games / Reviews

Vanquish (PS3, 360) Review

November 8, 2010 | Posted by Trace Aber


Game: Vanquish
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Players: 1
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega
Rated M for Mature

Vanquish is the kind of third person shooting game that I’ve always dreamed of – it’s fast, sleek, stylish, fun and absolutely badass in just about every way imaginable. From the mind of the same guy who brought you Resident Evil, Vanquish manages to keep you on the edge of your seat while shouting to anyone near you just how awesome what you’re doing is.

Vanquish stars badass Sam Gideon taking out nationalist forces known as the Order of the Russian Star. Sam, who is a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency researcher who is badass largely in part thanks to his augmented reaction suit, which provides him with lighting quick reflexes and jet boosters that allow him to zoom across the world at blistering speeds. After destroying San Francisco, the Order of the Russian Star promises to take out New York next, so Sam Gideon and friends are on a mission to prevent them from doing just that.

Let’s get one thing straight about Vanquish – the story doesn’t matter. Despite some of the cutscenes being either graphic, awesome or both (typically both), once you start playing you forget about the story. The characters have about one or two defining qualities and that’s about it – very little development is seen. That’s not a bad thing, either. Sam’s defining characteristics – he has the latest technology in his suit and he smokes lot of cigarettes. Constantly. This dude could be under attack by the biggest threats America has ever seen, but he’s more concerned about the wind putting his flame out before he lights up.

The action of Vanquish is where the game shines. It’s fast, brutal and awe-inspiring. Bullets will whizz by you from every direction and you have to rely on reflexes and planning if you want to win. The gameplay is typical of a third-person cover-based shooter, except it’s on steroids. You’ll come across several varieties of weapons in your adventure, ranging from a shotgun to a laser gun, and you can hold three guns at any given time. They are all really responsive and are better suited to specific situations, giving the game a bit more depth than you’d first expect. You’re able to upgrade your weapons as well, though it’s the typical increase of ammo or damage upgrades.

Sam also has a unique melee attack, specific to each gun. These can come in handy when you’re zooming around the level (I’ll get to that in a second) and stumble upon an enemy who is blasting bullets in your face. These are pretty entertaining to watch, but can also lead to you getting trapped between a group of enemies. It also causes the ARS to overheat, leaving Sam exposed to enemy attacks. It’s cool though, he just uses this time to light up.

The most unique part of Vanquish are the boosters Sam’s suit has. They allow him to quickly travel from one area to the next, and since you’re able to shoot while sliding, getting kills is that much more satisfying. It might seem like overkill being able to shoot from one area to the next in mere seconds, but with the amount of lead flying around you’ll come to love the ability. It’s also handy for those looking to complete levels in the quickest time, or just get bored and want to see how fast they can go. There is a limit to the boosting though, as eventually the ARS will overheat and leave your vulnerable once more.

Seeing as how the game is cover based, Platinum Games did a great job implementing the feature. It’s extremely easy to boost yourself across half the battlefield and instantly take cover to the nearest object, grab a few shots, jump over the object, pick up the ammo (which there is typically plenty of), and boost to another cover spot. You’ll need to master the cover system as you’re often outnumbered and the enemies can be ruthless at times, but like I’ve said – it’s not all that difficult to master.

I was surprised how difficult Vanquish could be at times, even at the beginning of the game. You may think that having one of the most advanced combat suits in history would be quite the advantage, but it really only evens the playing field. When you sustain heavy damage, the suit takes over and slows down time, giving you a chance to find cover and avoid any oncoming bullets, which I’m sure there will be a lot of. There’s a little timer that tells you how much longer you have to hide, but seeing everything slow down is a real nice touch and looks great.

The boss battles are more in line with arcade shooters, as they have obvious premeditated attacks. Most of the time they will charge up in one way or the other, be it literally charging their blast or making some sort of movement that clearly implies you’re about to die if you don’t react quickly. My biggest complaint with the battles is that you’ll take on the same bosses multiple times, which makes the fights anti-climatic. Sure, the environment or situation changes, but you know pretty much what to expect.

Speaking of environments, the world of Providence (where the game takes place) is simply beautiful. There’s so much attention to detail that you can miss some of the best scenes in recent gaming due to the gameplay being so fast and frantic. Along your fight for America, you’ll encounter a variety of locations and situations, some that are simply breathtaking. One of my favorites included a high-speed train chase where the view of the camera would suddenly change and switch everything up. There’s plenty of moments like this that keeps the action feeling fresh, which is helpful as sometimes the game can get a bit repetitive. Many of the enemies are red robots that are out to kill you, and while it’s always fun to stop robots dead in their tracks, you can only kill so many before you start to become apathetic.

One of Vanquish’s biggest negatives is the game length. You can beat it in about five to seven hours, depending on how you play. While this isn’t necessarily short for a third person shooter, the fact it features no multiplayer mode really hurts its value. Paying $60 for six hours of gameplay is hard to swallow for a lot of gamers, even if the game does offer some challenge levels after the campaign is finished. A simple multiplayer mode would have made this game much more worthy of the price tag.

While I mentioned above that the story of Vanquish didn’t matter, it is a bit disappointing that they didn’t try anything new. If the story did more than simply connect events together, Vanquish could have been a true A-list title that may have begun a franchise. Unfortunately, as it is, it’s nothing more than an extremely fun, six hour game. The characters, as I mentioned early, do little to make you care and while it doesn’t really hurt the game due to its great gameplay, it doesn’t help the game at all either.

Pros
-Great looking environments
-Smooth gameplay
-Great cover system
-Boosting is a blast!
-Epic boss battles (first time around, at least)
-Never gets boring

Cons
-Short gameplay length
-No multiplayer mode
-Repeated bosses and enemies
-Story is simply there

The 411
Vanquish isn’t for everyone, but it is one of the most stylish and best looking games I’ve played all year. The action is fast and frantic and unlike anything else I’ve played. Despite the ridiculous speed that would even have Sonic jealous, the cover system works perfectly. The great gameplay manages to cover up what is a bare-bones story that does little more than explain what’s happening. The lack of multiplayer hurts the replayability of the game, and it’s going to be hard to justify spending $60 for such a limited title. That being said, the game is one of the most fun I’ve played all year and if you have the cash, you should definitely check it out. A demo is up if you’d like to get a taste of the game before putting your hard earned money down.

Graphics8.5Everything looks great and there's little slowdown, but there's not much variety in overall theme 
Gameplay9.0The cover system works brilliantly and you never feel out of control, despite flying around at super speed 
Sound8.0The music sets the mood perfectly, and is quite catchy. Bullet hell sounds just like it should 
Lasting Appeal6.5Vanquish's biggest weakness - it's simply too short. 
Fun Factor 8.5Despite the short length, this game is a blast to play 
Overall8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend

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Trace Aber

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