With so many third-person cover-based shooters out there, you wouldn’t think that a Japanese developer would be the one to truly make something that feels both familiar and incredibly new. Platinum Games, the crazy team behind MadWorld and Bayonetta, returns with Vanquish, one of the most over-the-top shooters I have ever played. That said, it’s also one of the most stylistic and intense shooters around.
The game plays rather majestically, which is a word I never thought I’d use to describe a shooter. It feels pretty basic at first, but your main character, Sam Gideon, has the ARS or Augmented Reality Suit. It allows him to do some pretty ridiculous things, such as power sliding and slowing down time (which also happens automatically when he is badly damaged). The drawback of the suit is when he does any of these things, he loses power, meaning he needs to wait a few seconds to recharge before he can do it again.
All of this comes into play during Vanquish’s many fast and frenetic encounters with the enemy forces, a large variety of robots that are hellbent on making sure you don’t survive. The game, at its core, is your typical third-person shooter. But when you power slide into an enemy, kick him into a wall, and then proceed to jump and slow down time to shoot out another three robots nearby, you have something completely different and ultimately amazing.
The controls are precise and, with time, you will be able to pull of ridiculous things that allow you to take down multiple enemies at once. You can only carry three weapons at a time, but the game allows you multiple opportunities to switch between different weapons as you progress. And the more you pick up specific weapons, the more powerful they get. There are also upgrades scattered around that you can pick up that help with this as well.
Vanquish is all about keeping up a good rhythm, and not in the music game sense. While you may find it comforting to take cover and pick off enemies from afar, which can be helpful in certain situations, doing your best to keep moving is the best way to keep Vanquish from getting stale rather quickly. It is often key to be moving around as much as possible and as quickly as possible, especially in the later areas where you are literally swarmed with enemies. The bosses you face lend well to these strategies you will develop over time.
The thing that ties Vanquish together is the gorgeous look of the game. Everything looks so clean and the countless things going on during gameplay is impressive. While the voice acting is nothing special, and the story is rather forgettable, they never bog down the experience at all. Vanquish is a game that never relies heavily on story or cutscenes, and it benefits greatly from it.
Vanquish is truly an accomplishment. It manages to make itself stand out among a crowded genre of Gears of War-clones thanks to the incredibly talented team over at Platinum. They know just how to make sure that their games, while resembling other titles, feel truly different and original. The one drawback is the short campaign length, but this is a game you will feel the need to replay countless times as you try to perfect your techniques. To call this a brilliant game would be an understatement.
Pros: Tight (and precise) controls; stunning visuals; combat and shooting that sets itself apart from most shooters
Cons: The short game length might be a downside for some