The latest game by Platinum Games and published by Sega is finally here and I personally have been waiting for it with baited breath. If you’re not aware of Platinum Games, they are a Japanese power house in the gaming industry, with previous work being the genre redefining Bayonetta. Made up of ex Clover Studio employees and Capcom; with key titles like Viewtful Joe and Okami under the belt of ex employees and the creator of Resident Evil, can they actually make a bad game? The answer with Vanquish is a definite no! Vanquish is a ball breaking action ride from start to finish and redefines the cover and shoot 3rd person genre popularised by Gears of War.
Directed by Shinji Mikami, the man responsible for the Resident Evil series; Vanquish is set at the end of the 20th century. Basically the world is in a struggle through the population reaching over ten billion and their not being enough food to go around, so everyone gets a bit tetchy and wars break out. The USA decides to build a self sufficient space colony orbiting the planet to alleviate this, with its own microwave power source. Unfortunately a big bad Russian, Victor Zaitsev, overthrows his own Russian government and takes over the military forces under the banner of Russian Star. Victor hijacks the space station and turns the microwave power source into a laser beam, wiping out San Francisco in one press of a button. Victor then rings up the president of USA using his quick dial “evil dictators are us” hotline number to get thru direct and demands unconditional surrender from the USA, or New York will be next. Unfortunately for Victor he didn’t bank on one lone man spoiling his fun, Sam Gideon. Sam is told by the President to board the space station and take it back from Victor saving the day. Sam has help alongside him with an endless supply of marines and their C.O., Lt Col Robert Burns.
You play as Sam Gideon who is a researcher for an agency called Defence Advanced Research Projects, or DARPA for short. Sam has been designing a tactical suit called Augmented Reaction Suit, ARS for short with the help of a Dr Candide. The suit is capable of a number of exiting gadgets including being able to slow time down temporarily and being able to slide a gigantic distance on his arse at speed. Unfortunately there is a down side to the suit, as it overheats when exposed to doing these for any great length of time, so Sam has to learn to keep an eye on the heat gauge and let it recharge before he can use it again.
Vanquish is a 3rd person action game in the same genre as Gears of War. The best way to describe Vanquish is take the bullet time from Max Payne, add in some Gears of War cover and combat and finish with Lost Planet style bosses; a true smorgos board of the best bits from these games.
The gameplay in Vanquish is fantastic. Firstly the basics; the suit lets you pick up an assortment of different firearms which you assign to a dpad. You are allowed to carry 3 different weapons and two grenade types. The guns feel weighty and have a good aiming feel to it; not sloppy or any dead zone. Each time you pick up the same weapon it adds its ammo to it and starts to level that weapon up to eventually a maximum level. Each level up increases things like ammo, damage and recoil. There is a good assortment of weapons from heavy/standard machine guns to shotguns and rocket launchers. You can also go in and punch up close, but there is a penalty to that, as it overheats your suit instantly. The combat is behind 3rd person viewpoint and pretty much the same gunplay and cover button design and system as Gears of War.
The ARS suit, what Sam wears, is the star of the game and allows you to slide like crazy around the landscape; firing your guns like a maniac and if you fancy in slow motion, (slow motion is called AR in the game). The gameplay is clever, as it forces you to use AR as a cover system due to a recharging heat bar. When you activate either AR or slide, the ARS suit starts to overheat, which is represented by a green bar on your HUD that eventually runs out. In AR you have the same gauge as an increasingly red circle next to where you are firing, to make it easier to see how long you have left. If you disengage either before the bar runs out, the suit will recharge very quickly to be used again after a few seconds; but if you let it run out your suit overheats wasting precious extra seconds on the battlefield. You have to learn very quickly that you need to slide and use AR to get in and out of cover, instead of just being sat in one place picking enemies off; as a lot of the terrain cover is deformable. The game doesn’t have an auto slowdown mode by a click of the button; you can only use it in certain ways. You can use it when you slide, when you roll and when you’re coming out of cover. The suit does have a built in system where it will enable AR when you’re seriously damaged, so you can quickly get into cover. You are not immune from damage when in AR mode, but you can shoot projectiles out of the air! There is no health bar in Vanquish; it works on an invisible auto recharge system built into the suit.
The AR sounds a basic idea like what was used in Stranghold; but it turns Vanquish from another run of the mill 3rd person action and cover game, into for me another genre definer. The AR in Vanquish is not clumsy or clunky, it works seamlessly. Like Bayonetta the AR slowdown effect turns Vanquish from a game of its fun to kill, to a game of let’s kill things in style! I guess this is the credit of Platinum games, as they don’t just want you to kill everything quickly and move on, they want you to look good when you do it! The sliding is fun as you can slide into cover with no lack of effort, but man when you activate AR does it alter the game into a masterpiece. Jumping over a piece of cover; flying into the air in slow motion and seeing all people on the battlefield; the bullets and debris flying about; as you take aim and pick the enemies off one by one does it make the face smile. They have taken the perfect gunplay and cover of Gears of War and made it have a baby with the Matrix; in doing so they have created a thrill ride and a stylish one at that. Platinum games don’t want you to just sit there and take headshots they want you to kill with panache.
The story to be honest is the weakest point of the game. I won’t embellish on it to spoil it, but it is a tad clunky and not cohesive. The voice acting is very good, but the actual script does feel a bit cheesy in places. You don’t get much of a story thank god, just a lot of very stylish in game cut scenes and a bit of banter on the battlefield. There are options to alter language so you can have Japanese and English subs. Even though the story is the weakest part of Vanquish the action is incredible. Not often I would say something like this, but you buy Vanquish for the gameplay and to enjoy that over and over; for me very much like Bayonetta. In action and style the game just doesn’t let up on you. So forget the story and enjoy the gunplay.
The game is set over 5 acts and split into chapters with automatic saving at checkpoints. What I really like is that Vanquish is really one complete evolving level. When you finish a chapter, you move onto the next one seamlessly and you always keep every weapon you are carrying and its current ammo. You feel part of a team, as you are running around with Marines, fighting alongside them in epic battles thru the game. You can even choose to save downed Marines and revive them, giving you extra weapons and ammo if you so choose. You’re not just fighting in confined tiny areas on Vanquish; you’re fighting along countless other allies and enemy with giant mech robots, debris and bullets everywhere on sometimes huge battlefields. The marines move with you as you fight, so you’re always with people. It’s not often that a game works on this level; as usually as a protagonist we fight alone; it’s our personal struggle to kill them all, but on Vanquish Platinum Games really have made you part of an outfit and part of a grand battle to save the day. That is why the AR slowdown works. As you have to use it to get around all the enemies coming at you. It just looks jaw dropping as you see everything in exquisite detail when it all slows down. The graphics, deformation of scenery and debris are top notch; a real eye candy of a game.
What I also like about Vanquish is that the whole ethos of Vanquish is a points system, based on the old score attack. At the end of each checkpoint a scoreboard appears. Every time you die you get point deductions; tallies of how long it took you to do a section, bonuses for doing it quicker and so on. As a novel feature, each time you die your weapons are downgraded, so you have to learn to be careful. It adds to the replay ability of redoing the game over and over. Extras include a god hard mode for when you finish the game; a scoreboard system and challenges to unlock. The difficulty on default normal isn’t bad, apart from the odd harder scene, but I would expect seasoned gamers wouldn’t have any trouble. There are reports that you can finish the game in 4hours first play thru and I personally challenge that on someone’s first sitting on normal. When you finish an area it gives you your current game time, but the game time doesn’t allow for any pauses or deaths from what I gathered, so the average gamer will take around an actual 7hours to complete no matter if the in game clock says 4hours. That might sound a tad short but remember you can finish Uncharted 1 in less time. They will be one of the best 7hours you have had this year on a game though, as you will be grinning from ear to ear sliding in style and killing in bullet time. Vanquish is a sheer gluttony of action, exquisite gunplay, boss fights and level design.
- 5 Stars!
“Platinum games really have done it again with redefining another genre. Gears of War you can now go take a rest as you have been Vanquished.“
Version tested PS3