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Vanquish Review

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Developer: Platinum Games Publisher: Sega
Release Date: October 21, 2010 Available On: PS3 and Xbox 360

From the developers of the insanely entertaining Bayonetta comes Vanquish, a “high octane” game that is “explosive and exciting”. The promise of a frenzied and chaotic 3rd person shooter in a futuristic setting led me to believe that perhaps the Japanese had returned to reclaim the video game industry. Vanquish is directed by Shinji Mikami , a man with some serious titles under his belt, like Resident Evil 4 (story, director) and Viewtiful Joe (executive producer) and many more. I was ready for something crazy and unique. Honestly, I was excited to play the heck out of this game. Once it arrived, I hoped that I would at least meet my expectations for something fresh.

There is not much story to speak of in Vanquish. While the cut scenes are rather long, pre-rendered and more compressed than I would like, the story therein is no 2001: A Space Odyssey. Vanquish is set in the future when the population of Earth soared to 10 billion. Scarce resources resulted in numerous wars. To escape the mounting pressures, the SC-01 Space Colony was established. This cylindrical space station (O’Neill Cylinder), is modeled after the design proposed by Gerard K. O’Neill in his book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space.

The space colony is a marvel of scientific accomplishment as it harvests energy from the sun, providing an unlimited and rich source of energy. A Russian ultra-nationalist group, the Order of the Russian Star, hijacks the space station, diverts the energy into a devastating ray that obliterates San Francisco. The group then demands unconditional surrender by the United States or it will set New York City as its next target.

The setup to Vanquish does not beat around the bush. The stage is set, the characters are in play, and the conflict has begun. There is nothing more to do thereafter than to simply move forward. The characters are never very well developed, if developed at all. Character development is relegated mostly to reading a couple of paragraphs about each character during the loading screen. The majority of dialogue is exchanged between the main character, Sam Gideon, a chain smoking DARPA researcher and action hero stud, and Elena Ivanova, a logistics support DARPA officer in an official uniform with a very short skirt.

The supporting lead is Lt. Col. Robert Burns, a giant brute of a man who must make all the hard decisions in life and thinks nothing of leaving his fellow marines behind to be slaughtered. Minor characters are chief researcher at DARPA, Dr. Francois Candide, a handsome 40 something in a nice suit; Hillary Clinton look-alike and “we do not deal with terrorists” hardliner President Elizabeth Winters; and finally, arch nemesis Principle of the Order of the Russian Star Victor Zaitsev, a very evil Russian man in a very tight space suit that leaves nothing to the imagination.

Vanquish features a rather expected twist and reveal late in the game, a hasty love interest thrown in for good measure, and leaves the franchise open for the future. Really, the previous few paragraphs in this review are all that Vanquish has to offer for story. Even the cut-scenes and pre-rendered movies present the story in an uninteresting way. I suppose that what Vanquish lacks in story, it makes up in game play and entertainment, even if it is a little short on that too.

Vanquish is fast, a bit frantic, and definitely explosive. Sam moves fluidly and the ability to slow down time, or really react super-fast, makes him a very precise and affective weapon. If you need some comparison, think Halo plus Gears of War plus Bayonetta with lots of robots. Sam’s Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS) augments his reaction time, melee strength, as well as gives him the ability to replicate weapons found on the field and equips him with jet boosters in his arms and legs. The most represented aspect of his ARS is his augmented reaction (AR) time. Activating AR increases Sam’s reaction speed, which to the player appears as if he had slowed down time, separating himself from the normal flow of things.

Sam’s augmented melee strength is possible due to the ARS being constructed of a material that is stronger than steel but has “barely perceptible weight”. The strength of the ARS comes through as super strong melee attacks that devastate enemies, ripping them to shreds. The jet boosters in the ARS allow Sam to slide, like a baseball player sliding to home base, though the battlefield with minimal effort. Of course, taking advantage of the ARS enhancements overheats the system and Sam must wait until the heat dissipates to use those abilities again.

The game does have a weapons upgrade system, but the chaotic pace does not lend itself to silly upgrade menus. Thankfully, weapon upgrades are handled on the fly. You simply pick up a weapon already in your arsenal and it upgrades, increasing firepower or giving you an increase in rounds, as well as replenishing your ammunition. The current level of your weapon is displayed by a handy rank insignia next to your weapon on the HUD. If you are killed at any time, you resume the game with your weapons down-ranked a few levels.

Vanquish is fast paced, and frenzied and heavily linear. There is never a branching path. Perhaps it taxes the hardware with its speed and frantic game play, but the visuals are never jaw dropping. There is plenty of motion blur and particle effects. The overall color palette is cold, save for some brightly colored robotic enemies. Most of the environments are monochrome. Even the grassy park area mid game was a bit bland looking.

The machines you fight against are the game’s highest creative point. Many are large and vicious. The larger enemies have at least two forms: an insectoid form and the other a bipedal form. A later portion of the game has you fighting inside a spinning cylindrical area. I expected this area to mark a point in which the game went all-out but there was never such an event. Vanquish progresses at a steady pace but never climaxes into something great. Perhaps having played Bayonetta, a similarly fast-paced game, I was expecting something over-the-top along those same lines. Both games come from the same developer, Platinum Games, after all.

Visually, this game looks great. It is easy to compare the overall presentation with other franchises. The hulking mass that is Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Burns looks straight out of a page from Gears of War. Main character Sam Gideon looks like a more streamlined version of a Spartan from the Halo universe. The space station even looks like a cylindrical version of a Halo.

Vanquish manages to maintain a steady frame rate during frenetic enemy encounters. The blocky nature of the mechanical suits and robots help reduce the poly count on the character models. Angling the camera for a closer look at Sam reveals simple geometry decorated with well-executed texture work. That makes the character models appear far more complex than they really are. Overall, Vanquish looks very good, though never jaw-dropping.

The sound in Vanquish is very good as well. From explosions to the crashing sounds of Sam’s melee attacks, the crazy action really comes to life thanks to the great sound design. There is not a very deep and rich score to talk about in Vanquish. The music mostly just does its job. There isn’t one resounding audio bit that really ties the game together. While the sound effects are solid and the music does what it is supposed to do, the overall audio presentation is not memorable.

Most of the character voiceovers are very good, even though the dialogue itself leaves a great sum to be desired. The one issue I had was with Sam’s voice overall. He sounded a bit cartoony, like a bad guy from Dragon Ball Z. A sort of forced growl that makes the character seem less real because it simply does not come off as natural.

Vanquish is a short game. It is only a few hours long and can easily be finished in a day’s work. There is a Tutorial mode which is self-explanatory, a Mission mode that allows you to replay any of the game’s five acts, and a Challenge mode where you can complete five tactical challenges. The game rates and tallies statistics of your performance every few steps along the campaign. Vanquish clearly urges you to replay the levels and improve your performance. Vanquish does not have any form of multiplayer. The only online element here is the leaderboards to compare your performance with your friends.

I must say that Vanquish met me somewhere half-way in my expectations. It was not as unique a title as I expected, though, it did bring plenty of challenge and unique flavor to the table. Vanquish is not an easy game, though its short length counters the difficulty level. It is not grand in scale, vision, or execution, but it is a solid game that has many good moments and seemingly no bad moments. I feel there is little reason to play through again unless you have the need to collect all of the game’s collectible statues. If there is something I would like to leave you with, it is that Vanquish is at least a game that you should play, even if it is just as a rental.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 8.3 out of 10
Written by Angel Cortes Write a User Review