Game Review: Vanquish
Genre:3rd Person Shooter
Developer: Platinum Games
Available Platforms: Xbox 360 and PS3
ESRB Rating: M
Vanquish is the newest game from Platinum Games, the creators of Madworld, Infinite Space, and Bayonetta. Platinum Games is one of the most unique developers making games today. Most developers focus on making safe investments. That means sequels, multiplayer, the World War somewhere in the title. I have no problem with that. I’m buying Call of Duty Black Ops and Gears of War 3. But if there weren’t studios like Platinum Games out there, the industry would be lacking something. Platinum Games makes new IPs with no installed fan base, no multiplayer and hardly any marketing. That wouldn’t mean anything if their games were bad, but Madworld was great and Bayonetta is one of the best games of the year. So did they keep this level of quality with Vanquish?
If you had to put Vanquish into a genre you would call it a Sci-Fi, 3rd person, cover based shooter. It is the future and Russia has just attacked the United States from a space colony. The USA launches a counter attack against the colony and that’s where you come in. You play as Sam Gideon, a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) agent. Sam and DARPA have been developing an advanced battle suit known as the ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit). It’s the ARS that lets you become the most dangerous thing in the battle. It has sets of boosters all around the suit that let you jet around the battlefield with incredible speed. It’s this mobility that sets Vanquish apart from other shooters.
3rd person, cover based shooter makes people think of games like Gears of War and Uncharted (two games I love) but Vanquish feels very different from either of those games. The thing that sets it apart is its speed. In Vanquish you won’t be jogging from cover to cover, killing a few enemies to proceed. You aren’t scared that the second you leave cover you will be killed. In Vanquish you will be jetting across the battlefield, shooting hundreds of bullets while trying to avoid thousands of them. You will slam into cover at full speed, kill a few enemies from cover, take a quick smoke break, then jump up and mow down some more enemies. You are so fast that staying in cover isn’t your only option to stay alive. That speed is vital when fighting some of the epic enemies and situations that Platinum Games throws at you.
That description makes Vanquish sound extremely frantic, and it is. But Vanquish has two things that make this chaos fun. The first is bullet time. Bullet time has been in many games over the years but Vanquish is the best implementation of it I have played. There are a few scenarios where you can activate bullet time. One is after dodging you can activate it so that the world slows down and you are standing still, which is perfect for making precise shots. You can also activate it while you are jetting around. This lets you pull off some pretty fantastic moves and is one of my favorite parts of the game. Getting your shotgun, jetting behind enemy cover, slowing down time, and pulling of a one shot kill is about as cool as anything I’ve done in a game. Bullet time also activates when you are near death. This is a great mechanic for the game. Since everything is moving so fast and there are so many enemies you are bound to get blown apart once in a while. Activating bullet time automatically when this happens gives players a chance to get into cover or kill the enemies shooting at them and hopefully survive. It helps a lot and gives you a second (or third or fourth) chance at surviving an encounter.
The second thing that helps deal with the speed of Vanquish is the perfect controls. Bayonetta is amazing because the controls are perfect. Platinum Games has done the same for Vanquish. As soon as you start playing, if you have played any shooter before, the controls come naturally. Even the boosting and bullet time controls come easily. Boosting into cover, jumping over it, shooting a robot, throwing a punch, reloading, and dodging is all unbelievably fluid. Platinum Games deserves tons of credit for making such a fast, complicated game so easy to control.
The graphics of Vanquish are amazing and they are enhanced by the visual flair that Platinum Games has. The ARS is one of the best looking suits of armor in any video game (I’m looking at you Mjolnir Armor). Every detail of it is thought out and displayed. You can see how the helmet folds back to expose Sam’s face. You can see each part that opens to expose a booster. When your armor over heats because you boosted too much or stayed in bullet time too long, you see the core come out to cool itself off. Even switching weapons is fun to watch. Instead of picking up weapons, your gun can copy others. So switching from an assault rifle to a shotgun means that your gun folds back on itself, then unfolds takes the shape of your new weapon. Vanquish’s attention to detail and commitment to its world makes the game much better.
The isn’t perfect though. I did run into a glitch that almost left me stuck. I had to shoot someone on my own side so that they would become unstuck from the invisible wall they were running into. If I hadn’t been able to do that I would’ve had to restart the game. Some people won’t like that many of the places you fight look very similar to each other, though that didn’t bother me. There isn’t much variety in terms of gameplay. You won’t be platforming or solving puzzles. Your job is to kill the enemies and that’s what 99 percent of the game will have you doing. Since the gameplay is so good, I don’t see that as a downside, but it is worth noting.
Vanquish is one of my biggest surprises and one of my favorite games of the year. It doesn’t have a big name like Fallout or Fable. It doesn’t have million dollar marketing like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed. What is does have is some of the most fun gameplay of the year and one of the best developers in video games behind it. Anyone who gives this game a chance will be pleasantly surprised by its quality and hopefully word of mouth will give it sales. Lots of gamers complain that companies only pump out sequels. Those gamers need to speak with their dollars and support fantastic original games like Vanquish.
P.S. If you are stuck in cover because there are too many bullets coming at you, take a smoke break. It will do more than just calm Sam down.