Oh, baby. If you like action games that never let up and blow you away with style and panache, then you have the game of your dreams here in Vanquish. It was directed by the creator of the Resident Evil series, Shinji Mikami. It’s almost funny if you compare this game with Mr. Mikami’s first Resident Evil which was as stiff as Gorilla Glue. In that game, you’d be lucky enough to escape a zombie without bumping into walls every five seconds. But in this game, you’re flying all over the place and killing robots.
The storyline isn't as intense. It suffers from the same hackneyed video game tropes that have hampered the genre for decades now. The story’s about a rapidly expanding global population that causes certain nations to push outwards into space to make room for the people down on Earth. Sounds interesting, right? And it is. But herein lies the problem: the main enemy of the game is some nihilistic Russian leader, who leads a group called the “Order of the Russian Star.” He basically has no emotions whatsoever and has this glazed over video game look that just pulls you right out of the storyline just by looking at him. He uses this weapon that wipes out half of San Francisco, and it’s just not believable at all. Why is this story even in the game? I’m all about a compelling narrative and whatnot, but when the gameplay is going to take center stage here (Which it really does, more on that in a moment), then why come up with such an elaborate storyline that’s not even going to deliver on the goods? Why not just have the President (who looks like Hillary Clinton, by the way) get kidnapped by ninjas, or something? Why go through all the trouble of boring the audience with a story that they couldn’t care less about?
The action, however, is amazing. You take on the role of Sam Gideon, who has a super suit that can pretty much blow the hell out of anything. Not since I first controlled Kratos in the first God of War did I feel so powerful with a video game character. Sam can switch weapons on the fly, slide on his knees at hyper speed, and even topple enormous mechs by leaping up and punching them in the face. Seriously, could this gamebe any more exciting? On your journey, which is like one really long mission, you head into enemy fire with guns a-blazing. You’re constantly ducking and taking cover so your suit can regenerate itself, as it tends to overheat with all the action that’s going on. The cover system doesn’t slow the action down, though; enemies will quickly blow up whatever cover you’re hiding behind so you need to keep moving.
What’s interesting about this overheating system is that you can actually push your suit to the limit by performing cool attacks like melee strikes or the slow-motion “bullet time” effects. These actions don’t only look cool, but they actually give you an edge over the enemy. At the same time, the game somewhat punishes you for using these attacks because you’re more vulnerable afterwards from enemy fire. This makes for a lot of sweat inducing, panicky moments where you’re looking for the nearest safe spot to hide behind while your suit replenishes itself. All the while, some other troops are still shooting at whatever’s out there shooting at you, so it puts you in the moment of being in the midst of a full-scale battle. It really pulls you in.
The controls took a little while for me to get the hang of but after awhile, they just start to make sense and your hands do all the work for you. As with Platinum Games’ previous release Bayonetta, there is a casual setting for players with more clumsy fingers. In this case, casual mode gives you auto aim. Casual or not, in no time you’ll be easily busting out awesome moves and taking out robots. You’ll kill lots of robots, by the way. The missions themselves offered enough variety to compensate.
The pacing never lets up. Every time you topple some giant robot or control some speeding hovercraft, you’re confronted with more enemies nearly seconds afterwards, so the game really never lets up. Mikami’s Resident Evil games were slowed down by puzzles and escort missions but Vanquish doesn’t have that problem. I commend Platinum Games for not putting any puzzles in the game and sticking with straight-up action as it really gets the ol’ heart pumping. That being said, the lack of puzzles or other breaks in action makes the game a little short. I beat it in only seven hours. And I’ve heard reports of it beaten in even shorter playtimes. That’s okay with me, though, because the shorter (And tighter) the gameplay is, the better.
Overall, I love this game. It’s fast, it’s frenetic, and it’s fun as all hell. Sure, it’s kind of short, and sure, the delivery of the storyline could have been much better, but as a whole, the game blows you out of the water with its awesomeness. If you like action games and feel that you haven’t played a good one in a long time, then Vanquish is the game for you. You’re going to have one hell of a ride.
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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