For those who have let this excellent title slip by them, Vanquish is an amazing third-person cover based shooter, and if you’re looking for a six to seven hour non-stop roller coaster ride of high speed, high octane gaming greatness, then Vanquish‘s single-player campaign is definitely for you.
Developed by Platinum Games and published by Sega, Vanquish was the brainchild of God Hand and Resident Evil 4 director Shinji Mikami. While it may not have sold well and genuinely took a lot of gamers by surprise, it became many gamers must-have ‘instant-hit’ title for it’s fun combat and frantic pace. Arguably this is one of the best video game surprises of this generation, bringing a host of gaming mechanics together superbly. It grabs you by the arm and pulls you into adventure at literally break-neck speeds and it just doesn’t let go.
Now I’m done ‘bigging-up’ the game we can get down to the nitty gritty of why it’s so good – and you’ll quickly realise that those words I said are no word of a lie. So, what makes this game so different and unique from your other run of the mill cover-based shooters? Well, other than the fact that it’s story can’t exactly be considered mind-blowing, it definitely serves it’s purpose well and creates an extremely tight narrative that many other games could easily be envious of – even if it’s rife with twists and turns when things heat up in the second half.
Set in the near future, a Soviet-loving terrorist group known as the Order of the Russian Star have overthrown the Russian Federation on Earth and taken over the Cylinder Space Station – which is used to harness solar energy from the Sun and use it as an alternate power source. Wanting to get the worlds attention, as terrorists largely seem to want to do, the Order then use the space station to fire an solar energy blast to devastate and near destroy the city of San Francisco.
Understandably, the US Government isn’t very happy about this and the President – who is finally female – orders the dispatch of a special task force known as Bravo Company, who are led by war veteran Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns, to the space station to make those enemies of Earth pay. Not wanting to do a job by half measures, the President and Secretary of Defence decide to despatch the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) agent Sam Gideon to the battlefield complete with classified orders. Make no mistake about it, Sam can handle himself in the heat of battle as a rough’n'tough DARPA researcher and solider with only a cigarette and prototype ARS suit to keep him going.
This ARS suit, or Augmented Reaction Suit to give it its full name, is where Vanquish begins to show it’s own flavour. This suit is the core of Vanquish, it’s the beating heart that at first seems overwhelming, then becomes liberating as you progress through the game and grow to know how to use its features. Armed with the BLADE system, or Battlefield Logic ADaptable Electronic weapons system to give it the long title, the ARS can scan any existing weapon in the field and transform into a fully functional replica. This means that Sam can convert the BLADE into three different weapons on the fly, utilising ammo cache containers across the battlefield to refill any needed ammunition. This process means you wont be slowed down by picking up weapons, or changing them, in the heat of battle, and slow is the last thing Vanquish wants you to be.
To ensure you don’t ever slow down, the ARS is equipped with four jet boosters – one for each limb – allowing Sam to rocket slide across the floor from cover to cover, jump from great heights and pirouette in the air all while shooting wildly. Couple this with melee smashes that utilise the extra power, and slow motion to increase the damage you’ll do while travelling at such speeds, you’ve essentially got organised chaos in digital form.
Of course you can’t expect it to be action like this all the time, your arms, legs and eyes would turn to jelly; so to help break it up some on-rail sequences step in now and again to provide some arcade-style shooting that really compliments the bullet ballet that sandwiches them in. It’s arcade styling fits the multiplier score attack nature of Vanquish‘s gunplay, meaning you’re always pushing forward to attain the best score possible.
You should expect plenty of banter between both Lt. Col. Burns and Sam who are both witty and have this ‘old married couple’ rapport as opposed to the ‘bromance’ found in Gears of War and Hollywood movies. The sarcasm expressed by both characters injects some stellar entertainment during the mission briefings and those much needed action breaks. It’s made even more enjoyable by the spot on voice acting and a script that knows it’s OTT and full of tropes, it’s really just a win-win situation.
But Vanquish isn’t just about holding down the fire button or testing your cover based antics, there’s a lot of strategy and quick thinking involved as each experience tends to surprise as much as challenge. Do you go for cover? Or should you boost-slide straight across the field and follow up with a kick to competition? Maybe you’ll snipe the bot controlling the mech, before sliding over and mounting it so you can use its firepower against the onslaught of enemies. Perhaps you’ll just blast that piece of tin and it’s rider with it? Or, you know, you could just stick to cover.
Of course, even in this near future world nothing is for free, and so the power of the ARS suit does come with one caveat. With all the energy being burned by the suit during your activities, it’ll regularly overheat and thus need to cool rather rapidly. It’s this cooling process that leaves you out in the cold and vulnerable in the heart of a battle. Luckily this mechanic adds another layer to Vanquish‘s tactical might, and so you’ll be continually thinking out your plan of attack while judging if you’ve got the skills to pull it off – as the suit never upgrades: what you start with is what you get for the entirety of the game, it’s you that has to improve. Even the bosses aren’t as easily dispatched as you’d think, with many requiring wildly different tactics to take them down, even if you come across the same mech type again.
Visually Vanquish also ticks all the boxes with it’s brilliant futurist approach of brushed steel and angular surfaces. It’s unrelenting pace could mean that visual sheen can be ignored, but true to Platinum Games’ form everything looks absolutely fantastic. One thing that is worth mentioning; because Vanquish is fast paced and full of gunfire and explosions it might be worth downloading a demo first incase you have issues with flashing images or fast moving images.
With enough replayability to last 2 or 3 times through in quick succession, you won’t get tired of experimenting with the best way to soar through a level, or in boosting scores in each level too.
If you’ve not yet picked up Vanquish then you do owe it to yourself to give it a go, and you can pick it up for around the £10 with little effort. It’s safe to say that since October 2010 gaming has most definitely accelerated.