.
After declaring war by attacking San Francisco, time is ticking away until The Order executes their next assault. From the word go, Vanquish is a high-octane visceral journey, making regular stops for adrenaline-pumping skirmishes, and giving you the opportunity to flex the abilities of your ARS suit. Jet thrusters attached to the suit’s arms and legs allow Sam to knee-slide along the floor, which is a satisfying maneuver that makes Gears of War’s roadie run look like an OAP stroll in the park.
Activating the suit’s AR mode gives players a brief advantage, turning epic shootouts into ambient slow-motion pace to blast your robotic opponents in slow mo – a crucial feature when you’re up against a boss whose weak point may only be exposed for seconds at a time. There is, however, a strict balance to using all of these neat little tricks. Boosting, using the AR mode and even performing one of Sam’s damage-heavy melee attacks, can cause your suit to overheat, leaving you exposed and extremely vulnerable.
One of the few godsends of this is that you’ll automatically initiate AR mode should you take heavy amounts of damage, giving you a fleeting opportunity to find some cover to take a breather or take a risk and go in guns blazing. It’s a harsh but necessary measure that makes mastering all of its intricacies a reward in itself. Like any cover shooter, the variety of arms offers plenty of ways to slay your opponents.
Rather than have you lug an inventory of weapons around, Sam’s equipped with a single weapon that mimics up to three guns, morphing between them at your will. Upgrades come in the form of random drops or by scanning the same weapons if you’ve got full ammunition.
Sounds simple to abuse, but this fragile system deducts one level of your upgrades should you die, and encourages you to swap out weapons regularly while focusing your upgrades on a specific firearm. The core elements of Vanquish are deep, satisfying and marred only by your own inability to master the suit’s capabilities.
The presentation is also solid, borrowing inspiration from manga and anime to create its glistening utopia, and almost plagiarises the works of Michael Bay for some of its enemy design. Thrown together, Vanquish is an explosion of metal and sparks that occasionally erupts into a firework display as an enemy spends a hundred missiles into the sky. Vanquish upholds many of Platinum Games’ staples for providing a unique twist on an over-subscribed genre.
Telling a decent story however proves to be the studios bronze medal. Confused character motivations, predictable twists and a conclusion that sacrifices a worthy ending in order to pave the way for a sequel makes the six-hour campaign a little hard to swallow.
The lack of any multiplayer or co-op certainly isn’t made up for by a measly Challenge mode. With one finger firmly on the pulse, Vanquish is as refreshing as it is familiar. A few minor issues and a lackluster story don’t slow down this speedy shooter from competing with its peers even if it falls short of glory.