Vanquish, the latest from the extremely talented developers at Platinum Games, can basically be described as Gears of War on speed. You’ve got your chest high walls, the same kind of stop and pop cover based gameplay, and even the same kind of burly military characters that speak like they have rocks in their throat.
But then you have giant enemy robots that shoot what can only be described as a bajillion missiles all at once, set piece moments that have high speed railroad cars traveling on ceilings, quick time events that involve the main character catching an enemy missile and slam dunking it back into the barrel it was fired out of, and most importantly, a supersuit that allows the player slow time and boost from cover to cover at high speeds.
Vanquish (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360)
Release Date: October 21, 2010
All of this adds up to one of the most intense and entertaining shooters of 2010 and one that is sure to give Gears of War 3 a run for its money in terms of the quality of its single player campaign.
Vanquish quite literally starts off with a bang as San Francisco is obliterated by a giant orbiting space station under the control of the Russians. The President of the United States declares war and now it’s up to a group of American soldiers to infiltrate the space station and destroy it before New York suffers the same fate as San Francisco.
Players take control of DARPA (Defense Research Projects Agency) super soldier Sam Gideon as he tags along with the military to aid them and accomplish his own agenda involving rescuing a captured DARPA scientist. Sam is outfitted with a power suit known as the ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit,) which not only gives him super human strength, agility, and reaction time, but also gives him the ability to slide on his knees and boost with jets positioned all over his suit.
This is where the fun comes in. By sliding around at ludicrous speeds, Sam can dash from cover to cover, blow past slow moving enemies to exploit their vulnerable spots, easily escape from tough situations, and look like a badass while doing it. Of course to match Sam’s seemingly overpowered abilities, the game does a good job of providing several checks and balances to make sure that the game is never too easy.
For one, the enemy AI is extremely aggressive and quite varied. There are a good amount of different enemy types that behave very differently and require different strategies to bring down. Standard enemies move very quickly and will attempt to rush Sam if he stays in one place for too long, larger enemies will plow right through most forms of cover and can take a lot of punishment before going down, and several other enemy types actually have instant kill attacks that will go right through cover.
As powerful as Sam is, the player must also take care not to abuse his abilities as well. Both Sam’s boost and Augmented Reaction mode (essentially slow motion mode), will quickly overheat his suit. With an overheated suit, Sam will be unable to boost, slow time, or use a melee attack until his systems come back online. The most frequent cause of death in Vanquish generally ends up being because the player caused the suit to overheat in a particularly combat heavy zone and had no means of getting away quick enough.
Another reason to watch your overheating meter is due to the fact that taking critical damage will automatically trigger Augmented Reaction mode and slow down time until the meter is drained. If your meter is still relatively full, you’ll have plenty of time to either eliminate all of the threats while in slow motion, or at least boost away to a safe place and wait for your meter to fill again.
Sam also has the ability to do some pretty heavy damage with melee attacks, but again, it’s a risk vs. reward trade off because melee attacks will instantly overheat Sam’s suit, making it a bad idea to use melee attacks in an area with lots of enemies and little cover.
With so many things to think about and so much craziness going on at once, combat in Vanquish is extremely intense but at the same time ridiculously fun. It manages to find a way around the usual repetitiveness of traditional cover based third person shooters by introducing this high speed movement and gun play that is built around the frenetic pace.
Vanquish also introduces a very clever weapon upgrade system that encourages the player to mix up their arsenal from time to time. Players can instantly upgrade their weapons by picking up upgrade cubes that will automatically bump their currently equipped weapon up to the next level, increasing its magazine size, ammo capacity, fire rate, etc.
However, players can also upgrade their weapons by picking up ammo for a weapon that they already have full ammo for. Doing so will increase a weapons rank, and with enough rank ups, the weapons level will increase, giving it the same benefits that it would have gotten with an upgrade cube.
So if a player switches to his Shotgun or other situational weapon every once in a while when the Assault Rifle has full ammo, he/she will be able to beef up that Assault Rifle, eventually to the point where it’ll have an ammo capacity of about 1,200 rounds. But if a player just uses the Assault Rifle and Heavy Machine Gun the whole game, which is entirely possible, most of the time he/she finds an ammo pick up, it’ll just restore ammo as opposed to giving the gun a rank up.
Vanquish’s campaign is about 6-8 hours long, which is about average for a game such as this, but it also lacks any kind of multiplayer. While this may turn some crowds off, the game is fun enough to warrant multiple playthroughs on harder difficulties, and there is also a challenge mode for those who stick around after completing the game.
Platinum Games have hit another one clean out of the park with Vanquish. It’s one of the most pure fun gaming experience to be had in 2010, and one that hopefully will get a sequel somewhere down the line.
- Extremely fast paced action with tight gun controls and expertly designed gameplay.
- Clever upgrade system that encourages players to never rely too much on one weapon
- Intelligent, aggressive, and varied enemies help keep players on their toes.
- Awesome boss fights
- Gorgeous visuals with some really impressive particle effects
- Well paced 6-8 hour single player campaign that is very replayable on harder difficulties
- Plenty of awe inspiring set pieces
- No multiplayer
- Forgettable story
- As replayable as the game is, it’s still only 6-8 hours long