Ultra-cool and with so much style it would make any 3rd person shooter before it a little jealous. Vanquish is the latest high-octane adrenaline rush from Platinum Games that boasts a strong argument as this generations genre defining 3rd person shooter.
Set in the distant future where a conflict is brewing between the United States and Russia over the worlds scarce resources, Russian forces have intercepted a US constructed space station which is primarily used to harvest solar energy from the sun. However, Russian forces utilize it as a weapon of mass destruction demanding that the US surrender complete control or else.
In order to show the non-compromising US government that they mean business San Francisco gets hit with this solar blast and the outcome is catastrophic. Next on the list, New York if the US does not surrender.
Vanquish places you in the role of Sam Gideon, a government agent working under the umbrella of DARPA. Sam is called into the middle of this conflict to assist the US marines recapture the space station. Sam comes ready for battle in his state-of-the-art ARS battle suit equipped with a plethora of combat functionalities.
For starters, the ARS battle suit packs thrusters which can alter Sam’s state of presence allowing him the ability to move at unprecedented speeds for a short period of time which slows down everything around him in real time given him a battlefield edge over the enemy. Again this can only be used for a short periods of time until your suit eventually overheats so this advantage does have to be used sparingly. The ARS battle suit is also able to withstand quite a bit of punishment, however due to the relentless barrage of enemy assault you’ll be finding cover rather frequently.
Not to make any game play comparisons to Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank series, there is no denying the similarities in weaponry between both games. Weapons come in all shapes and sizes in Vanquish and Sam definitely has a field day with it. Unlike most 3rd person shooters where player are able to holster their weapons when switching to a different weapon, weapons which you pick up become apart of the ARS suit giving Sam the ability to change weapons on the fly.
Weapons are upgradeable by acquiring green 3-dimensional cubes which are scattered throughout the levels. By collecting these cubes for a select weapon, the weapons ammo count increases along with it‘s punishing power. Going from an assault rifle to your shotgun as you get closer to an enemy and eventually to your rocket launcher in order to really get your point across all while moving through the air is probably one of the coolest shooter satisfaction I’ve had all year.
Once the game starts the action becomes a non-stop action shooter thrill ride taking you through 5 acts totaling 29 missions. Early on it does seem as though there should be more character variation on the side of the enemy but as the conflict heats up Platinum Games pulls out all stops. Adding to the experience is the games intense boss battles. In one scenario as Sam gets trapped in what seems like a storage holding facility he gets confronted by a self-generative scorpion like mech that leaps out at you causing major damage on contact. These stand-offs are great regardless of how many time you die, well for me at least. Once you are able to comfortably exploit the ARS suit these encounters take on new form as you feel unstoppable.
The scorpion mech once downed becomes this red crystal ball of sorts which temporarily seeks shelter in unseen areas in order to regenerate, when this happens sliding into it performing what I like to call the cybernetic drop kick will take large amount of health from it. Doing this also causes the suit to overheat so looking for cover while shooting your way out of trouble is next on list until this boss is down for good. Again the action is up beat and fast and you can definitely take control of every situation as long as you monitor your damage intake, thrusters and slow-mo meter.
Accompanying many of these encounters are CG quality cut-scenes which interact well with the gameplay pushing the overall experience forward. With so much action and explosive energy happening on the screen at one time you would think there would have to be some signs of frame-rate dipping, however that is not the case with Vanquish. The visuals are solid as the game looks great throughout. It’s greats to look off into the distance and still witness conflict still taking place all around you. The game does have bit of a gritty texturing but this all add to the effect. Some of the best explosion particle effects were witness when a boss was taken out. The whole screen goes into an eruptive convulsion just before it ignites leaving behind an incredible volume of debris and sparks. It all looks amazing.
With so much raw cover and shoot action happening, Vanquish doesn’t admit to positioning itself on award-winning narratives. The ongoing dialogue with Elana, who is Sam’s eyes and ears of the mission is just the right amount of back and forth quite similar to that of Snake and Otacon from the famed metal Gear series. There are no signs of any love interest between the two yet there is a high level of concern for Sam shown on Elana’s behalf.
As the plot thickens and conspiracies are uncovered, Vanquish eventually becomes a race for survival and it’s time to make haste.
There are four difficulty levels and whether you play the campaign on Casual Auto or Hard, after the campaign is completed you will unlock the God Hard difficulty. If you’re a stickler for high scores and mission completion times then there’s tons of replay value waiting to be mastered after you’ve completed the campaign. The game also throws in what’s called the Vanquish Tactical Challenge. These challenges are comprised of 5 mission where you are thrown in with AI controlled marines in order to destroy all the enemies thrown at you. The longer you last the harder the challenge becomes as more powerful enemies are dropped in on you. As a way of sharpening up your skills I recommend taking on the Vanquish Tactical Challenge.
Ultimately Vanquish is a spectacular shoot’em up with stunning gunplay action that oozes with style. And even though my experience with Vanquish does not offer any emotional character drama worth mentioning, the game reaches so high in the fun department that it doesn’t matter. Shooter fans are in for a real treat as Vanquish is the defacto 3rd person shooter of 2010.