Just when you thought Bayonetta was completely mental.
So let me get this straight, the story of Vanquish is set in the near future and the population of Earth has grown out of control, fair enough. Then nations around the world scrap for depleted resources, again that’s fine. Therefore; the American government tries to resolve its own energy issues by propelling an ‘O’Neill Cylinder’ (why this name I’ll never know) space station equipped with a solar powered generator which would use the sun as a source of alternate fuel. However (oh yes just wait), the Russian government has been overthrown by ultra-nationals called ‘the Order of the Russian Star’. Keeping up? Good; Russian forces hijack the space station and turn its stored solar energy into a blast wave that devastates San Francisco, aiming to force America into a complete surrender. The super evil head of this terribly evil empire, known as Victor Zaitsev (typical Russian, who uncannily resembles Richard O’Brien in Dark City), demands that America surrenders or New York City is next!
Obviously this is where you come in right? Ok so maybe it is best not to pay too much attention to the incredibly dated, utterly nonsense, but none the less hilariously entertaining storyline. As anyone who would has had the privilege of playing through the brain-meltingly wondrous Bayonetta would tell you, the story makes as much sense as a chocolate fireguard, I mean seriously are we really going all predictable nineties hammer and sickle on Vanquish? But let me put something straight, as with Bayonetta, this game is truly a fabulous, utterly bonkers action fest. As the American government refuses to back down from the ‘commy’ threats, you are thrust into battle with Bravo Company, controlled by visceral action hero Robbie Burns, under the guise of Same Gideon. Through the D.A.R.P.A. (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) program you are equipped with an ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit) which is equally as ludicrous as the storyline and all the more entertaining. As Gideon you have the ability to replicate weapons around you to their full potential, acrobatically evade oncoming attacks through numerous fields, power-slide around the largest foes with consummate ease and even slow down time in order to pick of a whole host of enemies all at once.
The combat system also allows you to use a groundbreaking cover system against the enemies, like no other system before; Vanquish has bullet and missile trails amassing from all directions. Some cover points are effortlessly destroyed with often a single shot from a robotic enemy being enough recoil Gideon away from cover and scamper for another one, you will also get marked down for hiding too much like a dirty unwanted chicken. So seen as you won’t be, pop out of cover and let the carnage start. Use the evade button with the target button at the correct time and enter Vanquishes version of ‘bullet-time’(Augmented Reality mode so they say) allowing you to batter numerous enemies with your selected weapon all at once, or reduce a large chunk of energy from a much larger enemy. Although cleverly this perk is fitted into the energy of your suit, the more time you sit on AR mode, the more that energy is depleted from your suit, making you extremely vulnerable to fatal attacks. This balance of power and protection is a key element in progressing through some of the heavily populated enemies. This gives the player scope for creative gambling of the suits power and energy and thoroughly enhances the usually bland third person shooter game play. If, like Murphy before he became Robocop, you become hideously riddled with bullets then ‘bullet-time’ will automatically kick in, giving you chance to scramble for cover or take out the last remaining robots communist foes (is there any worse kind) to complete the stage. Need to get through an area in a hurry or run rings around larger enemies? Worry not as Gideon’s suit comes fully equipped with a booster. This acts as both a defensive escape and an offensive setup, generating original game play markers for cover-based shooters and increasing the pace significantly. Finally the melee attack lets you punch whole motherboards out of your evil robotic nasties, several types are available but couple the booster with melee and watch robo-baddy fly across the map in bits. All of these again affect your energy; with one melee attack making your suit overheat momentarily, so again mixing it up is crucial.
Vanquish would be nowhere without its own augmented weapons. Gideon’s arsenal consists of the inter-morph blade weapons tech along with two types of grenade. The morphing (blade) system allows the player to carry three weapons at once, with a whole host of cheeky little numbers available, maybe not as much as Commando but you can’t have everything your greedy swans. Sam is able to swap weapons if he encounters a new one, so creating a crisp balance of weapons is vital to progression and survival. So you’ve maxed out your machine gun and you come to weapon storage and it’s yet another ruddy machine gun! But wait, Vanquish rewards the player for keeping hold of the same weapon because even if you’ve maxed out the ammo, picking it up will upgrade any weapon making it much more powerful. So their maximum ammo storage, their accuracy and their blast radius are improved with every pick-up. Upgrades can also be gained but helping injured members of your squad before they die.
Many other game play scenarios exist in order to keep the game fresh. Gideon can commandeer enemy vehicles or static guns, smoke a cig whilst in cover and flick it out to distract enemies, nice. A kin to God of War there also exist a nicely integrated quick time mini game that aids in taking down that slightly larger opponent, none the less still immensely gratifying. As you would expect, as the game progresses the set pieces increase and become heavily populated with enemies, making your work with the powers you improve throughout. There certainly isn’t as many crazed boss creations as with Bayonetta but that still doesn’t let it down any.
Yes Vanquish suffers from being a little short, plus the element of the ‘challenge’ mode in which you play through other more intense set pieces is a superficial way of trying to expand the game (although there’s an achievement in it for you) this in no way detracts from what is an excellent cover-based shooter. It is nowhere near Mass Effect, but then it never tries to pass itself off as anything else. If the games director Shinji Mikami has any sense he would carry on this little arcade based gem, here lies a game engine that is fresh, fast and slots into a niche in the games market. But by no means does that endorse a sequel, or at least have writers pad out the story. It makes The Expendables seem like Good Will Hunting at times. But not to use the powers created by Vanquish and create another original cover-shooter would be a crime. A downright insane yet genuinely enjoyable sci-fi-communist-tzar-based-robot-laser-augmented-lady-president-russian-genome-soldier-treat.
GRAPHICS – 7.0
Vanquish doesn’t have to rely on awe inspiring visuals for entertainment, yet it is perfectly adequate. It harmonises the action in both backdrop and interactive movement. Plus the greatest animation is Gideon distracting robots with a cigarette, priceless.
SOUND – 7.0
Questionable cut-scene acing coupled with enormously earth-shuddering action noises balances out the score here.
ENJOYMENT – 8.0
For the extremely reasonable price Vanquish maybe slightly short but packs a punch and is well worth the investment. Intense action.
Developer(s): Platinum Games
Director(s): Shinji Mikami
Producer(s): Atsushi Inaba
Designer(s): Masaaki Yamada, Shigenori Nishikawa, Junichi Oka, Hiroki Kato
Writer(s): Hiroki Kato, Jean Pierre Kellams
Composer(s): Erina Niwa, Masafumi Takada, Masakazu Sugimori
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s): NA October 19, 2010 JP October 21, 2010 EU October 26, 2010
Genre(s): Third-person shooter
Rating(s): BBFC: 15 CERO: D ESRB: M PEGI: 18
Media/distribution: Blu-ray Disc, DVD